Tornadoes are known to wreak havoc and cause mass destruction across multiple cities. Extensive research is being carried out to fully understand this devastating natural phenomenon. Even though the knowledge about these storms has improved considerably, the truth remains that a lot more needs to be done to completely understand the causes of these devastating torrents. This article serves as a good primer that will have to get acquainted with tornadoes.
On this article, we provide a lot of information related to tornadoes and things you should know. If you are a novice to this topic, we suggest you read from the beginning to the end but if you already have some knowledge, feel free to use the below navigation menu.
What is a tornado?
Tornadoes are dangerous storms and they appear as rotating funnels that travel violently with a speed of around 300 mph. The funnel of the tornado spans several miles wide and it touches both, the ground as well as the source cloud. A tornado does not have a fixed path and the wind speed makes them act like a vortex that sucks up everything that comes in its way. Hence, tornadoes are very difficult to study even for the purpose of classification. Currently, the ‘Enhanced Fujita’ scale is used to classify tornadoes on the basis of the destruction that they create on the ground. The Enhanced Fujita scale classifies tornadoes in one of the following six categories:
- Category EF1 (Moderate tornado): The name itself indicates that the tornado is capable of inflicting moderate damage. The wind speed of the tornado ranges from 73-112 mph and it is devastating enough to damage surface roofs and damage the foundations of mobile homes. It can also overturn mobile homes and push autos off the road.
- Category EF2 (Significant tornado): Winds forming this tornado travel with speeds ranging from 113-157 mph and they cause considerable damage by uprooting large trees, demolishing mobile home and tearing off rooftops. Moreover, the uprooted objects tend to get hurled around like light-object missiles.
- Category EF3 (Severe tornado): Severe damage is expected due to the EF3 category tornado. It had winds that can travel from 158-206 mph. This tornado can claim many lives because it has the potential to overturn trains, lift heavy cars and destroy the roofs along with walls.
- Category EF4 (Devastating tornado): The EF4 tornado is devastating to both life and property as winds traveling in the speed range of 207-260 mph destroy even well-structured houses.
- Category EF5 (Incredible tornado) (261-318 mph): One can expect extreme damage by the storms associated with an EF5 tornado. This destructive tornado lifts off well-framed houses, heavy cars and other debris and flings them around like large missiles.
Tornadoes can also be classified on the basis of their nature. Following are the 7 main types of tornadoes:
- Multiple Vortex Tornado: It has many whirling vortices inside the main vortex
- Landspout Tornado: It is narrow rope-like funnel that appears while the thunderstorm is still forming.
- Waterspout Tornado: it appears as a straight column of rotating winds that touches a water body on one end and a cumulus cloud on the other.
- Dust-Devil Tornado: Dust devils do not touch a specific cloud and they go upwards in a swirling way only to fizzle out.
- Gustnado Tornado: A gustanado is a weak tornado that are not connected to a cloud base and hence they cannot be termed as a tornado in a real sense.
- Fire-Whirl Tornado: It starts with a whirl of fire smoke. This type of tornado is created when the intense head and turbulent combines to form whirling eddies of air.
- Steam-Devil Tornado It is a weak tornado over water source that as formed by drawing in fog.
What causes a tornado?
A tornado is formed due to the collision of humid, warm air with dry, cold air. The collision takes place among thunderstorm clouds when warm and humid air rise very fast. A cumulus cloud is formed when the rising warm air condenses. The cloud keeps on getting larger and larger as the denser cold air is pushed below the warmer air. The rising of the warm air is called updraft and the sinking cool air is called downdraft. A tornado occurs when the winds begin to rotate due to the differences in speed and direction. The funnel cloud comes to the ground along with the cool air and an entire column of the tornado is formed with a ground base and with a cloud base.
Worst tornadoes in history
Even though they mainly occur in the USA, tornadoes have been known to cause mass devastation in other parts of the globe as well. Following are some of the most destructive tornadoes in history:
- Daulatpur–Saturia tornado (1989): The Daulatpur–Saturia tornado occurred in the Manikganj District of Bangladesh. The tornado occurred on April 26, 1989 and it claimed around 1,300 lives. It was the tornado with the highest amount of money in Bangladesh and the deadliest one in the world history.
- East Pakistan Tornado (1969): The second deadliest tornado also occurred in Bangladesh in 1969 when it was still a part of Pakistan. The tornado struck on April 14, 199 and it killed around 660 people in Dhaka.
- Tri-State Tornado (1925): This tornado occurred on March 18, 1925 and it killed 95 people when it traveled through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. The tornado devastated an area of more than 300 miles and it injured 2,027 people.
- Sicily Tornado (1851): About 500 people were killed when 2 tornadoes swept across the Marsala countryside in Sicily. The disaster took place in 1851.
- Valletta Tornado (1951/1956): At least 600 people were killed when a tornado hit the Grand Harbor of Malta. The exact year of its occurrence remains debatable.
Some safety tips for you
Due to the unpredictable nature of tornadoes, it is advisable to be well-prepared before a tornado occurs. Following are the top 6 tips for increase our level of preparedness before, during and also after tornado occurs:
- Prepare an action plan: Chalking put a contingency plan is essential in a scenario when an emergency signal is issued. All family members must be made aware of the action plan and a safety kit must be packed for sustenance. A proper shelter place must be decided that will protect the entire family from the tornado. The structure offering shelter must be checked thoroughly and any flaws must be repaired.
- Practice the action plan delicately: Action drills must be planned throughout the year and every family member must practice repeatedly to improve the survival skills. The drill must also focus on surviving life-threatening events like fires, severe weathers and some of the devastating features of a tornado. The drill must educate the audience about signs of a tornado. Green clouds, hail and flying debris and the signs of a tornado.
- Protect your important documents: Tornado will take you by surprise and there will not be plenty of time for securing your important documents like bank accounts and insurance papers. It is advised to copy your documents and store them in a more secure place that will not be affected by a tornado.
- Safety measures during the tornado: It is advisable to protect yourself in a basement while taking shelter from a tornado. Take cover under a bench or a sturdy wooden furniture that is located away from the windows. Alternatively, you can take shelter in a bathroom or a closet that is kept away from the windows. If you are outdoors then you must take shelter in a designated shelter area.
- Safety precautions while driving: If you happen to encounter a tornado while driving then you must drive in a direction that is 90 degrees to the path of the tornado. This is because tornadoes travel from west to east and taking the perpendicular route keeps you away from the tornado’s path.
- Safety measures after the tornado: Turn off the power supply, water mains and gas supply if your house is damaged. Watch out for fallen debris and loose power lines. Use bleach, rubber gloves and rubber shoes to clean any mess caused by damaged drainage systems. Use generators and other fuel-burning sources of energy and protect yourself from any carbon monoxide in the environment.
The differences between a tornado and a hurricane
The most important difference between a tornado and a hurricane is that they occur on altogether different sales. Tornadoes are small-scale circulations and the larger tornadoes tend to impact about 1 to 1.5 miles at any given time. Tornadoes arise in different circumstances and in different places around the globe. As compared to hurricanes, tornadoes cause less destruction and they have very short lifespans. The winds associated with tornadoes can reach up to a maximum speed of 3000 mph.
Hurricanes are larger than tornadoes can their diameter can affect areas whose diameters range from 60-100 miles. Generally, hurricanes form between 5 degrees to 20 degrees latitude. They always form over warm water and mostly emerge on the ocean surface. They travel thousands of miles and continue to exist for a number of days.
Research on tornadoes is quite new and meteorologists are trying to demystify various aspects of the tornado that continue to puzzle scientists. Even though scientists have a good understanding of thunderstorms, they are still unable to explain the evolution of tornadoes from thunderstorms. As long as it is difficult to predict a tornado, it will always be a good idea to brace ourselves in advance.