Signs a tornado is near ( Top 17 )

Tornadoes are fairly common in some areas mostly in Tornado Alley, although the Tornado Alley has started to shift to the eastern parts of the USA and a lot of people will see signs of a tornado coming and not know what these signs actually mean. If you lived your entire life in an area where tornadoes are fairly common then you probably know a couple of these signs, but if you are new to a region prone to tornadoes you definitely need to know the signs of a tornado coming.

Tornadoes are a force of nature, they can be very destructive if they come in contact with inhabited areas. If you live in tornado alley it is vital that you become familiar with the signs of an approaching tornado. It is also good to know the signs of a tornado is near, even if you do not live in tornado alley, as with the current climate change tornadoes can form in places where they have never been seen before.

Surviving a tornado is not that difficult if you already know it is coming, however without any food and water your situation could deteriorate quickly. My personal recommendation is to get a survival kit which also has a first aid kit included, this is the one I am using Click here to check it out on

I would argue that in places where people are unfamiliar with tornadoes that it is even more important to know the signs, most of the signs could be interpreted differently by people and some might even be mesmerized by their beauty. In these areas, the authorities will not be ready for what is coming, and in most cases, they won’t even be able to issue a tornado warning even if they know that there is an imminent tornado approaching.

Luckily tornadoes are not that fast-moving and people can see them from miles away, the problem is the massive destruction which they leave behind them. They could disrupt the entire local grid and water supply for days and weeks.

Having no electricity after a major disaster like a tornado will be extremely dangerous, without any electricity there will be no way to power your electrical devices, no water will come from your water treatment company. Generally speaking, the supply of natural gas would not be affected as these do not rely on electricity, however, as a safety measure, gas companies will stop the supply in order to prevent fires. It is not enough to have only food and water after a tornado, in my recent article Power outage grocery list ( Top 38 Items ) you will find all the necessary items and tools which you will need to survive after a tornado.

Birds fleeing from the tornado

If you live in an area where there are plenty of birds that usually sing all day, you will notice that there is silence before a tornado hits. It is not that the birds have actually stopped singing, rather it is that the birds can sense the approach of a tornado and they flee the area. You might think this is far-fetched but there have been numerous studies made on the subject matter. The interesting thing is birds can actually sense that a tornado will form even before it has touched the ground.

Scientists can not fully agree on how birds can sense an incoming tornado but in most cases, it has something to do with either the birds sensing the difference in air pressure or they hear the forming of a storm before the tornado which prompts them to flee the area. In some cases, you might be forced to heat an entire room with a candle, for more information check out my recent article How to heat a room with a candle? ( In 3 Easy Steps ).

Wild animals fleeing from the tornado

As in the case of birds so do wild animals sense a tornado forming nearby, if you see different types of animals all running in one direction without any apparent cause it might be due to their instinct to leave the area before the tornado. You will know that something is wrong once you see local predators and prey all fleeing in the same general direction which is away from the tornado, this way you can almost be certain from where the tornado is coming.

Pets can sense a tornado is coming

If you have pets like dogs and cats you will probably notice them behaving strangely. Dogs generally have space where they feel safe, once they sense a tornado they will refuse to leave their safe space and will become agitated in an effort to let you know something is wrong. For cats it is a little different, once they sense a tornado they simply leave the area, they won’t even attempt to let you know that there is something wrong. If you are preparing for a tornado then make sure not to forget the following survival items ( Top 44 ) Overlooked Survival Items.

Tornadoes change the color of the skies

Generally speaking tornadoes form during or after a storm, gray clouds indicate a storm. In some cases where hail was formed by the storm and as it drops to the ground it is being thrown around by the sudden updrafts of a tornado that will produce a dark green sky. Although this is not always the case, if you see dark green skies it could only mean two things, a massive hailstorm or a massive hailstorm with a tornado is coming. If you are wondering if prepping for a tornado is pointless then check out my recent article Why prepping is pointless ( Or is it? ).

Thunderstorm often occur before a tornado

Generally speaking, a thunderstorm will almost always be present before the actual tornado. Scientists have found a correlation between thunderstorms and tornadoes decades ago. Luckily not all thunderstorms will produce a tornado, but it can definitely increase the chances of a tornado forming.

Hail can be a sign that a tornado is coming

If you notice that hail is falling from the sky, which is not coming from directly above, rather it is coming more at an angle sideways. This can only mean that the hail is being displaced by the tornado and the hail is projected due to the centrifugal force produced by the tornado. In some cases, the size of the actual hail can be large enough to do serious damage, if this is the case do not go outside and do not stay near the windows.

Funnel clouds are a telltale sign that a tornado is forming

One of the most obvious signs that a tornado is near is seeing the funnel-shaped clouds, once this hits the ground it can take any path and it will destroy most of the buildings in its path. These funnel-shaped clouds can not always be easily identified as not all of them form vertically, some funnel-shaped clouds form horizontally and after a while, they rotate vertically and touch the ground in this position.

Frequent lightning can be a sign of a tornado nearby

Some people might confuse a tornado with a thunderstorm if they do not see the actual tornado. However, most tornadoes produce a lot of lightning and most of these bolts of lightning are in a small general area where the forming of the tornado is pushing the clouds together which in turn forms the bolts of lightning. Lightning from thunderstorms is more spread out, so if you see a small area with an unusually high number of flashes of lightning then the chances of a tornado is approaching are fairly high. Oftentimes tornadoes can cause fires, in this case, you should definitely use a fireproof bag for your valuable documents, for more information check out my recent article Do fireproof bags really work ( Or do they? ).

Rotating cloud base is a clear sign that a tornado is forming

Do not confuse this with the funnel-shaped clouds which are also rotating, Once there is a thunderstorm present look at the base of the clouds for a couple of minutes if you see the base of the clouds slowly starting to rotate in one direction without them stopping it could indicate that a tornado is starting to form. In some cases there could be multiple clouds rotating, sometimes in opposite direction, sometimes this cancel each other out but they can also merge which will produce a tornado.

Flickering lights can be caused by a distant tornado

If you are hooked up to the power grid you will notice that your lights will start to flicker. Not only your lights but all of your electrical devices will be powered on and off consecutively, in most cases, this is due to the effect a tornado has on the electrical power lines. If you still have electricity then the tornado has not affected yet the local power grid, but if your lights in the house start to flicker and then shot off entirely then it means the tornado has already destroyed the local power lines.

Cloud of debris is a clear sign that a tornado is coming

Depending on the size of the thunderstorm and of the tornado you will not always be able to see them directly. One tell-tale sign is seeing debris in the clouds, in most cases, these are small debris but once the tornado becomes powerful enough it can pick up entire houses. Debris make a lot of casualties and victims as everyday items are propelled with the tornado’s power and even something as common as a wooden plank, provided it has enough velocity, it could do serious damage not only to humans but to buildings and vehicles as well.

Debris falling from the sky is often associated with tornadoes

If you see debris falling off the sky you already know that there is a tornado, however in the early stages of the tornado when it is not yet powerful enough to pick up any larger objects it will pick up lighter objects. If you see small objects falling from the sky, then that is an extremely obvious sign that there is a tornado forming nearby. In some cases the debris can travel with the updraft produced from the tornado for several miles, you might not even see a cloud in your area and you could still see some debris falling from the sky.

Calm during a storm can be a sign that the tornado has changed paths

Sometimes when a tornado is present nearby it could create small pockets of calm weather. Usually, these calm moments only last for a few minutes, after which you will experience an abrupt change in the winds, often times winds will start blowing from an entirely different side than before. If you notice a pattern of heavy winds followed by a strange calmness which is followed by abrupt changes in wind direction then there is a tornado nearby.

Loud sounds in the distance can be a sign of a tornado

Tornadoes are loud and the closer they are the louder they get. Some people compare the sound of a tornado to the sound of a freight train, these sounds are usually generated by the actual clouds colliding in the tornado and not from the actual destruction of buildings. Depending on the area where you live, if there are several buildings with a lot of glass on them, once these break, due to the power of the tornado can also be a sign of the tornado. Most often times you will hear the tornado even before you see it.

Hail and rain is often caused by tornadoes

In some cases the actual rain and hail will stop for a few short minutes, generally speaking, this is the sign of a rain-wrapped tornado. Once the hail and rain restart after the moment of calmness you will notice that these will come from a different angle than before, in some cases this could mean that the tornado has abruptly changed its path.

Green and blue flashes are caused by tornadoes destroying power lines

Generally speaking when you notice green and blue flashes it means that the tornado has already made contact with the ground and it has already started its path of destruction. These green and blue flashes will come from destroyed power lines and transformers. Keeping an eye out for these green and blue flashes is a good way to spot a tornado during nighttime, sometimes you could even spot the tornado with these flashes.

Signs of a nearby tornado during the night

Spotting a tornado during the night could be difficult as the thunderstorm will usually block out most of the light coming from the moon and stars. In well-illuminated urban areas you can probably spot a tornado from miles away during the night, but spotting a tornado in a rural area during the night will be more difficult. In most cases, if you are able to see a nearby tornado during the night then the tornado is way too close for comfort and you should evacuate immediately.

One tell-tale sign of a tornado being present nearby during the night is after it has already made contact with the ground and during its path of destruction it destroys local power lines and generators. These will give out green and blue flashes as they are being destroyed, in addition to this, you might notice power grid poles moving from side to side violently, while others remain unaffected nearby, this is a sure sign that there is a tornado.

In conclusion

There are several signs a tornado is near, you only have to notice them. If you spot one or more of the above-mentioned things to happen, the odds of a tornado being nearby is fairly high. Keep an open mind as not all tornadoes will produce the same signs, some come as fast as they are formed and any signs you notice at that point might be already too late. Be safe and keep an eye out for strangely behaving clouds, especially if you live in Tornado Alley.