In 2021, there 1,376 tornadoes were reported in the United States. And every single one of them came with short notice of an incoming weather event.
Tornadoes bring with them all sorts of dangers; being entirely unpredictable is one of them. A tornado can pop up wherever and go where they please.
Let’s examine why are tornadoes dangerous and why it’s always a good idea to prepare.
What causes a tornado?
Tornadoes are violent rotating air columns that go all the way to the ground. Just the description is enough to make you shudder.
The US tends to have tornado breakouts due to the dry cold air that moves south from Canada and collides with the warmer and moister air that flows north from the Gulf of Mexico. And according to the US. National Weather Service, a tornado is the most violent of storm events.
The craziest thing about tornadoes is that they typically only last fifteen minutes. But they can do millions in damage.
Why are tornadoes dangerous?
Tornados are dangerous for various reasons, and there is no way to 100% guarantee safety. But, by understanding the dangers, you can reduce the chances of injury and possible death.
4 Reasons Why Tornadoes Are Dangerous
1. Flying and Falling Debris
The number one killer during a tornado is falling and flying debris. The high wind speeds turn everything into a weapon. Sheltering in a space with no windows is the primary way you can avoid a tree branch to face.
2. You Can’t Predict a Tornado
The Storm Prediction Center monitors the weather 24/7 and does its absolute best to give sufficient warning that a possible tornado may develop. But that’s not always the case because tornadoes are so, so unpredictable.
Tornado Watch vs Tornado Warning
- Tornado Watch. The NOAA issues a tornado watch when it detects a storm that has the potential to breed tornadoes. A tornado watch typically lasts four to six hours.
- Tornado Warning. When the NOAA issues a tornado warning, it is time to seek shelter and action. The average tornado warning gives you 5 to 9 minutes before it shows up at your door.
3. Tornadoes Can Get Bigger Fast
A tornado grows in intensity the longer it stays on the ground. It can have winds up to 261-318 mph within ten minutes.
Or, it can just disappear into the clouds. But it doesn’t matter what the EF measurement is; even a baby tornado brings the dangers of flying debris.
Measuring a Tornado
The Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF) is how the National Weather Service measures tornadoes (note – it’s unrelated to the 1 to 5 Hurricane scale). The scale runs from EF 0 to EF 5, but regardless of where they fall, they are dangerous storms.
An EF 0, for example, is a tornado that has three-second gusts of wind between 65 and 65mph. On the other end of the scale, an EF 5 has gusts over 200mph.
4. The Need for Shelter
Tornadoes can happen while driving down the road or in the woods on a hike. You are looking at 9 minutes at the most to find a safe place to get low. Not everyone caught up in a tornado has access to a quick shelter (or even a good bathroom).
Where do I go when a tornado warning has been issued in my area?
The second a tornado warning is issued, you need to move to the most interior room on the structure’s lowest floor. You want to avoid rooms with windows because flying debris can be fatal.
If caught in a car, outdoors, or mobile home, find the best shelter that you can and hunker down.
5. The Aftermath
Downed lines, fallen trees, and torrential rain can make the aftermath of a tornado more dangerous than the storm itself. People die from driving down trees and touching down live power lines.
Stay sheltered until the weather service and local authorities say it’s safe to venture out.
Tornado Safety Kit
Whether you live in a region susceptible to tornadoes or not, having a weather preparedness kit is always a good idea.
- Battery-powered radio
- First-aid kits
- Canned and dried food
- Plenty of batteries
Safety During a Tornado
- Identify a safe location before a weather emergency and retreat there when the NOAA issues a tornado warning.
- Protect your head and face at all costs. You can use furniture and pillows to add extra layers as a shield against flying debris.
- Stay tuned into EAS, NOAA, and local and state warning systems and follow their instructions.
What state has the most tornadoes in 2021?
- Texas (155)
- Kansas (96)
- Florida (66)
- Oklahoma (62)
- Nebraska (57)
FAQs about Tornadoes
Are tornadoes always visible?
Heavy rain and storm clouds can completely hide a tornado out of view. It is just one more aspect of twisters that makes them scary.
Take shelter when a tornado warning is issued; don’t wait until you can see it.
Can I outrun a tornado?
A tornado travels faster than the 60mph your car can do. You are also taking the chance that the massive storm could pick up your vehicle and toss it around with you inside.
Stop your car, find a safe place, and protect your head and neck with what you have.
What is the most dangerous thing about tornadoes?
Flying debris is easily the most dangerous part of a tornado. You should always seek shelter, get low, and, if possible, shield your body with what’s available. Winds are whipping up to 100s of mph, and anything can become a weapon.
What happens if a tornado hits you?
The tornado itself isn’t the problem. It’s what it does. The bombardment of objects is more likely to kill you than the twister itself.
Is hiding under an overpass safe?
One of the biggest myths about tornado safety is that an overpass is a safe place if you’re out and about when a tornado occurs. Overpasses are not stable structures by nature, which actually increases the chances of deadly flying debris.