Tracking the Facts on Tornado Safety


Tornadoes are strong and violent rotating columns of air which extend from a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornadoes develop when warm, moist air rises and contacts a cold jet stream. Before the storms actually develop, change in wind direction and speed with increasing height creates a spinning effect. Within the thunderstorm, air then rises and tilts the rotating air to a vertical position and this forms a tornado.


Tornadoes are not restricted to any specific region or time, but most often occur in early Spring and develop in the Central Plains. In Texas, tornadoes occur most frequently in April, May, and June between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Typically a tornado will travel along the ground at 35 miles per hour for less than 15 miles. These storms are, however, the most destructive atmospheric phenomena. Clues that a tornado may be coming are dark, greenish skies, wall clouds, large hail, and a loud roar (similar to a freight train).


  • Most tornado injuries and deaths are caused by flying debris, not the actual tornado. Always stay away from windows and doors.
  • The area next to where large hail falls is often the portion of the storm where strong to violent tornadoes develop. If you are in large hail, the tornado could come next. Once the hail stops, allow 15-20 minutes for the storm to move away before coming out of the shelter.

  • For years, scientists thought the low atmospheric pressure associated with a tornado was responsible for damage to buildings. We now know that the sudden drip in pressure has little to do with damage. Most buildings leak enough air to equalize the pressure. The old rule about opening a window to minimize damage is not true.
  • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 miles per hour. However, they have been clocked moving as fast as 90 MPH.

  • Most tornadoes move from southwest to northeast, but they can change direction suddenly.
  • The average tornado is less than 100 yards wide, but still can cause damage and injuries. Don't let a small tornado fool you!


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