By Melissa Buckley, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (February 28, 2024) — Spring weather can be unpredictable and preparing for severe weather events, specifically tornadoes, is so important in March that the National Weather Service has dedicated the first week as Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

“Missouri’s tornado season occurs from April to June and tends to peak in May,” said Don Busbice Jr., U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood safety director. “No one can control the weather, but applying a sound risk management mindset before the sirens wail is key to preparedness during tornado season. Utilizing risk management could turn the odds in your favor; preparedness is the key.”

Although tornadoes often happen in the springtime, they are a year-round threat in Missouri, according to Busbice, who described an EF-3 tornado, approximately a quarter of a mile wide, that touched down on New Year’s Eve at Fort Leonard Wood about 12 years ago.

“This beast was on the ground for seven minutes and resulted in destroyed homes and the loss of half of the water treatment plant,” Busbice said.

According to, tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air that extend from a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornadoes can destroy buildings, flip cars and create deadly flying debris, with intense winds at more than 200 miles per hour.

Busbice said a tornado can feel like “complete chaos” if you aren’t prepared and paying attention to weather watches and warnings.

“Stay tuned to local radio and TV stations, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio or your mobile phone for further weather information. There are a plethora of applications available for downloading weather information onto your cellphone,” Busbice said. “In addition, local television stations will interrupt daily programing schedules to advise viewers of the oncoming threat.”

Busbice also pointed out the NWS in Missouri and Fort Leonard Wood have tornado sirens in place to alert citizens to observe conditions.

“Fort Leonard Wood tests the mass notification system monthly. Sirens are enabled when a tornado is spotted or weather radar identifies the threat. Sirens are sounded until the threat ends,” Busbice said. “A tornado watch means be prepared, tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. You should immediately take shelter during a tornado warning.”

In the event of a tornado warning, he said, people should “enable your tornado response plan.”

“Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building, preferably windowless. If in a mobile home, a vehicle or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris,” Busbice said. “Awareness for everyone and their families is the first step in preparedness. Talk to your family members and co-workers, discuss where your safe place is and actions to take. After the storm passes be advised damage will be extensive and many hazards will be present — debris will litter the ground where structures once stood, there may be down power lines and natural gas leaks, among other hazards.”

According to Matthew Mertz, Fort Leonard Wood’s installation emergency manager, accountability after the weather event is just as important as the preparation.

“Accountability allows supervisors to ensure their employees are safe from immediate danger, understand what further actions to take to stay safe and determine if an employee is injured or in need of assistance. Having accountability of employees also prevents wasting resources during search and rescue operations and reduces unnecessary risk to first responders,” Mertz said.

This goes for family members as well — according to the NWS’s tornado safety website, people should contact loved ones to let them know, “you’re okay, so they can help spread the word.”

A tornado touched down Dec. 31, 2010, on Fort Leonard Wood, causing an estimated $90 million in damage. (Photo by Catherine Threat, 88th Regional Support Command)











About Fort Leonard Wood

Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post 80 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains nearly 80,000 military and civilians each year.

Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.

Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps Detachment and Air Force Squadron on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.