What is a Tornado?

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  • Written By: Sherry Holetzky
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2019
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The word tornado comes from Spanish language and means to twist or turn. A tornado is a whirlwind produced by atmospheric conditions, mainly extremely low pressure, during a severe thunderstorm. Tornados usually turn counterclockwise. They appear as funnel shaped columns of violently rotating winds that reach down from a storm and touch the ground. Although a tornado is not always visible to the eye, tornadic conditions can still be picked up on radar, or the tornado may become visible once debris and dirt are pulled into it.

A tornado may also be referred to as a funnel cloud, but this is technically not a correct term. While the two words are sometimes used interchangeably, a funnel cloud is different, not in its make up, but in the fact that it does not touch the ground. Another name that is often used to describe a tornado is twister, due to its violent twisting motion.

The tornado is one of the most unpredictable and destructive forces of nature, often destroying everything in its path. A tornado is usually preceded by severe storms, which may include lightning, high winds, and frequently hail. It can change course without notice, and is usually accompanied by a roaring sound, or as some describe it, the sound of freight train.


The Fujita Scale measures the strength or intensity of tornados and uses five categories to determine how damaging each storm is. An F-1 is considered moderate, F-2 significant, F-3 severe, F-4 devastating, and F-5 incredible. There is a designation for F-6 but it is considered inconceivable, with winds reaching over 319 miles per hour (or about 510 kilometers per hour).

While tornados can occur anywhere in the world, there are more tornados in the United States each year than in any other country. There is even a section of the U.S. called Tornado Alley, which reaches from the Midwest into the South. The United Kingdom seems to experience quite a few tornados as well, and Canada sees its share, although most Canadian tornados are classified in the F-1 category.


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Post 4

Latte31-Wow, I did not know that. The other day I was reading about tornado tours.There are companies that offer tornado tours.

They actually call it tornado chasing tours and they last about six days and cost around $2,500.

The way it works is that they take you in this vehicle and find severe storms so the thrill seekers can see what a tornado feels like.

There is a company out of Texas called Storm Chasing Adventure Tours that has been in business for about 10 years and does this kind of thing.

That really seems adventurous, I am afraid of roller coasters, so I don’t think you will see me in one of these tornado chasing tours.

Post 3

SurfNturf-What they should do is develop stronger building codes like they do in South Florida. After the devastation of Hurricane Andrew, which was categorized as a Category 5 storm hit, South Florida changed the way the homes were constructed.

Before 1992, many of the homes were built of wood and this is why this hurricane ravaged them. Andrew’s top speed was over 150 miles per hour. So now homes built after 1992, has to have concrete block construction.

Many insurance companies left the state after this storm, and homes built before 1992 have to be insured by the government insurance provider Citizens. This is the insurance of last resort.

Post 2

Sneakers41-According to NOAA, about 1,200 tornadoes hit the United States every year. Many of these tornado images are devastating.

The problem with many of the homes is that they are built to handle winds of 100 miles per hour, when many of these tornadoes top speeds of over 200 miles per hour.

This is why you see so much damage to the homes. It is really important that if you live in an area prone to tornadoes that you take out tornado insurance before a storm hits, because otherwise you may find that you will not be able to obtain insurance.

Once NOAA releases a tornado watch, then most insurance companies stop issuing new polices. They do this with hurricanes also.

Post 1

The tornado rating is similar to the hurricane rating system, but instead of a Saffir Simpson scale, a Fujita scale is used.

Tornado funnel is measured in terms of possible damage. The scale begins with an F0 with is the weakest, followed by an F1 which is considered weak but slightly stronger than an F0.

An F2 is considered strong, while an F3 is considered severe. The scale continues with an F4 as devastating and a F5 is categorized as incredible. The deadliest tornado to date was in 1989 in Bangladesh, that killed 1,300 people.

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