What To Do If There's A Tornado Warning At The Airport, According To A Flight Attendant

Certain weather events are common during spring and summer, prompting many to rely on local weather services for updates when a meteorological phenomenon hits their area. But what if you're away from home, perhaps traveling through an airport in the middle of a storm, and the National Weather Service unexpectedly sends out a tornado warning? Tiktoker @ciciinthesky, an experienced flight attendant who regularly posts travel advice, shared steps to take if you're caught in such a situation. For one, look for the tornado shelter sign in the building. This is a marking most travelers notice as they walk to their gates, but few have found a reason to use it.

Cici shared her insights in this TikTok posted in April 2023 after a tornado hit Chicago. Three months later, another tornado touched the ground in the Windy City, making her advice especially timely and helpful. This incident occurred near O'Hare International Airport, causing a great commotion as travelers ran for cover in the building. Per AP News, around 173 flights were canceled, and over 500 departures were delayed, but no injuries were reported at the airport as people found shelter quickly.

Listen to announcements and act immediately

According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, around 1,200 tornadoes strike the U.S. annually. Most people associate tornadoes with states such as Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas, which receive the most storms. However, tornadoes have been spotted in every state in America at all times of the year. In addition, the U.S. is not the only country to encounter these mighty storms, as they occur in Europe, Africa, Australia, Asia, and South America. Because of the fury of winds and the potential for destruction, travelers should be prepared to act immediately if they receive a tornado warning at any airport.

The first piece of advice Cici shares is to pause and listen carefully to the instructions airport officials give travelers. These announcements may be communicated over the loudspeaker or delivered as text messages or alerts on cell phones. You'll find the process particularly easier if you've already noted the tornado shelters' location when navigating the busy airport. These refuges are marked by "Tornado Shelter" and are located throughout the building. 

However, she suggests other alternatives if you cannot reach one of these designated areas quickly. Bathrooms and stairwells are other excellent places to find safety. Similarly, the lowest floor of the building is the safest place to be. Find an interior room with no windows and shelter there. Try to find blankets, pillows, or even a jacket to cover yourself and stay protected from any debris that may be flying through the air.

Check the weather before taking a flight

The flight attendant also suggests that one of the best ways to be prepared for a tornado at the airport is to pay attention before leaving on your trip. If you know you're traveling through an area prone to heavy storms, download an app to monitor the forecast or watch for updates on local news. Taking this step means you won't be caught off guard if the tornado warning goes off suddenly. You will feel safer while traveling and be less anxious, which will help you relax more.

Finally, Cici emphasizes how important it is to stay calm. A tornado warning in an airport could understandably cause many people to panic. But if you've paid attention to the weather, noted the potential areas to find shelter in the airport, and calmly responded to the warnings, you'll find that you're prepared to react as effectively as possible.