Where to seek shelter during a tornado

Joplin, Missouri after the tornado
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INDIANAPOLIS - Nearly 120 people are known dead in the Joplin, Missouri's tornado and 115 people are unaccounted for.

The tornado is now the single deadliest one on record. Many of those residents who survived had only 17 minutes of warning. Rain and hail may have muffled out warning sirens, and some residents said the sirens are so common in Tornado Alley that they pay little attention.

If you had only 17 minutes to save your family inside your home, do you know where you'd go? What if you didn't have a basement?

Adam Trammel showed Eyewitness News where he and his young family go during storms. Since he doesn't have a basement, he seeks shelter in an interior part of the house. He figured this hallway was his best bet.

"No exposure to windows is one of the primary reasons," he explained. "It's got a lower ceiling and enclosed walls."

Dan McCarthy with the National Weather Service says Trammel has the right idea but the problem is that the hallway is right next to the garage.

"You're susceptible to having the garage cave in and from there it peels up," explained McCarthy.

McCarthy says you want to get as many walls as possible between you and the tornado. The safest place in Trammel's house is a closet in the center of the house.

"Because you have the four walls of the house as well as the four walls here. But here's the key. When we did the study after the Oklahoma City tornado, the walls that remained standing were the ones that had the cabinets bolted to them so you have this for additional support," said McCarthy.

McCarthy told Trammel he should empty the closet now so that his whole family can fit in there if they need to at a moment's notice. Also, if the family had a closet underneath the staircase, that would actually be the best place to seek shelter "because not only then do you have these four walls and the stairwell but there's also a reinforced stud in here."

Another thing to consider: bicycle helmets. McCarthy recommends putting them on during a tornado warning.

"It's not the winds that is gonna hurt you. It's what's inside the winds. You have wood, you have bricks, you have shingles, you have glass, you have stone," he said - all traveling up to 200 mph.

Bathrooms are not always the best place to hide out. In the home we visited Tuesday, the bathroom was right by the foyer, which is too close to the outside wall to be safe during a storm. The interior closet by the kitchen turned out to be a safer option.

"If winds come into that, this would be the first exposed area," said McCarthy, explaining why - in this particular home - the bathroom was not a good option. "That bathroom has to be in the middle, in the interior part of the home. Like I said, the more walls between you and the tornado, the better off you are."

Are you prepared? Download this guide to severe weather from the National Weather Service. It covers everything you need to do before, during and after severe weather, including thunderstorms, lightning, flooding and tornadoes.

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