More than 1,000 tornadoes strike the United States every year. Tornadoes strike every continent of the world except for Antarctica. Based on the number of tornadoes alone, you might want to stay out of the region comprised of Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and South Dakota. In doing so, you will avoid the tumultuous "Tornado Alley."
By now, many of us have forgotten about the most momentous United States tornadoes or were not around when they happened. Tornadoes and hurricanes alike affect the United States on a regular basis. By remembering past tornado events and studying them thoroughly, we may be able to mitigate future storms.
The unpredictable nature of tornadoes in the United States makes preparing for them tough. Ideally, you should always be prepared for a tornado strike, and especially if you live in Tornado Alley. Also, knowing how to respond to storms is helpful.
The facts and stories you are about to hear could be unsettling. While some things describe the types of tornadoes that the United States faces on a regular basis, others recount some of the most destructive twisters that the United States has ever met. These are 25 things we forgot about tornadoes in the US.
25 Tornadoes That Occur Over Water Are Called "Waterspouts"
We discussed how tornadoes could occur in valleys and on mountains but did you know they can happen on top of water? In case you were wondering, it wouldn't be as dramatic as the above photo.
Generally, water tornadoes are called "waterspouts" and are placed into two categories. The more dangerous category being a "tornadic waterspout," which are nearly identical to land tornadoes. It would be unfortunate to be on a ship caught in the midst of a squall.
The other type of waterspout is a fair weather waterspout. According to the www.weather.gov, "fair weather waterspouts are usually less dangerous phenomena, but common over South Florida’s coastal waters from late spring to early fall."
24 The Most Common States For Tornadoes Are Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, And Florida
According to the website of nssl.noaa.gov, about 1,200 tornadoes hit the U.S. yearly. Central and Eastern United States are most affected by the effects of tornadoes.
Recognizing that you are in a tornado region and learning how to react in the event of a tornado is vital. Although, even if you aren't living in a tornado region of the United States, it is still possible for tornadoes to strike your area. On average, tornadoes last for about five minutes. Regardless of their duration, there is too much potential for devastation since their area of concentration is so fierce.
23 There's A Place In The United States Called "Tornado Alley"
The label for a place in the United States called "Tornado Alley" could be a euphemism for what it represents. Tornado Alley is a real place in the United States and its one that is made up of two different regions. One of the regions being the State of Florida, which experiences almost daily thunderstorms. Even Walt Disney World isn't safe from a tornado!
The website of ncdc.noaa.gov describes Tornado Alley as "an area in the southern plains of the central United States that consistently experiences a high frequency of tornadoes each year." Tornadoes in Tornado Alley can be weak, but they are indeed commonplace.
22 Tornadoes Are Extremely Fast
Tornado movements can be unpredictable, and with speeds in rare cases exceeding 200 miles per hours, there is a never a safe place to be with a tornado in sight. One you see a tornado, whether on foot or in a vehicle, you should attempt to distance to yourself from the storm as much as possible, but more importantly, you should get indoors to a safe location.
How to react in a tornado is much like how you would in the event of a dire earthquake. Getting under a chair or desk can protect your head and help to avoid other serious injuries.
21 How To Prepare For A Tornado
Preparing for a Tornado is not as easy as staying indoors. Tornadoes can lift vehicles in the air, hurling them several feet. Also, storms have the power to wreck homes. A tornado phenomenon doesn't have to be as catastrophic as the story of the Three Little Pigs, but the design of a house should matter. Not only is a home meant to protect from typical weather such as rain and snow, but it should also protect inhabitants from tornadoes.
According to houselogic.com, you can improve the solidity of your home by "sealing roof sheathing seams, applying extra fasteners for roof sheathing, installing wind-resistant roofing, adding impact-resistant windows and doors, and installing wind- and rain-resistant roof vents."
20 The Difference Between A Hurricane And A Tornado
Contrary to popular belief, hurricanes and tornadoes are not interchangeable terms to refer to the same thing. The website of diffen.com does a remarkable job of comparing and contrasting hurricanes and tornadoes. In the United States, there are more than 1,000 tornadoes per year, yet less than 20 hurricanes are recorded.
Technically, a hurricane is part-tornado. Hurricanes can have outbursts that release several tornadoes. Diversely, hurricanes are more widespread and tornadoes are concentrated storms. It's way easier to escape safely from the inside of a hurricane than from inside a tornado. There's also usually more time to avoid a hurricane since notice is provided well in advance.
19 A Tornado While Driving?
After spotting a tornado while driving, most people's immediate reaction would be to slow down, but not to steer in the opposite direction. It depends on the severity of the storm, but in almost all cases it is advisable to stop your car, no matter how big, and turn around!
Vehicles are not safe shelters for tornadoes since, depending on the power of the storm, an SUV or car can be flipped over and damaged. Cracked windows created by powerful winds can cause misfortune to whoever drives through a gale. Safety is far more important than reaching any destination.
18 Other Types Of Extreme Weather Can Accompany Tornadoes
Various types of extreme weather can co-exist alongside wicked typhoons. Across the United States, tornadoes accompanied by lightning, heavy rain, sleet, and hail take place on a regular basis. With more than 1,000 tornadoes occurring in the United States per year, only a few are featured in the news. That is because many tornadoes are short-lived and cause little destruction to their environment.
Weather such as lightning, heavy rain, sleet, and hail add to why tornadoes are frightening and must be avoided at any rate. According to spc.noaa.gov, you are more likely to be struck by lightning than a tornado.
17 Tornadoes Change Appearance As They Progress
Tornadoes do not always look like perfect spirals that become progressively narrower in uniform fashion like it's seen in cartoons. Tornadoes have varying appearances, which is why they can be difficult to identify. You may think that a tornado is part of an ordinary storm or a cloud formation, so it can be surprising once they are rapidly approaching, leaving a trail of mayhem from their wake. Chances are, if you think you've spotted a tornado, you are right. Turn on the news if you still aren't sure—if you have time. Moreover, even more importantly, find a place to take shelter.
16 How A Tornado Is Formed
The eye of the storm is the center of a tornado, and it's the last place you would want to be. Being caught in the eye of the storm is rare. As mentioned by science.howstuffworks.com, "there are only two people on record that claim to have been in the center of a tornado and lived."
One man from Kansas State named Will Keller described his experience of being caught in the eye of a cyclone. He mentioned how everything went still. He looked up and saw an opening in the tornado. Smaller tornados separated from the first tornado and intense weather such as lighting could be seen.
15 Tornadoes Cross More Than Just Plains
Contrary to what many believe, tornadoes can travel through more than just plains. Tornadoes are far more likely to occur in vast plains since they can more easily gain the speed and momentum required for them to form, among other reasons. Tornadoes travel through more than just plains. They can climb mountain inclines, move down a hill into a valley, or they can travel in water. They are rare, but they can happen in high places of the United States such as the State of Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. Tornadoes in hills, valleys, and rivers should be treated like any tornado one might encounter.
14 Tornadoes Spin In Either Direction!
The spin of the tornado shouldn't affect how you react to them. Regardless of their spin direction, that is if they spin clockwise or counterclockwise, it is advisable to take cover and hope that you don't find yourself in the eye of a twirling cyclone.
With that said, tornadoes move clockwise in the southern hemisphere and counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere, as detailed by different.com. It is noteworthy that tornadoes and hurricanes both move clockwise in the southern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere. Do toilets also flush in the opposite direction in the north and south; you'll have to test for yourself.
13 Tornado Season Is During Any Time Of The Year In The US
Tornado season can be any time of the year. According to the website of tripsavvy.com, "no terrain is safe from tornadoes." There is, however, places that experience more tornadoes during certain times of the year.
The peak times for tornadoes to occur is detailed as follows: In the Southern States, tornadoes occur March through May, in the Northeastern States they occur June through August, in the Midwestern States they occur April through June, and in the Western States tornado season is usually May to July. Tornadoes are dangerous, which is why you should always be prepared for an unexpected tornado.
12 If A Tornado Is Near Your Home, Stay Away From The Windows
As demonstrated in The Wizard of Oz, it's not advisable to approach windows in the middle of a tornado. Windows can shatter and sometimes break out of the wall. If you have a basement, it's probably the safest part of the house. The most unsafe part would be the roof, of course; it's far more likely to be struck by a tornado and is often filled with windows.
Barricade your windows if you have time. A myth suggests that certain corners of a basement are less likely to be affected by a tornado. According to livescience.com, the "myth arose from the mistaken belief that most tornadoes come from the southwest and that any debris they generate would fall into the northeast corner of a basement." Instead, try to hide under a mattress or desk and stay away from windows.
11 Vehicles Are Not Safe Shelters From Tornadoes
If in a field or any area containing an approaching tornado, your instincts may be to hop into the nearest vehicle. Your best option is to jump out of your vehicle and take shelter in a nearby building. When in the eye of a tornado, there are few safe options. Sometimes, there might not be a safe place to hide. What you should not do, however, is hide under your car! Vehicles caught in the midst of a cyclone can be carried more than a mile.
As mentioned by usatoday.com, "a personal check was carried 223 miles." The personal check traveled from Stockton, Kansas to Winnetoon, Nebraska setting the world record for the furthest distance traveled by an object carried by a tornado.
10 Tornadoes Are Expensive To The United States
We know that plenty of tornadoes occur, but we can forget that these tornadoes are very costly. Tornadoes seem to be not the only thing spiraling as the United States' debt spirals out of control.
When referring to the year 2015, usatoday.com said, "For a record eighth straight year, tornadoes and other severe thunderstorms likely caused at least $10 billion in property damage in the United States." Winter storms seem to add a significant amount to tornado-related costs. Making buildings tornado resistant can't help minimize losses. Tornadoes impact countries throughout the world.
9 It's Way Tougher To Predict A Tornado Compared To A Hurricane
How fast tornadoes form and how often they occur to make it exceedingly difficult to predict a tornado. Hurricanes, on the other hand, last for much longer and can approach from off the coast. Tornadoes form almost anywhere and usually last less than 10 minutes.
In most cases, only a fortune teller would be able to predict the event of a tornado. Weather predictions can predict some, but not more than a thousand tornadoes that occur in the United States. Regardless, meteorologists do their best to anticipate heavy storms that could produce tornadoes and bring safety to the public.
8 The Highest Elevation For A Tornado In The United States
As mentioned by weather.gov, "A tornado occurred in the Rockwell Pass area of Sequoia National Park, California. Since the elevation of the tornado’s ground circulation was approximately 3705 m (12,156 ft) MSL, this is the highest-elevation twister documented in the United States." This event occurred on July 7th, 2004 slightly after the end of tornado season for California, which is winter to spring.
Tornadoes in the United States can reach high elevations and seemingly, have no boundaries. There is hardly any significance to the fact this tornado occurred at a high altitude, but it's interesting to learn that a tornado can form so close to the clouds.
7 Mighty Tornadoes Are Less Common In Northeastern United States
Many people assume that tornadoes are just as frequent in the Northeastern part of the United States compared to the Mid Eastern section. Although they do happen, tornadoes in the Northeastern region of the United States are far less common. One explanation for why plains are more likely to receive twisters is because cold air is more likely to clash with warm air.
A clash of dry and moist air could also lead to the spawn of a twister. As detailed by theweatherprediction.com, gulf moisture and heat can advect into the northern U.S. bringing thunderstorms and severe weather to those areas.
6 The "Tri-State Tornado" Of 1925
As a country that has vast, warm plains that can create an updraft, the United States has received several monumental tornadoes which continue to be discussed today. The most impactful without a doubt is the "Tri-State Tornado" Of 1925.
The amount of wreckage was more than anyone could have predicted. The tornado traveled at a speed of about 260 miles per hour, and it moved a distance of at least 300 miles! The enhanced Fujita Scale ranking the intensity of tornadoes, gave the "Tri-State Tornado" Of 1925 an EF-5 rating, the highest possible score (britannica.com).
5 The St. Louis Tornado Of 1896
It's regarded as one of the top three most dangerous storms in United States history. The St. Louis Tornado of 1896 claimed the lives of at least 255 people. In addition to more than a thousand injuries, homes were decimated from what is considered to be one of the few EF-4 storms in United States history.
Over a century ago, The Great Cyclone (St. Louis Tornado of 1896) tore apart more than 311 buildings, says tornados.slpl.org. It's an event that only lasted approximately 20 minutes, yet it is doubtful that the St. Louis Tornado of 1896 will ever be forgotten.
4 Tornadoes Can Cover A Wide Area
To put it in perspective, massive tornadoes cover areas larger than a football field. Earth is enormous, and people are insignificant in size comparison. When related to a hurricane, tornadoes are usually smaller but are grand in size nevertheless.
As stated by as stated by cosmosmagazine.com, "The United States also holds the record for the widest tornado – the El Reno, Oklahoma twister measured 4.2km across at its peak." Since they can last hours, with ease, gargantuan tornadoes can travel hundreds of miles leaving a trail of devastation in their path. Do NOT attempt to photograph a gargantuan tornado such as this one.
3 Bunkers Can Keep You Safe
Reinforcing your house and preparing emergency kits in the event of an earthquake will undoubtedly improve your chances of avoiding peril. To go even further in tornado preparation would be to build a safety bunker. A bunker is underground, so it should provide safety from any storm that heads your way.
It is costly to make a bunker at your house, which is why so few people have them. It may cost $20,000 or more for one. However, who knows, maybe a bunker could save your life from an alien invasion, nuclear attack, Godzilla, or some other unforeseeable cataclysmic event.
2 The Tornado From Wizard Of Oz Was Actually A Sock!
The twister that was presented in the unforgettable movie classic, The Wizard of Oz, was far from a misrepresentation. As the eye of the cyclone is approaching, Dorothy struggles to maintain her balance. Had Dorothy been quicker, she wouldn't have bumped her head on the window and would have made it to the cellar. She did everything you're not supposed to do in a tornado.
After regaining consciousness, Dorothy looks out the window and notices objects and animals hurling through the air. The kicker is, that the tornado wasn't real—it was a 35-foot long muslin sock! They don't use that camera trick in movies anymore.
1 The "Woodward Tornado" Of 1947
In this photo, you can see the cover of a novel which retells the story of the "Woodward Tornado" Of 1947 through the recounts of its survivors. Over 170 people lost their lives in one of the most tragic events of United States history. Covering states such as Oklahoma and Texas, this gale came as a surprise since there was little warning.
The website of weather.gov ad details the incident. Reportedly, over 100 city blocks were put in ruins because of one storm that formed six tornadoes that covered an area of more than 200 miles. Based on the amount of damage and its speed, The "Woodward Tornado" of 1947 is classified as an F5 based on the Fujita Scale.
References: conserve-energy-future.com, tornadoalleymovie.com, tripsavvy.com, tornadofacts.net, smithsonianmag.com, cnn.com, ncdc.noaa.gov, stltoday.com, tornados.slpl.org, britannica.com, weather.gov, ducksters.com