Tornado Facts

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms, spawned from powerful thunderstorms.

I find tornado facts very interesting. According to the NOAA there were 1,266 confirmed tornados in 2010 with hundreds of lives lost and millions of dollars in damage. That is nothing, though. Even worse was the next year – 2011. It was an unusually active and deadly year for tornadoes across the U.S., with a total of 1,691 tornadoes reported across the country, more than any other year on record except for 2004, which saw 1,817 tornadoes.

Tornado Graphic

These violent storms appear as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Some are clearly visible, while rain, nearby low-hanging clouds, or darkness obscure others. Occasionally they develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible.

The damage track of a tornado can be wider than one mile and as long as 50 miles. Most states have experienced tornadoes, but some are more prone to struggle with this natural phenomenon than others.

Tornado Activity

This video demonstrates the power of these violent storms.

Here are some more tornado facts

  • They may strike quickly, with little or no warning. Currently, the average lead time for a tornado warning is 13 minutes.
  • They may appear almost invisible, but you can tell when they are present when they start to move debris into the air or when a cloud appears in the funnel.
  • They typically move Southwest to Northeast, but they really can come from any direction.
  • The average forward speed is 30 MPH, but tornadoes have been recorded at 70 MPH.
  • They can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.
  • Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.
  • Tornadoes most often occur east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer.
  • Peak season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is May to July.
  • More tornadoes occur in May than in any other month. June comes in second. However, tornadoes can come at any time.
  • They are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., but can occur at any time.
Fujita Tornado Damage Scale
By Category

The Enhanced Fujita Scale is a set of wind estimates based on damage. It uses three-second gusts estimated at the point of damage based on a judgment of eight levels of damage. The numbers in the right-hand column reference miles per hour.

enhanced fujita scale

And some Tornado Facts that many people don't know

  • In modern times, the earliest tornado of the year occurred at 12:02 a.m. CST on Jan. 1, 2011, in Attala County, Miss. (
  • The first tornado forecast was in 1948 according to the NOAA website.
  • The longest and deadliest tornado in U.S. history stuck the midwestern plains on March 18, 1925 . It traveled 219 miles killing 695 people hundreds of whom were children heading home from school. This tornado swept across three states before ever lifting up off the ground.
  • Record annual number of EF5 tornadoes – 7 in 1974 (
  • Most states reporting tornadoes in any one year – 48 (2011 and 1989) (
  • Between April 27, 2011 at 8:00 am and April 28, 2011 at 8:00 am – a 24 hour timespan – 312 tornadoes were recorded which set a new record (

How you can be prepared?

NOAA weather radio frequencies:
  • 162.400
  • 162.425
  • 162.450
  • 162.475
  • 162.500
  • 162.525
  • 162.550

Be alert to changing weather conditions.

  • Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information.
  • Look for approaching storms.

Look for the following danger signs:

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.

If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs listed above, be prepared to take shelter immediately or grab your bug-out-bag and evacuate to a safer area if you are in a dangerous location.

Taking Shelter

Your family could be anywhere when a twister strikes – at home, at work, at school, or in a car. Discuss with your family where the best shelters are and how family members can protect themselves from flying and falling debris. Consider installing a safe room or a Storm Shelter to keep your family safe.

Flying debris causes most deaths and injuries and while there is no completely safe place during a tornado, some locations are much safer than others.

The key to surviving and reducing the risk of injury lies in planning, preparing, and practicing what you and your family will do if one strikes.

Go to this page about Tornado Safety to read about shelter options as well as all the strategies for surviving a tornado.

Find out what you need to do to be safe and avoid danger. The link above has all the current information available about tornado preparedness.