While you may know that April through June is tornado season, what you may not know is tornadoes can occur year-round if the conditions are right.

Meteorologist Andre Krein of the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Chicago Office explained that a tornado watch — which is issued by the Normal, Oklahoma, office — indicates that conditions are right for a tornado to occur. A tornado warning — issued by your local NWS office — means a tornado is happening right now or soon.

“The watch is the ‘ready, set,’” Krein said. “The warning is the ‘go.’”

Be a weather watcher

If you know what to look for in the sky, you can be on the lookout for severe weather. With a trained eye and a sky free of obstructions such as tall buildings, trees and hills, you could give yourself some extra time. In the gathering clouds, look for an anvil cloud: a cloud that looks like it has a lid and spreads out to look like it has pouches on the bottom. It’s an indicator that a strong thunderstorm is on the way, which serves as a precursor for a tornado.

To become a trained storm spotter, you can attend a course with the National Weather Service. The courses are generally held in the late winter into the spring. For more information check the National Weather Service’s website: weather.gov.

The best place to check for severe weather information is the National Weather Service’s website, Krein said, or a weather radio. Weather radios are a must have as they provide an alert seconds after it is issued, and that timing may make the difference between safety and disaster. Beyond weather radios, local media news outlets also can provide useful updates.

Social media is not your best source

The information on social media needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as misinformation could be shared on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, according to Krein. Social media can also have outages during times when it is vital to get information.

“The important thing is to get the information that you need to keep you and your family safe by knowing what to look for, knowing where to find the information that you need, and knowing where, when and how severe the weather may be,” Krein said.

SafeBee Top Three

  1. Know the difference between a watch and a warning. A watch means it could happen; a warning means it is happening.
  2. Look out for anvil clouds, they could be a sign dangerous weather is on the way.
  3. Keep a weather radio handy as alerts are issued right nearly immediately after a threat is spotted.