Tornadoes are one of nature's most violent storms. In an average year, about 1,000 tornadoes are reported across the United States, resulting in 85 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries.
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can exceed a mile in width and 50 miles in length.
Tornadoes come in all shapes and sizes and can occur anywhere in the U.S. at any time of the year. However in Texas, peak tornado season is during the months of March through June with nearly 70 percent of all Texas tornadoes occurring during this time period. The month of May is the single most active tornado producing month in Texas.
Texas ranks first in the country in the average number of reported tornadoes with more than 130 occurring each year across the state. In 2005 about 100 tornadoes were recorded in the state.
After a tornado occurs, National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologists make every attempt to survey the damage and classify the storm in one of three main categories -- weak, strong, or violent. This determination is made by surveying the impacted structures along the storm path. If a tornado has occurred in your area, please report it to the NWS when its safe to do so.
Tornadoes can destroy a building in a few short seconds. Therefore, it is important to know the safety tips for surviving a tornado.
In homes and small buildings, go to the basement or a small interior room such as a closet, bathroom, or an interior hallway on the lowest level. Protect yourself from flying debris with thick blankets, sleeping bags, or mattresses.
At schools, as well as hospitals, factories and shopping malls, go to the designated shelter areas, usually an interior hallway on the lowest floor without windows. Kneel on the floor against the wall and place hands over your head to provide some protection for your head.
If you are in a mobile home, portable classroom, or vehicle, leave them and go to a strong building for shelter. If there is no shelter nearby, get into the nearest ditch or depression. Lie flat with your hands shielding your head. Keep in mind, though, that this will not be as safe as taking shelter in a solid, reinforced building.
Planning ahead and knowing the safety tips is essential in being prepared when a tornado strikes.
National Weather Service Severe Weather Awareness