Breaking News
More () »

Carolina tornado drill Wednesday

Quickly finding safety inside a sturdy structure can be the difference between life and death when severe weather strikes.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A tornado drill happening in both North Carolina and South Carolina Wednesday is reminding everyone to proactively find the places where they could safely hide during severe weather.

The drill, which happens at 9:30 a.m. in North Carolina and 9 a.m. in South Carolina, will be carried out in schools, where students and staff will simulate what to do and where to go during severe weather. The drill can also be practiced at your home, work, or business.

Even if you don't physically relocate yourself to your designated safe place Wednesday, take a moment to brainstorm: Where would I go if a tornado happened right now?

The WCNC Charlotte weather team and the National Weather Service have some suggestions on where you can safely seek shelter during a tornado and other storms.

Click here to sign up for the daily Wake Up Charlotte newsletter

Where to go during a tornado warning

The TL DR of seeking shelter during a storm: Go to the most interior room on the lowest level of a sturdy structure. Ideally, you should be wearing shoes and a helmet. Otherwise, grab whatever you can to protect your face and head.

However, no two buildings are exactly the same and you will need to decide where your best chances of safely surviving a storm are. Here are some things to consider:


Bathrooms may be a good shelter provided they are not along an outside wall and have no windows, according to the National Weather Service. If your bathroom has windows and is along an outside wall, it's probably not the best shelter.

Bathrooms have proven to be adequate tornado shelters in many cases. First, bathrooms are typically small rooms with no windows in the middle of a building. Secondly, it is thought that the plumbing within the walls of a bathroom helps to add some structural strength to the room. 


A small interior closet might be a shelter.  Again, the closet should be as deep inside the building as possible, with no outside walls, doors or windows.  Be sure to close the door.

You can stream WCNC Charlotte on Roku and Amazon Fire TV, just download the free app.


If a hallway is your shelter area, be sure to shut all doors.  To be an effective shelter, a hallway should as be far inside the building as possible and should not have any openings to the outside.

Under Stairs

The space underneath a stairwell could be used as a shelter, as Larry Sprinkle demonstrated in WCNC Charlotte's safety video.

🌩️ If you like weather, watch Brad Panovich and the WCNC Charlotte Weather Team on their Emmy Award-winning Weather IQ YouTube channel. 🎥

What to do in your car during severe weather

Vehicles including cars, trucks, sport utility vehicles, RVs, 18-wheelers, boats, trains, and planes are terrible places to be when a severe thunderstorm or tornado threatens.  

Generally speaking, you should not leave your home in your vehicle when a tornado threatens.  In most cases, you will have a better chance of surviving by staying put in your home, according to the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service will issue a severe thunderstorm warning or a tornado warning for a specific location when a dangerous storm is imminent. In the hours ahead of potential storms, you can check to see if a severe thunderstorm watch or tornado watch has been issued. These latter alerts provide you a heads-up ahead of the event and service as a good time to ask yourself: Do I really need to be traveling right now?

Drivers have found truck stops, convenience stores, restaurants and other businesses to be adequate shelters in a tornado situation, according to the National Weather Service.  Walk-in coolers can sometimes make a good shelter.

The worst-case scenario for drivers would be to be trapped in their vehicle on the road with no escape possible, according to the National Weather Service. This scenario could occur in more densely populated areas, in metropolitan areas at rush-hour or in high traffic situations, or on limited access roadways, such as interstates or turnpikes, where it might not be possible to quickly exit and find safe shelter.  It is in these situations when it may become necessary to leave your vehicle and seek shelter in a ditch, culvert or low spot.

Despite popular belief, highway overpasses are not tornado shelters, and these should be avoided. Additionally, drivers should not park their cars under bridges as this causes traffic delays for others trying to evacuate and seek shelter.

What to do in an apartment during severe weather

The basic tornado safety guidelines apply if you live in an apartment.  Get to the lowest floor, with as many walls between you and the outside as possible.

Apartment dwellers should have a plan, particularly if you live on the upper floors. Have a discussion with your neighbors ahead of any storms.

In some cases, the apartment clubhouse or laundry room may be used as a shelter, provided you arrive at these locations ahead of the storm.

Do not leave your apartment during the storm if it means you will be exposed to the outdoors.

Mobile homes and trailers during severe weather

Even an EF-1 tornado, typically considered a "weak tornado," will most likely severely damage a mobile home, according to the National Weather Service. This is why tornado safety plans are extra crucial for residents of manufactured homes such as mobile homes.

Mobile homes are especially susceptible to high winds from severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service.

"You will likely not be safe in a mobile home, whether you’re in a hallway, a closet or a bathroom," the National Weather Service cautions. "Mobile homes cannot stand up to even a weak tornado, and you should make plans BEFORE the storm arrives to get to a safe shelter."

For the latest breaking news, weather and traffic alerts, download the WCNC Charlotte mobile app.

If a resident of a manufactured home needs to travel some distance to a safe place, they should plan to move to this location as soon as a severe thunderstorm watch or tornado watch is issued. By the time a severe thunderstorm warning or tornado warning is issued, it will be too dangerous - and there will not be enough time - to move off-site to another location.

"Taking cover under sturdy furniture, in a bathtub or closet or under a mattress will be meaningless in a mobile home if the home itself is destroyed, blown over, or rolled over by tornado or severe thunderstorm winds," the National Weather Service says. "Get out of mobile homes and find a more substantial shelter as quickly as possible."

If the tornado is far enough away and road options and traffic allow, you should try to find a substantial building for shelter such as a publically accessible building, or the home of a friend or relative.

Before You Leave, Check This Out