Tornadoes...The Serious Side of Mother Nature

Tornadoes are one of nature's most fierce storms. They are created as side effects from energetic thunderstorms and can cause fatalities and demolish homes and buildings in seconds.

A cloud begins to rotate and develops into a funnel cloud that stretches from the thunderstorm to the ground. They produce spinning winds that can occur at over 275 miles per hour. The area of damage can be as much as one mile wide and can create damage more than 50 miles long.

Every state is at some risk from this hazard. In an average year, about 1,000 tornadoes are reported across the United States, resulting in approximately 80 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries annually.

While most tornadoes are plainly obvious, some can be hidden by the clouds or rain. Occasionally they develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. Prior to one hitting, the wind may seem to stop and the air may become very calm. Flying paper, dust, and debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. They usually develop near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. Many times you may see sunny skies behind a tornado.

The following are facts about tornadoes:

  • They may arrive very rapidly and with little or no warning. Until dust and litter are picked up they may appear almost transparent.
  • They typically move from the Southwest toward the Northeast, but they can move in any direction and change direction in a split second.
  • The funnel touching the ground can jump and skip, missing one home while destroying the one next to it.
  • The average forward speed is 30 MPH; they may be stationary or moving at speeds up to 70 MPH.
  • Tornadoes are often spawned from hurricanes and tropical storms when they approach land.
  • Tornadoes that form over water are called waterspouts because they pick up water rather than debris as they go over land.
  • They most often occur in the central plains and southeastern states during the spring and early summer months.
  • They are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., but can occur at any time depending on the conditions in your area.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information of storms in your area.
  • Look for approaching storms. Clouds will become very dark with lots of movement in the clouds. They can appear a very dark green. Hail can form as water is moved upward and reaches the cold air above. Watch for rotating debris such as papers,leaves branches and other flying items. As one approaches your area, you can often hear a load roar, almost like a train is very closeby.

    When you hear a tornado warning, hear of dangerous thunderstorms approaching, or notice any of the danger signs that are part of a tornado, get to a safe area immediately!!! If you are in a home, small building, school, hospital, commercial building, shopping mall or office building, get to a safe area. The basement of a building is the safest place in the event of a tornado, but if one is not available, take shelter in a cellar or go to the lowest floor possible. If there is no basement, go to the middle of an interior room on the lowest level, interior hallway, closet, or bathroom. Use the tub to lie in. Stay away from windows, the corners of the room, doors, and exterior walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a desk or sturdy table. NEVER open the windows. Most of the injuries and deaths will come from flying objects and glass.

    If you are in a mobile home or automobile, get out immediately. If possible, go to the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building or a storm shelter. Trailer homes, even if anchored down, offer very little protection from tornadoes. If you are caught outside, a ditch or a low area will provide you the greatest protection...get as close to the ground as possible. Remember to cover your head with your arms. With the sudden downpour of rain you should be prepared for the possibility of flooding.

    Never use a bridge or overpass for shelter. You will be safer in a low, flat location. Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.

    Create a plan of action! To make sure everyone is accounted for and safe, designate a safe area for everyone to gather. Who will go to the schools to pick up the children? Make sure all members of the family are aware of where emergency tools, tarps, flashlights, radios and first aid kit are located.

    Remember these storms are mother nature at her worst. Be prepared!


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    For other articles of interest click these links:
    Emergency Preparedness
    FEMA Emergency Checklist

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