Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - Severe Weather

What is the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?

A WATCH means that conditions are favorable for development of a tornado. Watches typically last 4 to 6 hours, but may be canceled, replaced or re-issued. When a tornado watch is issued, you should monitor weather conditions and be prepared to take shelter in the safest available location if a warning is issued.

A WARNING means that a tornado has been spotted or that radar indicates circulation that could spawn a tornado. Warnings typically last an hour or less, but may be canceled, replaced or re-issued. When a tornado warning is issued, you should take shelter IMMEDIATELY in a designated severe weather shelter or the safest available location, and stay there for the duration of the warning.

How is the campus notified of severe weather?

Tone alert radios are in place in occupied campus buildings. Personnel monitor these radios and communicate messages to the building occupants. NOAA weather radios are also employed in some areas. Information regarding watches and warnings are conveyed via these tone alert and NOAA weather radios.

In the event of a tornado warning, outdoor warning sirens and the AU Alert mass notification system are also activated. The AU Alert message is sent to all points of contact currently registered with the system. If the outdoor warning sirens sound or you receive an AU Alert message regarding a tornado warning, you should seek shelter immediately.

We also encourage individuals to subscribe to external weather alert services such as those offered by local news media. These services will send text messages about weather watches and warnings to cell phones based on user preferences. Links to some of these services are available on the "weather resources" tab of the AU emergency management website.

What is the university's policy regarding classes during severe weather?

Classes are suspended immediately in the event of a tornado warning, and do not resume until the warning has expired. For all other severe weather events, classes are held as usual unless the campus is notified otherwise via AU Alert, Auburn Daily Extra or This Week @ Auburn Extra.

How does the campus know when a tornado warning has expired?

Personnel responsible for tone alert and NOAA weather radios should take the radios with them to a designated shelter area in their building. When the radios broadcast the tornado warning, the expiration time is included. If the warning is extended, a new broadcast will be transmitted via the radios to include the revised expiration time.

Individuals can also obtain this information by tuning to online weather, local radio or TV for updated weather information.

Where can students who live on-campus go to shelter during a tornado warning?

Each on-campus residence hall has designated severe weather shelter areas. While no area can be deemed "tornado safe", these locations have been evaluated and designated as the best available location in each building for locating people during tornado warnings.

Where can students who live off-campus in mobile homes go to shelter during a tornado warning?

Students living off campus are encouraged to have a plan for where they will go during a tornado watch and warning, such as a location in their residence, a friend or family member's residence, a public building or a designated area on campus. The best locations are in the interior lower level of buildings of sturdy construction, away from windows and exterior doors. If there is not a suitable location in your residence, you should go to your pre-determined location when the tornado watch is issued. Trying to get to a safe location in the midst of a tornado warning may put you at greater risk.

During normal business hours, students can take shelter in the designated severe weather shelter areas in academic buildings. After hours, Greene Hall at the College of Veterinary Medicine and the RBD Library will be open for the duration of a tornado watch. Students who do not have a safe location to shelter off-campus can come to either of these locations. Additional locations are currently being evaluated and will be advertised when available.

Where can I find information on locations of designated severe weather shelter areas in campus buildings?

A link to a list of designated severe weather shelters can be found on the "severe weather" page of the AU emergency management website. This list is updated periodically to reflect new buildings or building renovations.

These areas are not necessarily "tornado safe", but have been designated as the best available locations in each building for locating people during tornado warnings. With the exception of secure facilities, they are open during normal business hours. After hours, Greene Hall at the College of Veterinary Medicine and the RBD Library will be open for the duration of a tornado watch for students who do not have a safe location to shelter off-campus.

Last Updated: Sept. 29, 2010

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