Heat Waves
Winter Weather

According to FEMA, the U.S. has an average of 1,000 tornadoes per year more than any other country in the world. Tornado season is generally March through August in most areas of the country, although tornadoes can occur at any time of year. They usually occur in the afternoon and evening hours as temperatures drop.

Tornado Preparation
Tornado Recovery
Tornado Terminology
Tornado Preparation

Because warning can be limited with tornadoes, preparation is key. Keep in mind the following points when a tornado watch (when a tornado is possible) or warning (when a tornado is spotted) is cited in your area:
  • Be on the lookout for the following warning signs that a tornado is approaching, especially in spring and summer:
    • Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base
    • Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base
    • Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift.
    • Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn't fade in a few seconds like thunder, and sounds like a freight train.
    • At night, small bright bluish-green flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm, which could mean power lines are being snapped.
    • At night, clouds begin to lower and even come to ground level.

  • Tornadoes can strike at any time of day, but they are much more frequent in the afternoon and evening. This is because the heat of the day produces the hot air needed create a tornado-producing thunderstorm.

  • Tornadoes hit some areas so frequently that certain states make up "Tornado Alley." Although the exact parameters in Tornado Alley vary among sources, most tornadoes form in a belt from Nebraska southward through Kansas and Oklahoma, into central Texas, known as "Tornado Alley," and in the Southeastern United States.

  • Designate a "safe area" in your home. All members of the family would know to go to this area should a tornado watch, or more importantly a tornado warning, be issued.

  • Most of the time, the "safe area" is the home's basement or an inner-room on the first floor, with few, or preferably no, windows.

  • Store protective coverings, such as mattresses, sleeping bags and thick blankets in or next to your shelter space to protect yourself against flying debris.

  • Residents in mobile homes, even those that are "tied-down," should seek safe shelter elsewhere at the first sign of severe weather.

  • FEMA suggests if your home doesn't have a basement, that you build a "safe room."

The F scale is widely used to convey severity of tornadoes. The F scale relates the degree of damage to the intensity of a tornado and is the only widely used tornado rating method.

  • The F0 rating represents winds that are under 73 MPH, and can cause light damage, including broken branches, chimney damage and signs being blown over.

  • The F1 rating represents winds between 73 and 112 MPH, causing moderate damage, usually to roofs, mobile homes and automobiles.

  • The F2 rating represents winds between 113 and 157 MPH, and can cause considerable damage, including roofs being torn off homes, demolished mobile homes, uprooted trees and cars being thrown.

  • The F3 rating represents winds that are 158 to 206 MPH, causing severe damage, often tearing down walls, overturning trains and uprooting patches of forest.

  • The F4 rating represents winds between 207 and 260 MPH. These winds produce devastating damage, leveling well-constructed homes and throwing structures without strong foundations some distance.

  • The F5 rating represents winds that are between 261 and 318 MPH. These winds yield incredible damage with automobile-sized missiles flying through the air in excess of 100 meters, trees becoming de-barked.

Tornado Recovery

  • Do not enter a damaged building or structure.

  • Watch for potential fire or electric shock hazards, such as broken power lines and gas leaks.

  • Check for any safety hazards, including shattered glass, splintered wood and sharp ends on metal.

  • Continue to monitor weather conditions on the radio; tornadoes can occur.

  • Stay indoors and stay home if possible; keep the street clear for emergency personnel.

  • Document any damage with a camera and carefully start the clean-up.

Tornado Terminology

funnel cloud - A rotating column of air coming down from a cloud but not touching the ground.

hail - Precipitation in the form of balls or clumps of ice produced by thunderstorms.

satellite tornadoes - Small tornadoes that are born off of major tornadoes and can go off in their own destructive path.

SKYWARN - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations network of volunteer tornado spotters.

tornado watch - This alert is issued by the National Weather Service when tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. This is time to remind family members where the safest places within your home are located.

tornado warning - This alert is issued when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

waterspout - A tornado that occurs out in a body of water.
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