Tornadoes are considered to be the most violent of all atmospheric storms. It is described as a rotating column of air that is in contact with the grounds of the earth and the base of a thunderstorm. It is typically more difficult to see because of the invisibility of the wind, however, when a condensation funnel can be seen, which is composed of debris, dust and water droplets. It occurs in many different parts of the world, in all continents, with the exception of Antarctica. In the United States, an estimated 1,200 tornadoes hit the country yearly.
Tornadoes are known to completely destroy well-made structures, uproot large trees and hurl objects through its strong winds. The intensity of tornadoes are classified on the Fujita Scale, with ratings between the weakest (F0) to strongest (F5).
Types of Tornadoes
There are several different types of tornadoes: multiple vortex, waterspout, and landspout, including similar circulations, such as gustnado, dust devil, fire whirls and steam devils.
- Presence of two or more columns of spinning air columns
- Often present in intense tornadoes
- Frequently results to small areas of heavy damage along the path of the tornado
- Tornado that occurs or crosses over water
- Also called dust-tube tornado
- Not associated with a mesocyclone
- Relatively weak with a shorter lifespan
- Often does not reach the ground
- Also called gust front tornado
- A vertical swirl linked to a downburst or gust front that does not extend to a cloud base
- Similar to a tornado in appearance but form under clear skies (not associated with clouds and no thunderstorms) and are much weaker than tornadoes
Fire Whirls and Steam Devils
- Small-scale with tornado-like circulations that occur near surface heat sources of great intensity
- Fire whirls occur near intense wildfires
- Stem devils involve nearby smoke or steam
Signs of Tornadoes
The following are signs of tornadoes everyone should look out for. It is always better to be on the lookout to the sky.
- Solid, continuous rotation in the cloud base
- Spiraling debris or dust on the ground beneath a cloud base
- Heavy rain or hail trailed by a fast, intense or dead calm wind shift
- Loud, persistent rumble or roar that does not fade after several seconds
- At night, it is particular to look out for small, bright blue-green to white flashes at the level of the ground near a thunderstorm
- Persistent lowering from the cloud base, further illuminated by lightning
How to Stay Safe during Tornadoes
There are several ways to stay safe during tornadoes:
- At home with a basement, avoid all windows and stay in the basement with sturdy protection. Do not go under heavy objects located on the floor above.
- At home with no basement, such as dorms or apartments, avoid all windows and stay at the lowest flood with a small center room, such as bathrooms. Facing down, crouch as low as possible with the hands covering the head.
- In a mobile home, get out and find a permanent structure where one can stay until the tornado is completely gone.
- At a building or other high establishments, stay in an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building. Facing down, crouch as low as possible with the hands covering the head. Do not use elevators.
- In a vehicle, drive away if the tornado is still far away and traffic is light. If this is not the case, park the car quickly and safely. With the seat belt on, put the head below the windows and keep protected using the hands or blanket or any kind of cushion.
- If in open outdoors, seek shelter in a sturdy structure. If this is not possible, life flat and face down on low ground while protecting the back of the head with the arms. Stay away from cars and trees.
Although these tips do not guarantee safety, these tips can help increase chances of survival during tornadoes. Tornadoes are the most violent of all atmospheric storms and to learn how to be equipped in situations such as these, enroll in First Aid Courses.