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Top Ten Facts to Know About Tornadoes

Meteorology today is particularly interested in tornadoes.  This is a subject of growing interest to all the media, and, above all, because of the increasing devastations caused by variuos tornadoes all over the world.



10 The most important thing


The most important thing for people is to establish the real facts about the tornadoes, and an exhaustive knowledge of these terrifying phenomena is crucial, so that people may protect themselves for the best.  Several tornadoes are formed over an extended area, nearly five hundred miles in length and extent, where conditions appear to be favorable for their growth. In these regions the air is quiet before the tornado arrives. There is a wide cell storm about three-four hundred miles to the north-westward. The storm rapidly intensifies when south-easterly winds blow, and a tornado is approaching.


9) The clouds


The clouds usually move with the surface winds, from right to left, while opposite black clouds rapidly advance, and when they meet, they form the tornado. A marked feature of tornadoes is their most rapid translation across the earth, and the average speed of tornado translation is rarely under 40 miles per hour (Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society). The clouds throw into the greatest confusion, breaking up, into small portions which dash pell-mell over each other and in every direction, now darting toward the earth, now rushing upward to considerable height or at moderate elevation, rolling over each other in a well-developed whirl, with turbulent dark-green boiling mass of clouds, a heavy shower of rain and a vivid display of lightning. Despite the fact that such phenomena are well known, it happens regularly, to the terror of those who have seen a tornado in action.


8) Tornadoes in the United States


In many regions of the United States tornadoes are very numerous, particularly in Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana and Georgia (2011), with vivid displays of lightning. The appearance of dark clouds serves as a warning. Although tornadoes have occurred in other parts of the world, nowhere do they match the violent and destructive twisters of the United States. These occur in every one of the continental states, although they are largely concentrated in the Midwestern states that stretch from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa are the states most often visited by the deadly twisters.


7) The violence of the Tornadoes


When the twisting tunnel of wind dips to the earth it heralds its approach with a terrific roar that may be heard twenty-five miles away, and the whole destruction occupies a few minutes. In that time the houses are demolished or damaged, and trees are uprooted by the tornado, while ruin spreads all along its path, and the devastation is all about. The violence of these most powerful of nature’s storms is unbelievable. Whereas the winds of a hurricane are believed rarely to exceed two hundred miles an hour, those of a tornado have been estimated to reach about five hundred miles per hour. In a populated area such power can wreak destruction at a terrifying rate.


6) The tornadoes are unpredictable


Fortunately their path is not very wide, averaging around four hundred yards, although they may vary from scarcely a hundred feet in width to a mile or two. Their speed also is unpredictable. On occasions, tornadoes have even been known to stop in their paths for a few minutes before resuming their normal movement.  Providentially, tornadoes, as a rule, will dissipate after only a few miles; twelve to sixteen miles being their average length. However, tornadoes are unpredictable. Some never touch the ground, others may touch and ascend and they do a kind of hop, skip, and jump across the countryside, destroying everything in their path when they come in contact with the ground. Still others will plow ahead mile after mile, leaving an unbroken path of utter devastation


5) Tornadoes occur in every month of the year


According to what is said by the Waste Management Activities for Groundwater Protection, in the Southeastern United States tornadoes occur in early spring and late summer and from March to June. In South Carolina they occur in April and May, and in August and September (20 percent). (Waste Management Activities for Groundwater Protection). Whereas tornadoes have been reported in every month of the year, about 50 percent of them occur during the four months from April to July.


4)  The instability of the atmosphere


Why there and at that time of year? The combination of the flat Midwestern plains flanked on the west by the towering Rocky Mountains and on the south by the Gulf of Mexico lends itself perfectly to the birth of tornadic activity. During spring and early summer cold, dry air slides down from the Rockies and moves southward over the plains eventually to meet warm moisture-laden air moving northward from the Gulf. It is the instability of the atmosphere produced when these two swiftly moving masses of air collide that gives birth to tornadoes.



3) Protective measures


Protective measures were implemented over the years in the United States, increasing the protection of the houses and people against the effects of high winds. There is no question that these alerts have saved hundreds of lives. So when tornadoes are on the prowl, keep alert, heed the warnings and avoid the terrifying experience of being struck by a deadly twister.


2) Take all the steps to preserve your life


In any way, if you should ever find yourself in the path of a tornado, do not count on escapes only. Take all the steps to preserve your life. Many people in the United States have built underground rooms. They are the safest place to be during a tornado; as far as is known no one who has sought refuge in one has been killed. If no underground room is accessible, the next best place to be is the southwest corner of the basement. This is because tornadoes usually move from the southwest and debris almost always falls in the northeast corner. If you are in a house without a basement seek shelter against an interior wall on the ground floor, underneath some heavy furniture if possible. Because of the sudden reduction of air pressure when a tornado passes over, buildings often explode outward, so being next to an interior wall affords a greater chance of survival. To equalize the air pressure, before the tornado strikes open the windows on the north or east of the house, the side away from the approaching storm.


  • The key to safety is advance warning

If enough warning has be given in advance, you may want to jump into your car and flee; tornadoes can be outrun, since they usually travel at only thirty or forty miles an hour. If you are caught in open country, move at right angles to the approaching storm; there is a chance you may get out of its path. But if you cannot, find a ditch or depression in the ground, get into it, and lie face down.  However, remember that the key to safety is advance warning. The first measure in order to save lives remains preventive information on the tornado’s arrival, and, in this sense, radar systems and other meteorological tools play a key role in providing protection for people today. In any case, radar systems are considered one of the best ways to track tornadoes.




Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, American Meteorological Society, 1957, p. 3.


Natural Disasters and Other Emergencies, What You Should Know: A Family Planning & Survival Guide, Edited by Gladson I. Nwanna, Frontline Publishers,  2004, p. 102.


Waste Management Activities for Groundwater Protection Savannah River Plant Aiken, South Carolina, U.S. Department of Energy, December 1987, Vol. I, Chap. 3, p. 10.























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    1. nice facts about tornadoes

    2. It always amazes me how tornadoes can be so selective. What I mean is that they literally can skip over houses. It is like they pick and choose who or what they are going to destroy.

    3. : A “watch” means a tornado is possible in your area. A “warning” means a tornado has been spotted, and you need to take shelter immediately, according to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. MORE: What you need to know if there is a tornado Take shelter in storm cellars or basements or in an interior room or hallway on the lowest level if that’s not an option, officials said.


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