A tornado is a rotating funnel-shaped cloud that drops out of a storm cloud to the ground. Whirling winds range from 75 miles an hour to 300 miles an hour. Tornadoes can measure one mile in width and travel for 50 miles, often changing direction erratically.
AVERAGE TORNADO OCCURRENCE
Texas averages 125 tornadoes every year - more than any other state. Oklahoma comes in second with an average of 54 per year. Twisters can occur at any time of year but spring and summer are considered tornado season around here. While tornadoes can happen at any time of day, they’re most likely to occur between 3 and 9 p.m. So when your afternoon talk show or evening sitcom is interrupted for a tornado watch or warning - pay attention and don’t go outside!
WATCH & WARNING
What is the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning issued by the National Weather Service?
Tornado Watch: Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.
Designate a shelter area in your home or place of business, such as a basement, and go there during severe weather.
If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture
Stay away from windows.
Don’t try to outrun a tornado in your car—leave it immediately and seek shelter in a sturdy building
If no shelter is available, get out of vehicles and find the most low-lying area (ditch, ravine, etc.) lay flat on your stomach and cover your head with your hands
Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible
Remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado and watch for flying debris.
Mobile homes should always be abandoned prior to severe weather occurring. Don’t wait until the storm actually approaches you are already too late.
SOURCE: Severe Weather CD
POWER OF A TORNADO
Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable but even sturdy, brick buildings on concrete slabs are in danger. The power of tornadoes can be great enough to hurl objects as large as cars over long distances, resulting in extreme damage. Each year tornadoes are responsible for about 70 deaths and 1,500 injuries nationwide. To learn more about tornadoes, go to NOAA’s Tornado FAQ page.