A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that is in contact with cumulonimbus and cumulus clouds. Tornadoes come in many different sizes but are usually in the form of a condensation funnel. The narrow end of the tornado touches the Earth and is encircled by a cloud of debris. Normal tornadoes have wind speeds between 40 mph and 110 mph, but the most violent tornadoes can have speeds as high 300 mph. Tornadoes can occur all over the world, but most occur in the United States.

How Tornadoes Form

  1. Before a thunderstorm develops, an increse in wind speed and a change in direction occurs. As the height increases, a invisible horizontal spinning effect takes place in the lower atmosphere.
  2. Air rises with in the thunderstorm and an updraft tilts the rotating air so that it is vertical.
  3. An area of rotation extends through much of the storm and is 2-6 miles wide. Within this area of strong rotation, most violent tornadoes form.

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Number 1
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Types of Tornadoes

Multiple Vortex Tornado

This is a type of tornado where two or more columns of spinning air, rotate around the same center. This kind of structure can occur in almost any circulation, but is mostly found in the more intense tornadoes.

Satellite Tornado

A satellite tornado is a weaker tornado that forms near a stronger tornado with the same mesocyclone. Some people think a satellite tornado orbits a larger tornado , making it look like one huge tornado. In fact, it is a distinct funnel that is seperated from the larger one.

Waterspout Tornado

A Waterspout tornado is just a tornado over water. There are two kinds of waterspout tornadoes, fairweather ones and tornadic ones. Fairweather water spouts are less severe but more common. They form at the bases of cumulus cloud towers in tropical to semitropical waters. They travel pretty slow, have weak winds, and occur mostly in the Florida Keys. Tornadic tornadoes can form over water or be a land tornado that crosses onto water. They form from severe thunderstorms and are more intense, faster, and longer-lived than fairweather waterspouts.

Landspout Tornado

Landspout tornadoes are called a fairweather waterspout on land. Landspout tornadoes have relative weakness, short lifespan, and smooth condensation funnel that usually dosen't reach the ground. They also create a large cloud of dust when they hit the ground. Even though they are weaker than classic tornadoes, they still produce strong winds and can do damage.


Most tornadoes have a narrow funnel that is a few hundred meters across and the end is encircled with a cloud of debris. Tornadoes come in many different shapes though. Small weak landspouts may only be visible as small swirls of dust. Large single-vortex tornadoes can look like large wedges stuck in the ground. When tornadoes are begginning to diappear, they look like narrow tubes or ropes that twist into various shapes.


In the United States, tornadoes are, on an average, 500 feet across and stay on the ground for five miles. Weak tornadoes can only be a few feat across . Once, a tornado was reported to be only 7 feet across. Large tornadoes can have a path of up to one mile long!!! A tornado that occured in Hallam Nebraska, on May 22, 2004 was 2.5 miles wide!!! The Tri-State Tornado effected parts of Indiana, MIssouri, and Illinois on March 18, 1925, was on the ground for 219 miles!!!!!!!!!

Vortex Sound Generation Picture
Vortex Sound Generation Picture
Another SCARY tornado!!!!!!!!!!
Another SCARY tornado!!!!!!!!!!

Facts and Myths about tornadoes

Myth: You should play tag with tornadoes! SOOOOOOO FUNNNNN!!!!!!!!

Fact: NO! Don't do that! You should never chase tornadoes or get close to them!

Myth: You should stay in your car while a tornado passes

Fact: You should evacuate the car immediatly and find a ditch to neel down in a ditch

Myth: You should video tape and take pictures of the tornado as its coming at you


What to look out for

  • Dark greenish sky
  • Wall cloud
  • Large hail
  • Loud roar like a freight train

Safety Tips

  • Develop a plan for your family
  • Have frequent Drills
  • Have a weather radio with a warning alarm
  • Listen to the radio and televison for warnings and updates
  • Get into some kind of shelter like a basement
  • Stay away from windows
  • Get out of cars and into some kind of a ditch

 Tornado damage
Tornado damage