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What You Need to Know!

Tornados are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornados can cause fatalities and devastate neighborhoods in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with winds that can reach up to 300 miles per hour. Some tornados are clearly visible, while others can be obscured by rain or low hanging clouds. Occasionally, tornados develop so rapidly that little advance warning is possible.

Before a tornado hits, the winds may die down and the air may become very still. Tornados generally form at the trailing edge of a thunderstorm and can be accompanied by a low roaring sound similar to a freight train, large hail, and dark, often greenish skies. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

Know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A tornado watch means that tornado conditions are in your county and a tornado is possible. Remain alert and stay tuned to local radio, television, or NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio, if possible. A tornado warning means that an actual tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar in your area. Take shelter immediately!

Damage from an F5 Tornado

Tornado Myths

  • MYTH: When traveling by car, seek shelter under an overpass.
    Stopping under a bridge or overpass is extremely dangerous. The wind speed actually INCREASES as it is squeezed through the opening of the bridge or overpass, thus increasing your risk of being blown away or being blasted by flying debris.

  • MYTH: Open the windows in your house.
    At one time, scientists thought that the low pressure in a tornado caused the normal air pressure in houses to rise, causing the house to explode. As it turns out, most tornado damage is caused by strong wind and flying debris causing building components to fail. Opening the windows will not save your home if a car comes flying through the wall or a tree falls on the roof. Don’t waste precious time scurrying around opening windows, Take shelter.
  • MYTH: Tornados do not strike big cities.
    People seem to think that tornados are deflected off of large objects such as mountains, rivers or large buildings. The fact is that no city or town is protected from a strong tornado. Recent tornados have caused destruction in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Joplin, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Miami, Nashville and Oklahoma City, just to name a few.

Tornado Facts

  • Tornados can reach 300 miles per hour and can be as much as 1 mile wide and 50 miles long.
  • Occasionally, tornados develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible.
  • Tornados usually occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm.
  • The average tornado moves southwest to northeast, but tornados have been known to move in any direction.
  • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 miles per hour, but may vary from stationary to 70 MPH.
  • Tornados are most likely to occur between 3pm and 9pm, but can occur at any time.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions.

During a Tornado

  • Tornado watch – tornados are possible.
  • Tornado warning – a tornado has been sighted, take cover.

Before a Tornado

  • Be alert to changing weather conditions.
  • Listen to NOAH weather radio, commercial radio or TV.
  • Look for the following danger signs: dark and often greenish sky, large hail, a large, dark, low-lying cloud that is usually rotating. Loud roar, similar to a freight train.

During a Tornado

  • Go to a pre-designated safe room, saferoom or basement. If they are not available go to the middle of your home in a closet or bathroom.
  • If you are in a vehicle, get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a nearby building or storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornados.
  • If you are outside with no shelter, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover you head with your hands.
  • Never get under an overpass in a tornado, you are safer in a low flat area.
  • 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 flying debris. Flying debris from tornados causes most fatalities and injuries.

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