South Carolina has averaged 11 tornadoes each year since 1950, resulting in 47 fatalities and 1,057 injuries. South Carolina ranks twenty-sixth in the United States in the number of tornado strikes, and eighteenth in the number of tornadoes per square mile. The most common type of tornado, the relatively weak and short-lived type, occurs between March and May. However, tornadoes can occur almost anywhere at anytime.

Before a Tornado

Be alert to changing weather conditions.

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information.
  • Look for approaching storms.
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • 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.



During a Tornado

If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately.

  • Get indoors to a pre-designated shelter area such as a basement, storm cellar or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls.
  • Shutter windows and outside doors.
  • If in a vehicle, trailer or mobile home, get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or storm shelter.
  • If unable to get indoors, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of potential flooding and flying debris.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
After a Tornado
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Avoid downed power lines and report them to your utility company.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings.
Tornado Cleanup

Those involved with tornado cleanup should be aware of the potential dangers involved, and take the proper safety precautions. Work-related hazards that could be encountered include: electrical hazards, carbon monoxide exposures, heat stress, motor vehicle and large machinery accidents, hazardous materials, fire and falls.

Inspection and first steps

  • Listen to local officials for updates and instructions before reentry to an affected area.
  • Contact your insurance company to start the process for filing a claim.
  • Inspect structures before entering and check for stability.
  • Take pictures and detailed notes
  • Wear personal protective equipment:
    • Eye protection
    • Work gloves
    • Overalls
    • Boots

Debris Management

  • Contact your county emergency manager or a debris removal company to find the best waste management options available.


  • Disaster survivors can call the United Way Association of South Carolina at 800-451-1954 for free help with debris cleanup and removal from local relief agencies.
  • To find a professional licensed contractor, visit the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation at and click “LICENSEE LOOKUP.”

Additional Tornado Resources