Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Every state is at some risk from this hazard.
Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible.
Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A 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.
Facts about tornadoes
- They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.
- They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.
- The average tornado moves Southwest to Northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.
- The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 MPH, but may vary from stationary to 70 MPH.
- Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.
- Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months.
- Peak tornado season in our area is March through May.
- Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., but can occur at any time.
How Can You Protect Yourself From A Tornado
- Tornado prep: what to do before, during, and after a tornado
- Tornado Information Sheet (PDF)
- Tornado Playbook
- Prepare Your Organization for a Tornado Playbook
- Organizational Tabletop Exercises (PowerPoint)
- Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House
- Tornado Protection – Selecting Refuge Areas in Buildings
- How to Guides to Protect Your Property or Business from Severe Winds
- American Red Cross