Each year, around 1,300 tornadoes hit the U.S., damaging everything in their paths. They can form in any season, almost anywhere, and bring with them over 250 mph winds and funnels that can be over a mile wide. This is what you must know to stay safe and survive a tornado.
When and Where They Occur
Most tornadoes in the U.S. happen east of the Rockies. They are particularly concentrated in the central and southern plains (“Tornado Alley”), as well as parts of Florida and the Gulf Coast. That said, tornadoes can happen practically anywhere. Therefore, it’s good to be ready for them wherever you live.
While tornadoes can happen any time during the year, they will probably strike in the spring and summer. More often than not, they occur in the early evening and late afternoon when the pressure is quickly changing.
Know the Warning Signs
Tornadoes can strike fast and out of nowhere, though there are typically warning signs of some type. Be sure you understand what different weather warnings mean:
Severe thunderstorm watch: Weather conditions suggest severe thunderstorms might form in your area. Severe thunderstorms are an early warning sign of a possible tornado.
Severe thunderstorm warning: A severe thunderstorm has been seen by spotters or on radar and is happening in your area. These storms can bring hail, rain, lightning, and winds of over 55 mph. These warnings last for about an hour or until the storm passes or upgrades to a more severe one.
Tornado Watch: Weather conditions suggest severe thunderstorms are possible and might develop into tornadoes in your area. If you see this warning, go over your emergency plans and begin preparing for the worst.
Tornado warning: It’s happening right now. A tornado has been seen in your area so implement your emergency plan and take cover ASAP.