How much do you know about this destructive force of nature? Read these fascinating facts to become a Professor of Twister-ology!
- Most tornadoes last only two or three minutes. Those that do the worst damage last about 15 minutes.
- The longest recorded tornado track was 219 miles, called the Tri-State Tornado, which spread through parts of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana in 1925. However, experts today believe it may have actually been several tornadoes. The idea of tornado “families,” born out of the same storm, wasn’t yet understood at the time.
- Most tornadoes travel across land at about 35 miles per hour, though some stand still in a single location, and others have been known to reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.
- Tornadoes can occur over any type of terrain. Though they are somewhat rare in the mountains, they are not unheard of.
- Tornadoes come in a wide range of sizes, from as small as three feet in diameter to as large as two miles. In general, smaller tornadoes move faster than larger ones.
- Contrary to popular belief, “Tornado Alley” is not a single location. There are actually several “Tornado Alleys” throughout the United States. The plains region extending from central Texas westward to Colorado, and as far north as Minnesota, is the largest. Others are found throughout the Midwest, Great Lakes region, and southeastern states.
- Tornadoes usually spin counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. About 1% of all tornadoes spin the opposite way (clockwise in the north and counterclockwise in the south).
- Tornadoes routinely pick up vehicles, freight cars, and other objects weighing up to 3,000 pounds. In 1995, one tornado in Pampa, Texas, moved a piece of farm machinery that weighed more than 30,000 pounds!
- A tornado can carry a one-pound object about 100 miles. Smaller items, such as photographs or paper, can be carried as far as 200 miles.
- A tornado outbreak is the official term for a group of six or more tornadoes originating from a single weather system.
- Most tornadoes occur between the hours of 5 and 9 p.m. This is the time of day when the atmosphere is most unstable, as the air warmed by the sun begins to cool.
Be sure to follow these important tornado safety tips.