85 Tornado Facts, All you Need to know about Tornadoes

Image of a Tornado for tornadoes fact list

The death toll from Friday’s devastating tornado continues to rise. So, I have tornadoes on my mind. Which means it’s time to learn all about tornadoes. The way we do that here is with facts and there are some crazy tornado facts.

If you know anything about me, you know, when I learn something new I share it with you. Today, we’ll be curing our ignorance with all the Tornado Facts You’ll Ever need to know. Let’s get started.

If you want to jump to a specific section all you have to do is click on it in the table of contents. You’ll jump to whichever tornado fact you’ve chosen.

Table of Contents

Speed of a Tornado

  • Common tornadoes have a speed of lower than 110 miles per hour or 180 kilometers per hour.
  • In 1971, the Japanese-American meteorologist Tetsuya Theodore Fujita introduced the Fujita scale. It is a device that measures the intensity of a tornado based on wind speed and the damage the tornado creates. The scale has six divisions, starting from F-0 to F-5. The most damaging on the scale is the F-5.
An image of the Fujita Scale

Size of a Tornado

  • Damage paths of tornadoes can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.
  • Tornadoes can span 250 feet or 80 meters across

Crazy Tornado Facts

  • Tornadoes hit Codell, Kansas in three consecutive years. All of them happened on May 20th.
  • In 1916, an F-2 tornado passed through Codell in the early evening.
  • In 1917, an F-3 twister struck the same western portion of Codell.
  • In 1918, just before nightfall, an F-4 tornado visited Codell.
  • Tornadoes can also pass through mountains or mountain ranges.

Sound of a Tornado

  • A tornado’s sound depends on several things like its size, strength, what it’s hitting, and proximity to human ears.
  • The most common sound of a tornado is a continuous rumble or roar akin to a nearby engine or a waterfall.
  • When a tornado hits and tears through a city, it creates different sounds which are difficult to recognize because it is deafeningly loud.

Tornadoes vs Hurricanes

  • Tornadoes and hurricanes might look alike but they are different in many ways.
  • They both create whirling winds. Even so, hurricanes have high winds, heavy rain over a specific area and can travel over a hundred miles.
  • Hurricanes last for days or even weeks while tornadoes last for a few hours or just minutes.
  • Their wind scales also differ, a Category 1 hurricane produces a sustained wind of 74 to 95 miles per hour, on the other hand, an F-1 tornado has wind gusts of 65 miles per hour to 85 miles per hour.

Random Tornado Facts

  • 2% of tornadoes are considered violent or are under F-4 to F-5 categories. 
  • The words Tornado Alley was first used in 1952.
Diagram showing tornado alley
  • Although the boundaries of Tornado Alley are not clearly identified, it covers northern Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Louisiana, Kansas, Iowa, and South Dakota.
  • Always prepare for the worst. Wearing shoes and a helmet in a tornado can lessen or ultimately prevent serious injuries. 
  • A tornado is a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 mph.
  • Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes once on land.
  • Tornado watch is a warning for severe thunderstorms.
  • Rotating thunderstorms are the best predictors of tornado activity. They are well defined thunderstorms on radar that may include hail, severe winds, lightning, or flash floods.
  • Tornadoes can occur when a warm front meets a cold front, forming a thunderstorm, which then can spawn 1 or more “twisters.”
  • Canada is ranked 2nd in the world with the most tornadoes per year.
  • Approximately, 80 confirmed and unconfirmed twisters occur in Canada yearly.
  • Most of these tornadoes happen in Southern Quebec, Southern Ontario, and Canadian Prairies and are usually under F-0 to F-2 categories, resulting in minor damage.
  • Most twisters or cyclones travel from southwest to northeast and can move in the opposite direction for short periods of time.
  • A tornado can backtrack if it is hit by winds from the eye of the thunderstorm.
  • Funnel clouds usually last less than 10 minutes before dissipating, and many only last several seconds. On rare occasion, cyclones can last for over an hour.

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  • A tornado may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms within the funnel.
  • Twisters strike predominantly along Tornado Alley — a flat stretch of land from western Texas to North Dakota. This region is a hotspot for tornadoes because the dry polar air from Canada meets the warm moist tropical from the south.
  • Tornadoes are the most likely to occur between 3 pm and 9 pm, but can occur at any time.
  • In the southern states, peak tornado occurrence is March through May, while peak months in the northernmost states are late June through August.
  • A tornado may last for a few seconds or up to 3 hours when it hits the ground.
  • The United States experience approximately 1,200 tornadoes annually.
  • Texas gets the brunt of tornadoes – about 120 tornadoes yearly.
  • The highest number of tornadoes occur in the month of June.
  • The month of April has the strongest tornadoes.
  • A tornado outbreak is the appearance of several twisters over an area, usually due to thunderstorms.
  • The number of cyclones in an outbreak is between six to ten. This outbreak happens within the same day and can continue until the next morning.
Image of huge tornado

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1999 Bridge Creek Tornado

  • 1999 Bridge Creek Tornado had the highest windspeed ever.
  • The 1999 Bridge Creek-Moore tornado was an outstandingly powerful F-5 tornado with a high speed of 301 ± 20 miles per hour or 484 ± 32 kilometers per hour.
  • The Bridge Creek Tornado struck Grady County, Oklahoma, at 6:23 pm on May 3, 1999.
  • The disaster lasted for about 80 minutes and left massive destruction.

The Tri-State Tornado of 1925

  • The Tri-State was the worst tornado on record.
  • The Tri-State tornado occurred in different parts of Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri on March 18, 1925.
  • The TriState tornado was in the F-5 category on Fujita Scale, although cyclones were not yet ranked during that time.
  • The cyclone had the fastest speed at 73 meters per hour, or 117 kilometers per hour, and lasted for 3 1/2 hours.
  • Tri-state resulted in 685 fatalities.

The worst tornado in Bangladesh was Daulatpur–Saturia

  • The Daulatpur–Saturia devastated Bangladesh on April 26, 1989.
  • Daulatpur–Saturia killed around 1300 people.
  • The Daulatpur–Saturia tornado injured 12,000 people.

2011 Super Outbreak was the largest & deadliest in the US

  • In April 2011, the deadliest and largest tornado, the Super Outbreak wreaked havoc in the Northeastern, Midwestern, and the Southern United States.
  • The Super Outbreak had a total of 360 tornadoes
  • Four of Super Outbreaks tornadoes had a scale of F-5.
  • Super outbreak killed a total of 348 people.
  • In Alabama alone, 238 related fatalities and about $10 million in damages were recorded

Rope Tornadoes

  • Rope tornadoes are the most common.
  • The rope tornado got its name from its rope-like appearance.
  • The rope tornado is the smallest type of tornado.
  • Ropes are also the most common type of twister.
  • Rope tornado got its name from its rope-like appearance. It is also the smallest and most common twister

Cone Tornadoes

  • Cone tornado has a broader base than the rope tornado and gets narrower as the rotating wind or funnel hits the ground.
  • It gets it’s name from it’s conoid appearance.
  • Compared to a rope tornado, the cone tornado can cause more harrowing damages.

Wedge Tornado

  • The wedge tornado is the most destructive.
  • A wedge tornado is broader and wider than its height.
  • It’s one of the largest and most destructive cyclones.
  • The wedge tornado is usually in the F-3 category.
  • With a width of more than half a mile, it can leave a trail of destruction.

Waterspout tornado

Waterspout image
  • A waterspout tornado or “over the water tornado” is a whirling pressure of water and air.
  • It is accompanied by strong winds, turbulent waves, and dangerous lightning strikes.
  • Waterspout tornados are very comparable to land tornadoes.
  • Apart from the lighting and strong winds, the waterspout tornados can also bring hail.

Multiple Vortex tornado

  • The multiple vortex tornado has multiple funnel clouds.
  • Multiple vortex tornado has several vortices or whirlwinds rotating around a single storm.
  • This can be extremely destructive. It was one of the cyclones that hit Oklahoma on 2011 , and is placed under the F-3 scale.
  • Multiple Vortex tornado has winds of up to 165 mph.

Nocturnal Tornado

  • Nocturnal tornadoes, as the name suggests, are tornadoes that occur overnight.
  • Nocturnal tornadoes that occur during these hours less severe than their evening or daytime counterparts, but the NOAA has found they’re twice as likely to kill.
  • Nocturnal tornadoes are difficult to forecast, difficult to see (and therefore confirm), and difficult to respond to because much of the population is asleep when they occur.
  • The Southeast seems to experience more nocturnal tornadoes than any other

So there you have it. Tornado facts galore. I hope you enjoyed learning a little about tornadoes and until next time try to smile as much as possible. In the meantime check out Nature.

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