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.
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.
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.
Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto
Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.
Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the
northern states, it is late spring through early summer.
Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., but can occur
at any time.
Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the
sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television
A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter
Be alert to changing weather conditions.
• Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts
for the latest information.
• Look for approaching storms.
• Look for the following danger signs:
– Dark, often greenish sky
– Large hail
– A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
– Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter
During a Tornado If you are under a tornado WARNING, seek shelter immediately!
If you are in: A structure (e.g. residence, small
building, school, nursing home,
hospital, factory, shopping center,
Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as
a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the
lowest building level.
If there is no basement, go to the center
of an interior room on the lowest level
(closet, interior hallway) away from
corners, windows, doors, and outside
walls. Put as many walls as possible
between you and the outside. Get under a
sturdy table and use your arms to protect
your head and neck.
Do not open windows.
A vehicle, trailer, or mobile home
Get out immediately and go to the lowest
fl oor of a sturdy, nearby building or a
storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if
tied down, offer little protection from
outside with no shelter
• Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression
and cover your head with your hands.
Be aware of the potential for fl ooding.
• Do not get under an overpass or
bridge. You are safer in a low, fl at
• Never try to outrun a tornado in
urban or congested areas in a car
or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle
immediately for safe shelter.
• Watch out for fl ying debris. Flying
debris from tornadoes causes most
fatalities and injuries
Tornados can form quickly and without warning so its best to prepare ahead of time.
Some people will build a safe room in their home or a storm shelter and have a plan in action for when its time to use them. Remember to have your BOB ready but chances are you will be sheltering in place or cut off from your kit. This is one of the reasons it is good to have an every day carry. A kit of Nessecary supplies that you keep on you at all times. Study the risk of tornados in your area and prepare accordingly. some buildings near by or at the work place may be equiped with a storm shelter. If you live in an area that is low risk for tornados, know what to do anyway.
A few years ago I was driving across the country and heard about some severe thunderstorms where i was heading. so i changed my route to avoid them. Only the storms shifted. I found myself ont he fith floor of a hotel with a tornado warning on all the chanels. I spent a good chunck of the night in a internal stairwell on the first floor with a radio. Once the warning went away I headed back to my room to get some rest. I left the TV on mute to the weather channel anyway. An hour or two into my sleep something woek me up. It was the sound of everything turning off at the same time and a dead silence as the power went out in town. It was so dark and quiet i felt like i was burried deep under ground. Then I started to hear a roaring noise. It was hail, battering cars and breaking windshield and lights. It went on for a few minutes then stopped . The next morning the skys were grey and the parking lot was littered with glass a debris from high winds. No tornado for me, but that whole week was full of tornado outbreaks that battered the country
Here is some information on that tornado outbreak i found on the web:
The April 25–28, 2011 tornado outbreak, the largest tornado outbreak ever recorded, affected the Southern, Midwestern, and Northeastern United States, leaving catastrophic destruction in its wake, especially across the states of Alabama and Mississippi. It produced destructive tornadoes in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia, and affected many other areas throughout the Southern and Eastern United States. In total, 358 tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service (NWS) and Environment Canada in 21 states from Texas to New York to southern Canada. Widespread and destructive tornadoes occurred on each day of the outbreak, with April 27 being the most active day with a record of 211 tornadoes touching down that day from midnight to midnight CDT (0500 – 0500 UTC). Four of the tornadoes were destructive enough to be rated EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which is the highest ranking possible; typically these tornadoes are only recorded about once each year or less.
In total, 348 people were killed as a result of the outbreak. That death toll includes 324 tornado-related deaths across six states. In addition, 24 fatalities were not caused by tornadoes, but were confirmed to be as a result of other thunderstorm-related events such as straight-line winds, hail, flash flooding or lightning. In Alabama alone, 238 tornado-related deaths were confirmed by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) and the state’s Emergency Management Agency.
Early in the morning, a squall line of severe thunderstorms packing straight-line winds and numerous embedded tornadoes affected North and Central Alabama and parts of Middle and East Tennessee. These storms knocked out power and telephone lines in a few areas; these outages would become much more widespread as the day continued. This preliminary line of storms also caused some NOAA weather radio transmitter sites to stop functioning for the remainder of the outbreak. As a result, many people had no warning of approaching tornadoes later in the day.
During the afternoon, a tornado emergency was declared for Neshoba County, Mississippi as a large tornado was reported on the ground by storm spotters and a TV tower camera from ABC affiliate WTOK-TV in Meridian Mississippi. This powerful EF5 tornado caused incredible damage near Philadelphia, Mississippi where homes were swept away, vehicles were thrown, and the ground was scoured out to a depth of 2 feet (0.61 m) by the tornado. Three people died in this tornado when a mobile home was picked up, thrown into a wooded area, and destroyed. The atmosphere became increasingly unstable throughout the late afternoon, causing more explosive supercell development. A widespread complex of supercell storms overspread the states of Mississippi and Alabama and violent tornadoes began rapidly touching down as the evening progressed. Four tornadoes were officially rated as EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale that day. These tornadoes affected several counties in the states of Mississippi and Alabama, especially the towns of Smithville, Mississippi; Hackleburg and Phil Campbell, Alabama; Philadelphia, Mississippi; and Rainsville, Alabama.
A dangerous and destructive tornado struck the city of Cullman, Alabama at around 3:00 p.m. CDT (2000 UTC). This large, multiple-vortex tornado was captured on several TV tower cameras from stations such as Birmingham’s Fox affiliate WBRC (channel 6) and ABC affiliate WBMA-LD/WCFT/WJSU (channels 58, 33, and 40 respectively). The tornado caused extensive destruction in downtown Cullman, a city of about 20,000 people; the tornado was ultimately rated an EF4. The final damage count was 867 residences and 94 businesses in Cullman. At around 4:00 p.m. CDT (2100 UTC), a tornado struck Lawrence County, Alabama, causing severe damage and killing a couple dozen people. At around 5:10 p.m. CDT (2210 UTC), a very large and exceptionally destructive tornado struck Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and about 40 minutes later, the same tornado struck the northern suburbs of nearby Birmingham. A tornado emergency was issued for both cities, along with many other cities that day. Many local television stations, including WBRC and WBMA-LD/WCFT/WJSU, as well as CBS affiliate WIAT (channel 42), captured footage of this long-track tornado in both Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. A debris ball was observed by the Birmingham NEXRAD, indicating that the tornado was causing extreme damage.