Sixteen Absolutely Essential Tornado Survival Tips for South Dakota

Or how to keep yourself and your family safe before, during, and after a tornado
A tornado spins in a field beneath a supercell thunderstorm during a severe weather event in the midwest. 16 Absolutely Essential Tornado Survival Tips for South Dakota.

The state of South Dakota gets hit by an average of 36 tornadoes each year. If you're not prepared to handle each phase of a tornado, you could end up facing severe property damage and injuries. Reviewing a safety checklist of action steps to take before, during, and after a tornado with your family is critical.

An independent insurance agent in South Dakota can help you get equipped with the right types of home insurance and car insurance to protect your property against tornadoes. Having the right coverage in place ahead of time can help you focus on essential action steps. Get started by checking out our list of critical safety tips for South Dakota tornadoes. 

Sixteen Critical Safety Tips to Stay Safe from South Dakota Tornadoes

Though they look just like funnel-shaped clouds, tornadoes are really a series of violently rotating wind columns that together create a vortex of destruction. To ensure the best chance at survival, it's imperative to know what to do during every phase of a tornado before a warning ever pops up on the news. 

For starters, know the difference between a tornado watch and a warning. "Tornado watches" alert residents to a possible tornado in the near future. "Tornado warnings," on the other hand, alert residents of a tornado that's already formed and in motion. When a tornado warning is issued, it's time to get your family to safety ASAP.

Action Steps to Take Before a Tornado Hits

For an improved chance of surviving a tornado, you'll want to make sure your insurance coverage is up to par and that you and your family members know what to do when disaster strikes.

Take these steps before a tornado hits your area:

  1. Review your insurance: You won't want to be worried that you might not have enough coverage for your home and vehicles when a tornado is in progress. That's why it's critical to review your existing home insurance and car insurance with your South Dakota independent insurance agent at least 30 days before you may need any coverage changes to go into effect.
  2. Prepare an emergency kit: For all types of natural disasters including tornadoes, it's essential to have an emergency kit already prepared and stored in an easy-to-grab place in your home and one in your car as well. In this kit, you'll need to include emergency batteries, food, water, blankets, radios, medications, food, and items for pets.
  3. Prepare a home plan: Rehearse your tornado strategy with your family long before a warning is ever issued. Identify what objects outdoors are important to bring inside to prevent damage, your best shelter options, a meeting place in case you get separated, and whose job it is to locate and care for the pets.
  4. Stay updated: To know whether you're ordered to either evacuate or shelter in place, make sure to keep tuned to local updates. News stations, social media, radio, or smartphone apps can all provide tornado watches and warnings, and critical updates.
  5. Move underground: The ideal shelter spot for a tornado is underground, but this isn't an option for all homes or buildings. If you can't get into a basement or underground area, then find a room in your home or building on the lowest level that's as central as possible and away from windows and doors.
  6. Practice evacuation routes: Find several routes you can take out of town ahead of time in case you're ever ordered to evacuate during a tornado. Your first-choice routes should avoid bridges when possible.

Set up your family's chances for success at surviving a tornado by starting with comprehensive prep work, including these action steps.


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Action Steps to Take During a Tornado

When the tornado hits, it's time to shift gears into keeping everyone safe and together until it passes. Damaged property can be worried about later. 

Take these action steps when a tornado is present:

  1. Go indoors: Get inside as quickly as possible when a tornado is nearby, heading underground such as to a basement if possible.
  2. Stay together: Steer clear of flying debris and keep your family members as far away from windows, doors, and exterior walls as possible.
  3. Keep updated: EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or other alert networks can keep you updated on a tornado's whereabouts, as well as current town orders to either stay sheltered in place or evacuate. 
  4. Stay covered: When caught outside or in a vehicle during a tornado, keep your head protected by your arms, clothing, or blankets. If indoors, brace furniture over your head for extra protection.
  5. Don't leave: Unless ordered to do otherwise by official town updates, stay sheltered in place until the tornado has fully passed.

Keep these action steps in mind to help keep your family calm, focused, and in survival mode when a tornado hits your area.

Action Steps to Take after a Tornado Has Passed

The danger doesn't end once the tornado is over. Strong winds can bring pests, bacteria, and mold to your surroundings. Stay cautious when moving about after a tornado has passed.

Take these action steps after the tornado:

  1. Contact family: Once weather alert systems like EAS end their shelter-in-place orders, it's time to reach out to family members you may not have been with during the disaster. Notify them that you're safe and arrange a place to meet up.
  2. Stay alert: Steer clear of puddles after a tornado has passed, as well as debris like broken glass. When walking outdoors, be aware of possible downed power lines.
  3. Contact your agent: Reach out to your South Dakota independent insurance agent to start the claims process if your home or other property got impacted by the tornado.
  4. Document damage: Your insurance company may require photo or video evidence of damaged or destroyed property for your tornado claim.
  5. Suit up: Before starting the cleanup process, suit up with a protective face mask, rubber boots, and long gloves. 

After all family members are accounted for, that's when you can switch gears and inspect your property for damage and start the process of filing insurance claims. Your South Dakota independent insurance agent will be able to help you through every step of the process, including providing an ETA for reimbursement.


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How Much Damage Do Tornadoes Cause in South Dakota?

South Dakota sees an average of three dozen tornadoes annually, but that doesn't paint the full picture of the impact these disasters can have on residents and property. Take a look at some quick South Dakota tornado stats to see the extent of the damage they can really cause.

South Dakota tornado stats:

  • The year 2019 was particularly destructive in terms of tornadoes in South Dakota, when these disasters caused $18,108,000 in total damage.
  • South Dakota was hit by 26 tornadoes in 2019.
  • The Delmont Tornado of 2015 injured nine people and destroyed 20 buildings in the town of Delmont, SD.
  • The Spencer Tornado of 1998 was the most destructive tornado in South Dakota's history, bringing winds of 246 MPH and killing six people.
  • Most of the town's nearly 200 buildings were destroyed, and $18 million in property damage was caused by the Spencer Tornado.

Tornadoes in South Dakota are not only potentially devastating in terms of resident injuries and deaths, but also in terms of property damage. That's why it's so important to keep your family and your home as prepared as possible before one hits.

What Kind of Tornado Insurance do You Need in South Dakota?

Getting your insurance coverage updated is one of the most important steps to take to prepare for a tornado. You'll need protection for your vehicle, home, and other property against harsh winds.

Car insurance for tornadoes:

  • Comprehensive coverage: To protect your vehicle against damage caused by a tornado or other natural disaster, you'll need to add comprehensive coverage to your car insurance policy.
  • Property damage liability: Especially if you need to evacuate town quickly during a tornado, you might end up causing property damage to a third party with your vehicle, which makes having property damage liability coverage critical.
  • Rental reimbursement: If your car gets badly damaged or destroyed by a tornado, rental reimbursement coverage can help pay for a rental car. 

Homeowners insurance for tornadoes:

  • Property coverage: Your home's structure and contents, or your personal belongings, are protected against tornado winds by your homeowners insurance.
  • Additional living expenses: When a tornado damages your home to the point that you need to live somewhere else during repairs, you can count on additional living expenses coverage under home insurance to pay for these extra costs.
  • Endorsement coverages for valuables: For expensive items that might require more property coverage, such as jewelry, artwork, furs, etc., you might need to add endorsements or floaters to your home insurance policy and list these items specifically.
  • Outbuilding add-on coverage: Coverage for extra structures on your property is typically limited to 10% of your total limit, but more coverage can be added if you wish.

Ask your South Dakota independent insurance agent if your home insurance policy will reimburse for the actual cash value of damaged property minus depreciation, or if your coverage is for an item's original price. By having regular conversations with your independent insurance agent, you can make sure your coverage is up to date before a disaster hits. 

For further safety tips to help keep your family protected during tornadoes, check out or

Why Choose a South Dakota Independent Insurance Agent?

South Dakota independent insurance agents simplify the process by shopping and comparing insurance quotes for you. Not only that, but they’ll also cut through the jargon and clarify the fine print so you'll know exactly what you’re getting.

South Dakota independent insurance agents also have access to multiple insurance companies, ultimately finding you the best home insurance and car insurance coverage, accessibility, and competitive pricing while working for you.

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