tornadoThe whole family needs to be ready and equipped with knowledge of what to do in case of a tornado. Here are some things that adults and kids alike can do to educate themselves and be prepared in the event of a natural disaster.

Basic Tornado Information

What exactly is a tornado?

A tornado is a powerful and destructive vortex of rotating winds. It can move quickly, looks like a funnel-shaped cloud, and can come along with large storm systems. Tornadoes can be astounding to watch, but they come with highly destructive winds that are strong enough to break windows and damage structures. If you are close enough to see one, the first priority is to seek shelter. Save tornado watching for storm chaser programs on television!


How are tornadoes formed?

Tornadoes are often the result of a supercell, which is a large thunderstorm in which both warm and cold air combine together. This forceful meeting of the two air temperatures can cause the warm air to spin and create a funnel cloud.

To learn more about how tornadoes are formed:


What are the types of tornadoes?

  • Supercell tornadoes – These are the most common type of tornado and they are often the most dangerous.
  • Non-supercell tornadoes – There are a variety of tornadoes created in conditions other than super cell storms.
  • Gustnado– These are near the ground and can accompany the gust-front of a storm.
  • Landspout – These also begin near the ground, but they form a narrow funnel, unlike the gustnado.
  • Waterspout – These tornadoes are similar to landspouts, but they form over bodies of water.

To learn more about the various types of tornadoes:


The Tornado Intensity Scale

The tornado intensity scale tells us how much damage to expect and what to prepare for in case of a tornado.

  • Category F0 – Light damage, such as broken tree branches, can be expected.
  • Category F1 – Moderate damage, such as missing roof shingles, is likely.
  • Category F2 – Significant damage, such as roofs torn from houses, is possible.
  • Category F3 – Severe damage, such as forests being uprooted, is probable.
  • Category F4 – Devastating damage, such as houses being leveled, is likely.
  • Category F5 – Incredible damage, such as houses being lifted off their foundations, will occur.

To learn more details about the scale:

Where and when are tornadoes most common?

Tornadoes tend to occur in spring in the Great Plains area and in the summer in the Northern Plains. These areas are located within the central portion of the United States.

To see where tornadoes strike, visit Weather.com at https://weather.com/storms/tornado/news/tornadoes-around-world-20140329

To learn more about tornado season, visit Live Science at http://www.livescience.com/28668-tornado-season-facts.html

Map of Tornado Activity in the United States (Image) – https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/35/Tornado_Alley.gif


Do you want to learn more about tornadoes?

Resources for kids

Resources for adults


Facts about Tornadoes

  • The United State experiences over 1,000 tornadoes each year.
  • Canada experiences only about 100 tornadoes annually.
  • Tornadoes can reach speeds of up to 300 miles per hour.
  • The majority of tornadoes only last for a few minutes.
  • Tornadoes sometimes bring hail with them.
  • The US has the most powerful tornadoes in the world.
  • The chance of an F5, the strongest tornado, is less than 0.1%.
  • The damage from the path of a tornado can be a mile wide and much longer than that.
  • Tornadoes can be transparent when they first form.
  • Tornadoes in the United States spin counterclockwise. In Australia, they go in the other direction.
  • Tornadoes can occur almost anywhere.
  • Tornadoes occur in warm weather conditions.
  • We can detect tornadoes through weather radar.
  • Severe storm warnings include tornadoes.
  • Tornadoes come in all shapes and sizes.
  • Tornadoes can come along with tropical storms and hurricanes.
  • Most tornadoes move from southwest to northeast.
  • Tornadoes can occur at any time, but they are more likely to happen between the hours of 3 and 9 pm.
  • Even scientists don’t know everything that there is to know about tornadoes.

Do you have any other facts?  Please contact us and we’ll get them posted!


Tornado Safety

Know the signs of a tornado

The most common signs of a tornado are large hail, a loud roar, a dark and greenish colored sky, a funnel cloud, and low clouds.

To learn more signs, visit Oklahoma’s Emergency Medical services authority at https://www.emsaonline.com/mediacenter/articles/00000184.html and the Centers for Disease Control at http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/tornadoes/during.asp


Be aware of tornado alerts

If you are in a tornado-prone area, listen to your local news channels for tornado watches and warning during stormy weather. Keep the volume high enough to hear emergency alert system messages. In addition, it helps to learn which of your local television and radio stations give the most consistent severe weather updates.

To learn more about emergency alert system, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency at https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/26975


What is a tornado watch versus a warning?

A tornado watch means there MAY be a tornado about to form, while a tornado warning means there IS a tornado.

To learn more about the difference between the two, visit AccuWeather.com at http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/the-difference-between-tornado-1/61817

Another resource you can visit is Cedarville University’s Tornado Information Page at https://www.cedarville.edu/Offices/Campus-Safety/Tornado.aspx


What should you do during a tornado?

  • If you are indoors at home during a tornado – Go to the basement or a windowless first flood room such as a closet or bathroom. Duck under a table if possible and cover your body with a sleeping bag or blanket.
  • If you are in a school or office building – Move indoors, away from windows, and to the lowest floor. Crouch down and protect your head.
  • If you are in a mobile home – Evacuate and go to a nearby shelter or basement. If there is nowhere available, see the instructions below for the outdoors.
  • If you are outdoors – Lie down into a low area such as a ditch and protect your head. Do not attempt to outrun a tornado. Many exceed highway speeds.
  • In your vehicle – Get to shelter if possible, but do not try to outrun a tornado. If you cannot get to shelter, then stop the vehicle, keep your seat belt fastened, hide under a blanket, and duck below the level of the windows.

To learn more about what to do when a tornado strikes:

Are you prepared for a tornado?

Being prepared ahead of time is essential in order to have a quick response during an actual emergency.

Tornado kit

Create a plan ahead of time. Know what part of the house you will be sheltering in and place your kit in that area where it is easily accessible. Your kit should contain:

  • water for several days
  • canned foods
  • a can opener
  • batteries
  • medications
  • a flashlight
  • infant formula
  • blankets or sleeping bags
  • a first aid kit
  • a battery powered radio
  • games that the whole family can play

An additional kit with similar items should be in the trunk of your car. Also, include standard roadside emergency kit articles such as flares and a bright colored and reflective emergency vest.

Store your vital documents such as birth certificates and insurance papers, in a waterproof and fireproof container.

To learn more about preparing a kit, visit MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=8159


Staying safe after a tornado

After a tornado, move away from any unstable structures. Do not attempt travel before the roads are cleared. Be aware of your surroundings.

Some post-tornado dangers may include:

  • downed and possibly still live power lines
  • collapsing buildings and roofs
  • downed trees
  • debris in the road
  • flooding and landslides
  • power outages
  • loss of refrigerated foods due to power outages
  • loss of drinkable and useable water
  • slowed emergency services response
  • no access to electronic funds
  • limited access to necessary medications
  • no cooking facilities
  • tire and vehicle damage if driving during or after disaster conditions
  • fire
  • displaced wildlife

To learn more, visit the Red Cross at http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4340177_Tornado.pdf


Tornado Related Activities for Kids

Have you always wanted to make your own tornado? Now you can (but without all of the destruction! You can make your very own tornado in a jar. For directions, visit http://www.kidspot.com.au/things-to-do/activities/tornado-in-a-jar-experiment

You can create your own barometer to check for weather changes, build your own weather station, or any of a variety of cool experiments for at home or to wow the crowd at your school’s science fair.  For plenty of ideas, visit KidsAhead http://kidsahead.com/subjects/9-tornados-thunderstorms/activities

Here is another resource with several activities and information: Severe Weather Safety Teacher’s Guide and Classroom Activities (PDF) – http://www.nelsonvilleyork.k12.oh.us/Downloads/SevereWeatherTeachersGuide12.pdf


Additional Resources

Tornado Safety and Preparedness – For Adults and Kids