Like a great many Americans, I didn’t sleep very well on Wednesday, April 27. I stayed up late watching the TV, not for my usual shows, but for the latest tornado update.

With a tornado warning in effect in my end of my county, and the wind ripping at my home’s siding, I wondered how I could keep my family safe.

I wondered what exact sound I would need to hear to prompt me to grab the kids and stuff them into the hall closet. I planned to leave the coats in there and sandwich the kids between the clothing to create padding and drag, in case anything managed to punch through the closet walls.

This is what I thought about as a watched the local news, and heard about the devastation, both locally in Virginia and throughout the region.

April has been a rough month for storms in the American southeast. Recent deaths in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and Kentucky are bringing the preliminary total to about 250, and that number is expected to rise, according to officials.

In Alabama alone, between half a million and 1 million people are without power. It looks like we are just beginning a long, hard storm season.

So what can you do to prepare for this kind of threat?
• Stay alert to tornado watches and warnings for your local area.
• During daylight hours, watch for danger signs like a dark or greenish colored sky, large hail and large, dark, low-lying clouds (particularly if rotating).
• If you see a tornado, or you hear the sound of the wind increase into a loud roar, similar to the sound of an approaching freight train, or if there is a tornado warning in your area, seek shelter immediately. Get to your basement or the safest location in your home or work.
• If you don’t have a storm cellar or basement, take shelter in an interior room with no windows. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get in a closet, in the center of the structure and say your prayers.

Tell us your tornado stories, or your emergency plans, in the comments.

For more, go to Tornado Survival Tips