Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes

Here are some commonly asked questions and answers about severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Call the Minnetonka Fire Department at 952.939.8598 if you have further questions.

What should I do to prepare for a severe thunderstorm or tornado?
  • Develop a family disaster plan and kit for you and your family at home, at work, in school, and when outdoors.
  • Conduct frequent storm drills and check on neighbors who might have trouble finding shelter.
  • Know the city and county in which you live, and keep a highway map nearby to follow storm movement from weather warnings.
  • Have a NOAA weather radio with a warning alert tone and battery back up to receive warnings.
  • Listen to radio or television for the latest weather information.
  • If planning a trip or going outdoors, listen to the latest weather forecasts and take necessary action if threatening weather is possible.
What is a severe thunderstorm watch?
A thunderstorm on the horizon during a severe thunderstom watch.A severe thunderstorm watch means severe thunderstorms are possible. Be alert for changes in the weather, monitor local radio or television, and be prepared to act quickly.
What is a severe thunderstorm warning?
Lightning fills the sky during a severe thunderstom warning.A severe thunderstorm warning means severe thunderstorms are occurring, which may produce hail and/or very strong winds. Some of these winds are called straight-line winds, and can reach speeds of 100 miles per hour. Severe thunderstorms can also produce tornadoes with little or no warning. If a tornado warning is issued for your area, seek shelter immediately. Turn on a battery-powered radio and listen for storm announcements. Know where to go in your home for shelter and have a family disaster plan and kit. Learn the locations of designated shelters at work, school, and places you frequent.
What is a tornado watch?
Conditions are favorable for a tornado to develop during a tornado watch.A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms with tornadoes. When a tornado watch is issued, be alert for changes in the weather, monitor local radio or television, and be prepared to act quickly.
What is a tornado warning?
A tornado strikes during a tornado warning.A tornado warning means a tornado has actually been sighted or indicated by radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area, seek shelter immediately. Turn on a battery-powered radio and listen for storm announcements. Know where to go in your home for shelter, and have a family disaster plan and kit. Most tornadoes strike in the late afternoon and evening hours, and since these hours may be when some or all of your family may be at home, you should know what to do. Here are some scenarios and what you should do in each case if a tornado threatens:
At home
Immediately take shelter. Go to the basement of your home and take shelter under the stairs or sturdy furniture such as a workbench or table. If you don’t have a basement, seek shelter in a small room at the lowest level, and/or near the center of your home, such as closets or bathrooms. Avoid areas with windows. Pre-stock your shelter with a battery powered radio, a flashlight, blankets, and a first aid kit. Listen to your battery powered radio and remain in your shelter until the danger has passed.
At work or school
Immediately find the building’s pre-designated shelter area. Stay away from large, open rooms, auditoriums, gymnasiums, and any room with windows. Lie low and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms.
At a shopping mall
Locate the designated shelter area or go to the center of the building on the lowest level. Stay away from large, long span roofs, open rooms, and windows. Do not go to your car—you are generally safer in a building than in the open.
In a car or mobile home
Leave your vehicle or mobile home immediately and go to the nearest safe structure or storm shelter. If you are caught in the open, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression with your hands and arms covering the back of your head and neck.