A tornado is a violent, churning maelstrom of whirling winds sometimes filled with debris that destroys everything in its path. Every year hundreds of people are killed by tornadoes. They are one of the most violent and unpredictable forces in nature that can often strike without warning taking innocent people by complete surprise.
Tornadoes do occur in many parts of the world but they are found most frequently in the spring and summer months over the Central Plains of the United States. In an average year eight hundred tornadoes are reported here resulting in eighty deaths and nearly fifteen hundred injuries.
These super cell thunder storms are triggered by a unique combination of cold air from the north, warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico in the south and dry air from the desert south-west. Sustained by strong winds these ingredients can form super cell thunderstorms which can produce tornadoes.
The Fujita Scale for tornadoes was invented in 1971. It is a scale for rating tornado intensity based on the damage they inflict on structures and vegetation. The scale reads as follows:
Some of the most recent recordings of tornadoes include:
May 3, 1999 'The Moore Oklahoma City F5'.
This tornado grew to be a mile wide spinning at 300 mph traveling a distance of more than 35 miles for 40 minutes. This tornado caused over one billion dollars damage. Thirty six people lost their lives and five hundred and eighty three people were injured.
July 24, 2003 'The Manchester Wedge'.
This tornado was an F4 tornado with winds estimated between 200 to 260 mph. It was on the ground for 20 minutes and devastated the town of Manchester, South Dakota.
A wedge tornado is where the distance across the tornado is larger than the distance to the cloud base from the ground. They may touch down as the slender funneled tornado and sustained by winds usually of 200 mph stir up dirt and dust enlarging the base width.
May 12 2004 'Attica Tornado'.
This tornado was 200 yards wide and traveled 2 miles. It was the worst of a number of tornadoes to hit Kansas was that year.
November 12, 2005 'The Woodward Tornado'.
This was a rare late-season F-2 Tornado in Woodward Iowa. It caused extensive damage to a number of communities.
Tornadoes follow along a path determined by the storms cell itself. If it undergoes a change in direction you must have time to make adjustments accordingly. It is the unpredictability of tornadoes that make them such deadly forces of nature. If you have to ask 'how close is too close?' then you probably are.
How does one survive a tornado? Experts agree that taking shelter under an overpass affords almost no protection and it may be one of the worst decisions you can make. The reason is that the higher you go up a tornado, the greater the wind speed. By ascending to the girders of the overpass there is more risk here of a wind tunnel sucking or blowing you out of the overpass.
It is the debris in tornadoes such as wood glass and metal traveling at 200 mph which causes fatalities and shreds structures in their path. Seek shelter indoors at the lowest level preferably a basement. If outdoors however, take cover in a low area such as a ditch.
The threat of tornadoes will always be present and the only way to make ourselves less vulnerable to tornadoes is to build a storm shelter in our home. If you do nothing to enhance the construction of your home, you will have no security at all.
The unpredictability of tornadoes can surprise even the most seasoned storm chasers and the most knowledgeable meteorologists. These experts spend months trying to chase down these elusive twisters but all too often tornadoes touch down where people least expect them to strike. No amount of study will render tornadoes totally predictable. There are so many environmental variables that come into play. It is therefore extremely challenging to be able to alert the public to the threat of a tornado.
A tornado warning is an alert issued by weather services to notify areas that a tornado or funnel cloud has been spotted or their radar show indications of a possible tornado. Warnings are issued by TV, radio and sirens. It is the hope of every weather forecaster that the public are taking heed of the information being supplied to them.