Tornadoes

Overview

A tornado is a violent windstorm characterized by a twisting, funnel-shaped cloud. It is spawned by a thunderstorm (or sometimes as a result of a hurricane) and produced when cool air overrides a layer of warm air, forcing the warm air to rise rapidly. Tornadoes can destroy buildings, flip cars, and create deadly flying debris. A tornado can:

  • Happen anytime and anywhere.
  • Bring intense winds, over 200 miles per hour.
  • Look like funnels.

Tornado Facts

The best protection during a tornado is in an interior room on the lowest level of a building, preferably a basement or storm cellar.

Tornadoes strike with incredible velocity. Wind speeds may approach 300 miles per hour. These winds can uproot trees and structures and turn harmless objects into deadly missiles, all in a matter of seconds. Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable to tornadoes.

Injuries or deaths related to tornadoes most often occur when buildings collapse, people are hit by flying objects or are caught trying to escape the tornado in a car.

Tornadoes are most destructive when they touch ground. Normally a tornado will stay on the ground for no more than 20 minutes; however, one tornado can touch ground several times in different areas.

Tornadoes can occur in any state but are more frequent in the Midwest, Southeast, and Southwest. The states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas are at greatest risk.

Watch

A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service when tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. This is the time to remind family members where the safest places within your home are located and listen to the radio or television for further developments.

Warning

A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area and the sky becomes threatening, move to your pre-designated place of safety. Turn on a battery-operated radio and wait for further instructions.

Tornado Danger Signs

Look out for:

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Wall cloud
  • Large hail
  • Loud roar; similar to a freight train

Caution:

  • Some tornadoes appear as a visible funnel extending only partially to the ground. Look for signs of debris below the visible funnel.
  • Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while others are obscured by rain or nearby low-hanging clouds.
  • Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still.
  • An approaching cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible.
  • Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

Mobile Homes

Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable. A mobile home can overturn very easily even if precautions have been taken to tie down the unit. When a tornado warning is issued, take shelter in a building with a strong foundation. If shelter is not available, lie in a ditch or low-lying area a safe distance away from the unit.