Tornadoes – Basic What-To-Dos

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Tornadoes are the most violent storm and one of Earth’s most dangerous catastrophes. Whirling winds usually exceed 100mph and can reach speeds of 300mph. An average of 1,000 tornadoes spin up beneath thunderstorms in the USA each year.

Tornadoes can occur any time of the year but they are most rampant during USA’s spring season because spring brings favorable tornado conditions.

The National Weather Service’s Glossary of Meteorology defines a tornado as “a violently rotating column of air in contact with the ground and pendant from a thunderstorm.” The thunderstorm is the first step in the formation of a tornado. If other weather conditions are right, the thunderstorm will spin out more tornadoes and cast catastrophe in land.

In the US, it damages the central and mountain state areas stretching from Texas to Nebraska. These states include Iowa, Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas (known as Tornado Alley). In fact, tornadoes have already occurred in other states in the East Coast and West Coast but not as violent as what is normally occurring in the central and mountain states.

The six-tiered Fujita Scale ranks the damage that tornadoes make. F0 and F1 tornadoes on the scale are considered “weak” causing minimal to moderate damage with winds from 40-12 mph. F2 and F3 tornadoes are considered strong, packing winds of 113-206 mph that can cause major, severe damage. F4 and F5 tornadoes are classified with winds exceeding 206 mph.

Weak tornadoes travel in short distances for 10 minutes or less. Violent tornadoes, however, lasts for hours and can travel more than 100 miles.

Tornadoes can come without warning but there is always a tornado warning. Tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted. If it is issued in your area, seek underground storm shelter immediately and bring emergency necessities like aid kits and important documents. Aid kits – first aid items, water, food, flashlight, transistor radio, batteries, and waterproof containers. Important documents – an inventory of your belongings, appliances, furniture, fixtures, for insurance purposes, and documents like birth certificates, etc.


Know the signs of a tornado: Weather forecasting science is not perfect and some tornadoes do occur without a tornado warning. There is no substitute for staying alert to the sky. Besides an obviously visible tornado, here are some things to look and listen for: strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base; whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base — tornadoes sometimes have no funnel; Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can’t be seen; Day or night – Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn’t fade in a few seconds like thunder; Night – Small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds). These mean power lines are being snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado; Night – Persistent lowering from the cloud base, illuminated or silhouetted by lightning — especially if it is on the ground or there is a blue-green-white power flash underneath.

And lastly, have a family tornado plan in place. Flying debris are an added danger along tornadoes. When a tornado watch is issued, think about the drill and check to make sure all your safety supplies are handy. Or immediately check your storm cellar if you have available supplies down there.


Forget about the old notion of opening windows to equalize pressure; the tornado will blast open the windows for you!

The safest place to be during a tornado is underground. If there’s hurricane safe room in your home, a small room in the middle of house — like a bathroom or a closet — is best. The more walls between you and the outside the better.


Keep your family together and wait for emergency personnel to arrive. Carefully render aid to those who are injured. Stay away from power lines and puddles with wires in them; they may still be carrying electricity! Watch your step to avoid broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects. Stay out of any heavily damaged houses or buildings; they could collapse at any time. Do not use matches or lighters, in case of leaking natural gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. Remain calm and alert, and listen for information and instructions from emergency crews or local officials.

If you are from the Central or Mountain states click this link to visit storm cellars in Oklahoma.

write by Aurelia


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