Tornado safety tips: What you need to know

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Imagine you are home with your children and tornado sirens are sounding.

Where's the safest place in a building to go? And can you really outrun a tornado?

At 5:41 p.m. on May 21, 2011, a one-mile wide, catastrophic EF5 tornado leveled Joplin, Mo.

The storm killed 158 people, and 1,100 were injured.

Click here for 2011 Joplin tornado coverage: http://www.kshb.com/joplin

Nearly every house in the tornado's path was flattened; however, many people did make it out alive.

Cheryl Snyder was one of them.

"It looks like a war zone," said Snyder. "A sea of debris everywhere and it's not just here, it's miles upon miles. We're the lucky ones. We survived. "

There are several misconceptions about what to do, and what not to do, when the weather pattern shows the potential for a tornado to form.

Where is the safest place to go?

Where is the safest place to go in a building?

Experts say to seek shelter in an interior room on the lowest floor such as your basement, under a staircase, I-beam, or sturdy piece of furniture.

Beth Freeman with The Federal Emergency Management Agency said, "People need to think about where they are going to go that's close."

"Tornados come up quickly. They move fast," said Freeman. "You don't want to spend 15 to 20 minutes driving around town looking for a safe room. "

Should you open windows?

Opening windows ahead of a tornado will not equalize the pressure inside a building, and therefore will not reduce the damage from a storm.

It's simply a waste of time, and the flying glass could injure you.

Can you outrun a tornado?

Cars can travel faster than the average tornado but if you are at home, The National Weather Service recommends taking shelter inside your house rather than trying to escape in your vehicle.

Are small, rope-like tornados just as dangerous?

Small, skinny tornadoes are not weaker than large, mile-wide twisters.  

Statistics compiled by The National Weather Service show tornadoes described as rope-like have been among the strongest in history.

Finally, tornadoes don't always travel in a predictable path or direction and although weather patterns can be similar, each tornado is different.

Here are a few danger signs to look out for, provided by FEMA:

-          Dark, often greenish sky

-          Large hail

-          A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)

-          Loud roar, similar to a freight train

-          If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately

Tornadoes can strike quickly, with little or no warning.

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