While the COVID-19 pandemic is the main social health issue on most people’s mind right now, we need to remember that Mother Nature isn’t paying attention to the news. Severe weather, like tornadoes, hurricanes and floods can still occur, social distancing notwithstanding.

As such, today we’re going over the best ways to prepare for severe weather, even while you’re practicing social distancing to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Don’t be Afraid to Use Community Shelters

Spring often marks the return of “tornado season” in states across the Midwest and Southeast. Colloquially known as “Tornado Alley,” this region sees the most tornado activity of any place on Earth. While COVID-19 is a serious threat to public health, officials in the Tornado Alley region have clarified that residents should still seek shelter in the community storm shelters.

Larry Woods, director of the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management, made a statement clarifying why he encourages this, even during the pandemic:

“Social distancing is important in this time, but please heed the warnings regarding severe weather,” Woods said in a March 18 statement. “We would encourage property managers, as well, to continue to make their safe rooms and shelters available to their residents.”

Be Prepared in Advance

Experts advise people who own tornado shelters to be prepared now. Also, they should learn who in their communities may need help during an emergency. For example, Tom Bedard, an AccuWeather meteorologist, advised that people should be stocking their shelters now with blankets, backpacks, helmets, clean water and battery-powered radios.

Importantly, Bedard added, first aid supplies and even some clothes and non-perishable food should be stored in such a shelter. If you don’t have a shelter, Bedard encourages you to have a conversation with those in your community who do.

“Have that conversation now and be at their house well before a tornado warning is issued,” Bedard stated.

How to Shelter

If you don’t have access to a tornado shelter, don’t panic. Take cover in your bathroom or in a room with no windows. Go on the lowest floor of your house and as far from any windows as you can get. This reduces the likelihood that debris smashing into your windows will hit you.

If you find yourself in a shelter during the pandemic, make sure you’re mindful of your hygiene. Cough and sneeze into an upper sleeve or a tissue. Don’t touch surfaces and then touch your face. Avoid hugging, shaking hands or taking cash. While sheltering is important, so is being socially responsible during a pandemic.