Tornadoes are terrifying disasters. To help you mentally prepare, we’ve answered some of the most common tornado-related questions.
When is tornado season?
Tornadoes can occur any time of the year so there’s no classified tornado season. The majority of them, however, occur between March and June.
Can tornadoes be predicted?
One of the best ways to predict a tornado is by observing rotating thunderstorms. These storms typically bring in flash flooding, large hail, high winds, and lightning, which are some of the warning signs that a tornado may occur. Look out for a green tint in the sky, heavy low-hanging and dark clouds, flying debris, and listen for a loud roar that sounds like a train is approaching.
When a tornado is predicted, do you know its intensity?
No. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine the intensity of a developing tornado. Scientists and researchers estimate its intensity based on the after-effects.
What organizations monitor tornado activity?
There are two organizations that monitor tornado activity in the United States: the National Center for Environmental Information and the Storm Prediction Center. Both of these organizations work under the NOAA.
The National Weather Service, however, is the organization that issues the warnings that get reported to the respective areas at risk.
What type of warning system do tornadoes have?
There are several ways to receive tornado warnings but since they develop so quickly, you must remain on alert. Be mindful that some tornadoes may form while you’re sleeping so determine a way where you can receive alerts if something occurs through the night.
- NOAA Weather Radio: Listen to the NOAA for the most up-to-date status on storm warnings. This is perhaps the most reliable way to receive tornado notifications. You can buy a NOAA weather radio online or download the app on your phone.
- TV and Radio: Local weather and news stations should be informing the public right away if a tornado watch or warning is underway.
- Sirens: In large high-risk areas, there are tornado sirens that will go off throughout the city. The problem with those is that you might not be able to hear them from inside your house.
- Wireless Emergency Alert: FEMA sends out a message to the cell phone carriers, which will send an automatic message to anyone near the predicted impact zone. These messages are free and will appear much like an Amber alert. Make sure you have your emergency alerts turned ON on your phone.
What does a tornado feel like?
As a tornado approaches, you will feel the atmospheric pressure dropping. You may, or may not, feel some changes in your body but everyone is different. Your ears might pop (sometimes causing earaches), your joints might ache or swell, you might experience headaches, and your ability to breathe might feel different.
The sound of a tornado is like a massive train crash with a prolonged hissing sound. Rain, hail, lightning, and strong winds are expected to accompany the violent ripping apart of the structures and objects lying in the path of a tornado. Here you can read two accounts of people who were in the eye of a tornado and lived to tell their story.
How long do tornadoes typically last?
The average time a tornado lasts is 10 minutes, however some can last as little as a few seconds or as long as several hours.
What is the safest place to be during a tornado?
Some of the safest places to take cover during a tornado include basements, interior rooms with no windows (preferably in the lowest level of the home), underneath stairwells, and inside bathtubs. Seek shelter indoors and avoid windows, doors, and other vulnerable openings. Find a comprehensive list of tornado safety tips here.
Has anyone survived in a tornado?
Yes, there have been tornado survivors. The National Weather Service has a section on its website dedicated to survivor stories. You can read about tornado survivors here.
For more information on tornado mitigation and safety, check out our guide here. We’ve provided a printable checklist for you as well.
Do you have any tornado questions that weren’t answered? If so, leave them in the comments below!
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