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Tornado Explanation And Stats

Updated: Tuesday, May 21 2013, 04:09 PM CDT

Our spring weather season got off to a slow start across much of the country with 75 confirmed tornadoes in January, 39 confirmed in February, 18 confirmed in March, and 62 confirmed in April.

However, now that our classic severe weather set-up is in place, with cold and dry air from the northwest colliding with warm and moist air from the southeast, our severe weather season is firing up now.


Tornadoes form where these air masses collide.  In part due to wind shear, which is when the winds increase and change direction with height.  This creates an invisible column of air at the surface.
If the column gets caught in an upward energy, it can strengthen and speed up.  This shifts the column from horizontal to vertical.

This column of spinning air creates a funnel cloud.  If it extends all the way to the ground, it becomes a tornado.

The tornado can appear transparent until dust and debris gets picked up, giving it a brown color.


You can see the entire YouTube clip, posted by Charles Cook here:

This was taken yesterday of the historic tornado that stretched from Newcastle to Moore on May 20.  The video shows the funnel cloud turned tornado turned violent tornado as it tears through the town.

The May 20 Moore tornado will go down in history with some of the most powerful tornadoes in history.  Topping the list is the Tri-State tornado which stretched from Ellington, MO to Petersburg, IN in 1925.  This tornado was on the ground for over 3 hours, tracked 2220 miles, and caused nearly 700 deaths.

Another historic tornado, in more recent history, was the Joplin tornado.  This tornado formed in May of 2011, topped the charts as an EF-5, tracking over 20 miles, and causing over 160 deaths.


We typically see over 100 tornadoes in a year in the United States, with the monthly average tornado count peaking in May at 306 tornadoes.  We typically average over 150 in April and another 220 in June.


Tornadoes often form in tornado alley, which stretches from Nebraska, through Oklahoma, and into North Texas.  Tornadoes also often form during the afternoon and evening when we reach peak heating from the day which increases upward air convection.


Watch vs. Warning: A watch is a "heads up".  This means that a risk of hazardous weather is in the area and you should have a plan in place in case a storm threatens your area.

A warning means "take action".  This entails that a severe weather event is occurring, imminent or likely and you need to take action now to save lives and property.

Weather Texts: The storm tracker weather team sends daily weather texts to keep you alert of our weather here in Central Texas.  To receive these, text "KEYETVWeather" all one word to 58447.

Facebook and Twitter: In addition to Chief Meteorologist Chikage Windler's, Meteorologist Jordan Steele's, and my posts, our KEYETV Facebook page and Twitter accounts bring you imminent watches and warnings straight to your computer or smart phone.

KEYE Weather App: Here you can track storms, see watches and warnings, get hourly weather updates, a 10-day forecast and more.  Search "keye wx" on your phone, tablet, or ipad for this FREE app.

I’m happy to help answer any questions you have.  Find me by email or on my social media sights!

Meteorologist Allison Miller

Tornado Explanation And Stats

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2013 Tornadoes Links

Donate to the Salvation Army online
Donate online or text STORM to 80888 to contribute $10 to the Salvation Army's relief efforts or make a donation by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY.

Donate to Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief online
Or call 405-942-3800 or send checks to: BGCO Attn: Disaster Relief 3800 N. May Ave. Oklahoma City, OK 73112

Donate To the American Red Cross online
Or text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief or donate by phone at 1-800-RED CROSS.

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