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What Are Tornadoes?

Tornadoes are violent columns of air extending from a thunderstorm to touch the ground. Some of the most violent tornadoes have produced wind speeds over 300 mph along with a lot of destruction. These storms are capable of uprooting trees, destroying big buildings, and can throw cars and trucks hundreds of yards. The damage path of a tornado can be from 1-50 miles long. In about a year, there are 1000 tornadoes nationwide. They're found mostly in the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer.


What Causes Tornadoes?

Tornadoes are caused by thunderstorms in warm, moist air that is trapped underneath a cold, dry layer of air. As the warm air rises it cools down and starts forming clouds and thunderstorms. The quickly rising air spins around to form a funnel with speeds exceeding 250 mph and faster. They can happen at anytime of day, even at night.


Where Are Tornadoes Likely To Occur?

Tornadoes are likely to occur in any country, but they are frequently produced in the U.S. Tornado Alley is a flat stretch of land from west Texas to North Dakota. This area is ideal for tornadoes because dry polar air from Canada meets warm, moist, tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico. In the southern states, such as Arkansas and Missouri, the peak of tornado season is March through May. In the northern states like Iowa and Illinois, more tornadoes occur in late spring and summer.


How Do Tornadoes Form?

Most tornadoes form from thunderstorms. In order for them to form, there has to be warm, most air from the Gulf of Mexico and cool, dry air from the Canadian area. When the two air masses meet, they create an unstable feeling in the atmosphere. A change in wind direction, an increase in wind speed, and an increased height creates an invisible horizontal spin in the lower atmosphere. Rising air tilts the air from a horizontal angle to a vertical one. An area of rotation now extends through much of the storm.

Tornado Is Born - These bloopers are hilarious

Watches, Warnings, and the F Scale

Are you completely sure that you know what the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning is? If not, a tornado watch means there's a possibility of your area having a tornado. Tornado warnings mean there is either a tornado on the ground or its been detected by a Doppler radar. In that case you need to seek shelter immediately.

The F scale is the nickname for Fujita Scale. The scale of a tornado rates from an F0 to an F5. The wind speed of an F0 is from 40 to 72 mph. An F1 is 73 to 112 mph; F2 is 113 to 157; F3 is 158 to 206; F4 is 207 to 260; and F5 is 261 to 318 mph. The damage of each of the tornadoes varies from light damage to incredible damage. The following damages rates each tornado:

F0-Light Damage: Some branches broken off trees, small roof damages;

F1-Moderate damage: Trees are snapped, mobile homes are pushed off their foundation;

F2-Considerable Damage: Mobile homes demolished, there are trees uprooted, roofs are also damage;

F3-Severe Damage: Trains are overturned, cars may be lifted off the ground, strong built homes have outside walls blown away;

F4-Devastating Damage: Houses are leveled leaving piles of debris, cars are thrown more than 300 yards into the air;

F5-Incredible Damage: Strong built homes completely blown away, automobile-sized missiles generated.


How to stay safe in case of a tornado

Before a tornado hits make sure to have a disaster plan. Make sure everybody knows what to do and when to do it, and also be sure they know what county or parish they are in. Putting together an emergency kit can be a lot of help. When putting this together, make sure to have enough food and water for at least three days.

During a tornado, move to a basement. If there's no basement, get to an interior room without windows; it should be on the lowest level of the building or house. Another possible safety spot would be under a sturdy piece of furniture. If you are in a mobile home, get out immediately; they offer very little protection against tornadoes. Also, get out of cars and trucks; don't try to outrun a tornado because you will most likely lose. When outdoors, get into a ditch or a low lying area. Stay away from low bridges and tunnels, because the air moves faster and stronger when passing through these areas. Be sure to stay away from downed power lines and damaged areas. After the tornado is gone, make sure it is safe to go outside before leaving. Check for injured or trapped people but don't get into anything dangerous. Use a flashlight to inspect a house or building.