If you were to see a tornado approaching, you would have limited time to make important life-or-death decisions. Knowing the basics of tornado safety, planning ahead, and participating in tornado safety drills lowers the chance of injury or death if a tornado were to strike our community.

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can devastate an entire neighborhood in seconds. North Carolina averages 16 tornadoes each year with peak activity in May; however, there is no true “tornado season” in NC. Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 PM and 9 PM but can occur at any time. Because conditions can deteriorate so rapidly, being aware of the adverse weather will greatly improve your safety.

Know the terms:

A TORNADO WATCH means conditions are right for the development of a tornado or severe weather. During a watch, members of HPU should be alert to possible changes in weather conditions.

A TORNADO WARNING means that a tornado or severe weather is occurring or has been sighted or indicated by National Weather Service radar.


Seek immediate shelter if any of the following are encountered:

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train
  • If a watch or warning has been issued, falling hail should be considered a real danger sign.
  • Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still

  • Tornadoes may strike quickly, with little or no warning.
  • The average tornado moves Southwest to Northeast but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.
  • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph but may vary from stationary to 70 mph.
  • About 1200 tornadoes occur in the US yearly, making the US the country with the most tornado activity.
  • Tornadoes have been reported in every US state and during every season.
  • Damage paths of tornadoes can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.

What to Do During A Tornado Warning:
  • Go to a room or corridor in the innermost part of a building at the lowest level possible. Click here for a list of the severe weather shelter areas for Residence Halls and Non-Residential Buildings.
  • Stay clear of windows, corridors with windows, or large free-standing expanses such as auditoriums and cafeterias.
  • DO NOT use elevators during a warning.
  • Close all doors, including main corridors, making sure they latch.
  • Crouch near the floor or under heavy, well supported objects and cover your head.

If you cannot get to a safe shelter, lie down flat in a low area such as a ditch away from trees with your hands covering the back of your head and neck.

  • In the event of a TORNADO WATCH a Panther Alert will be broadcast to everyone as a text and email message.
  • During a TORNADO WARNING, a Panther Alert will be broadcast, sending a mass notification to text, email, voice, campus phones, building speakers, campus message boards, University computers, in addition to setting off the siren/PA system.