Tornadoes 101 (tornado basics, videos and safety resources)

March 9, 2019

Most of us have seen a tornado on the news and the Internet, but a vast majority of people have never personally witnessed the power and destruction of a twister.

The U.S. averages about 1,300 tornadoes a year and Canada is ranked #2 in volume of tornadoes (averaging about 80 per year) with several high risk areas mostly in central provinces. Nearly 3/4 of the world’s tornadoes occur in the U.S. annually with a majority of them touching down in “tornado alley” across the central U. S.

But keep in mind tornadoes can occur anywhere in the U.S. — with sightings in all 50 states — and across every continent except Antarctica.

Did you know…

  • even though the National Weather Service (formerly called the Weather Bureau) has been tracking storms since 1870 … they were not allowed to use the word tornado in its forecasts for fear of panic until 1950..?!
  • According to NOAA, 2004 had a record 1,817 tornado reports in the U.S.
  • In 1974, during a 21-hour period, 148 tornadoes ripped through 13 states and 1 province between Alabama and Ontario, Canada killing 315 people.
  • Tornadoes can last for several seconds or more than an hour, but most last less than 10 minutes.
  • Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer, but tornadoes can happen at any time of the year. Also, tornadoes can also happen at any time of day or night, but most tornadoes occur between 4–9 p.m.
  • The 1925 Tri-State Tornado rode a straight-line path for 3.5 hours across 219 miles of Missouri, southern Illinois and Indiana, making it the longest single tornado track anywhere in the world. With a mile-wide diameter it looked wider than it was tall and caused 695 deaths — a U.S. record for a single tornado — and injured thousands.
  • A waterspout is a tornado over water but isn’t recorded until it hits land.
  • The force of a tornado can strip asphalt chunks off roads, rip clothes off people and pluck feathers off chickens.

 

Tornado basics

tornado photo by noaaAccording to the National Severe Storms Laboratory tornadoes are rare and unpredictable, but NSSL admits experts don’t fully understand how tornadoes form.

Basically a tornado is a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. Because wind is invisible, it is hard to see a tornado unless it forms a condensation funnel made up of water droplets, dust and debris. Tornadoes are the most violent of all atmospheric storms.

The most destructive and deadly tornadoes occur from supercells, which are rotating thunderstorms with a well-defined radar circulation called a mesocyclone. (Supercells can also produce damaging hail, severe non-tornadic winds, unusually frequent lightning, and flash floods.) Tornado formation is believed to be dictated mainly by things which happen on the storm scale, in and around the mesocyclone.

Learn more in below 2 educational videos and scroll down to find some free safety information about tornadoes and other severe weather topics from our IT’S A DISASTER! book and other resources.

Anatomy of a Tornado by TWC’s Jim Cantore from 2015…

 

This 2018 video by Cantore and TWC is longer but takes you inside a storm like you’ve never seen before with amazing graphics…


Safety Information

Download and share some free topics from our IT’S A DISASTER book with tips about things to do before, during and after a storm:

 

Additional Resources:

National Severe Storms Laboratory Severe Weather 101

Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (Tornado page)

National Geographic Tornado 101 (video)

How Tornadoes Work

Storm Prediction Center Tornado FAQ

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NASA video: A Display of Lights Above the Storm

October 13, 2017

Check out this cool video by NASA explaining Transient Luminous Events or basically flashes and glows called blue jets, red sprites and other TLEs that appear above storms.

Blue jets pulse from the tops of intense thunderstorms and reach up toward the edge of space. Red sprites are glows in the upper atmosphere, tied to the presence of large lightning flashes but not attached to the clouds themselves.

The ISS has afforded astronauts the opportunity to photograph a number of natural light shows produced at the tops of thunderstorms as seen in below video…

For more science from above the clouds visit www.nasa.gov/station and see more cool lightning posts here


National Severe Weather Preparedness Week March 2-8, 2014 #BeAForce

February 28, 2014

Photo: FEMAMost states across the U.S. set aside a week in February or March to observe their own local Severe Weather Awareness week , but NOAA, FEMA and others will be promoting National Severe Weather Preparedness Week March 2-8, 2014.

As we’ve seen year after year, March brings all kinds of wild weather and chaos like thunderstorms, tornadoes, high winds and flooding. And there are still chances of snow storms and hard freezes in various parts of the country so we all need to be prepared for Mother Nature’s mood swings.

The goal of National Severe Weather Preparedness Week is to inform the public about severe weather hazards and provide knowledge which can be used to prepare and take action. These actions can be used to save lives anywhere – at home, in schools, and in the workplace before extreme weather strikes. As NOAA says… Be a Force of Nature by knowing your risk, taking action and being an example where you live.

Facts & Figures

In 2013, there were seven weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. These events included five severe weather and tornado events, a major flood event, and the western drought/heat wave. Overall, these events killed 109 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.

Globally, losses from natural catastrophes in 2013 were somewhat moderate: the direct overall losses of around US$125bn remained below the average of the past ten years (US$184bn) according to Munich Re. Sadly, in a total of 880 major disasters around the world in 2013, more than 20,000 people were killed, but this figure is significantly below the average of the past ten years (106,000).

Take the Next Step 

NOAA and FEMA’s Be a Force of Nature: Take the Next Step campaign encourages the public to take a single preparedness action during each day of National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

For example, according to NOAA’s Social Media Plan, daily themes include…

  • Sunday, March 2nd – National Severe Weather Preparedness Week Launch
  • Monday, March 3rd – Know your Severe Weather Risk
  • Tuesday, March 4th – Build an Emergency Kit
  • Wednesday, March 5th – Make an Emergency Plan
  • Thursday, March 6th – Emergency Alert Warnings
  • Friday, March 7th – Be a Force of Nature – Take Action
  • Saturday, March 8th – Summary

In addition to the below educational resources, visit NOAA’s online toolkit page to find some materials, social media tools, a poster and more to help spread the word during National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

Flood and Tsunami Awareness Weeks also in March

March 16 – 22, 2014 is National Flood Awareness week intended to highlight some of the many ways floods can occur, the hazards associated with floods, and what you can do to save life and property.

Visit www.nws.noaa.gov/floodsafety/ orwww.nws.noaa.gov/floodsafety/floodsafe.shtml to find tools, tips, brochures, videos and more.

And Tsunami Awareness Week is March 23 – 29, 2014 is designed to help cities, towns, counties, universities and other large sites in coastal areas reduce the potential for disastrous tsunami-related consequences using National Weather Service’s TsunamiReady program. Learn more at www.tsunamiready.noaa.gov 

Learn more

FLOOD resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mold cleanup tips

EPA’s 20-page guide, “Mold, Moisture and Your Home”

FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program

Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety Flood page

NOAA’s Flood Safety page

Ready Campaign flood safety awareness page

THUNDERSTORM and LIGHTNING Resources

National Weather Service Lightning Safety site

NWS Lightning Safety Tools for Teachers

Ready Campaign Thunderstorms & Lightning page

TORNADO Resources

Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety Tornado page

NOAA Tornado safety tips

More NOAA Tornado tips

Ready Campaign Tornado page

The Tornado Project Online!

Or visit your state or local Emergency Management, Health, Fire, Police or Sheriff department’s website to find local emergency information, safety tips and tools to help you and your loved ones prepare for severe weather outbreaks.

Also learn more about our collaborative Public-Private Partnership ideas associated with our customizable book to help fund volunteers and first responders and educate local communities while saving them money! It’s a whole community approach to resilience and preparedness and can complement your Awareness campaigns. Read more


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