What is a Tornado? Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about tornadoes.

  • A tornado is a narrow and rotating column of air, which touches the ground as it moves. Also known as twisters, these columns can cause loss of life and terrible damage.

  • A tornado is often caused by two different air masses meeting, such as warm and cold air. Winds blowing from different direction can also cause the air to rotate.
  • Most tornadoes are less than 70 metres across, although they can be several km across. They can reach wind speeds of almost 500 kmh in extreme cases, although the average speed is about 170 kmh.
  • Every continent except Antarctica has experienced tornadoes, although they occur mostly in Tornado Alley in the USA. This large area includes the states of Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas and parts of Texas.
  • The deadliest tornado occurred in Bangladesh in 1989, killing about 1,300 people. Over a dozen tornadoes in Bangladesh have each killed over 100 people.
  • One of the deadliest in America was in the Midwest in 1925. The twister lasted for several hours, travelled a distance of 350 km and killed almost 700 people.
  • A tornado can form at any time of day, although most likely between 3pm and 9pm. March to May is the most common time of year for tornadoes in the southern US.
  • Tornadoes rotate clockwise in the southern hemisphere and anti-clockwise in the northern hemisphere. They have been described as sounding like a train, a jet engine or a waterfall.
  • They are almost invisible until the rotating wind picks up debris and dust, making them visible. Tornadoes can appear red or white if the wind picks up clay or snow from the ground.Tornadoes are so powerful that they can pick up animals, people and cars and carry them for several hundred metres.
  • In the event of a tornado, a basement or inside room is the safest place.

2013 Oklahoma Tornado: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the massive tornado that struck Oklahoma on 20th May, 2013.

  • The tornado swept through the suburbs of Oklahoma City, killing more than 20 people, injuring more than 200, and destroying houses, schools and a hospital.

  • Although this area of the United States is known as Tornado Alley, and regularly experiences tornadoes, this tornado was particularly savage.
  • In Moore, Oklahoma, wind speeds of more than 200 miles per hour were measured, and entire neighbourhoods were flattened.
  • Moore was also hit by a large tornado in 1999.
  • The tornado was at least half a mile wide and many estimate it had a width of two miles.
  • The tornado was on the ground for 40 minutes. It first hit the town of Newcastle before travelling to Moore. It travelled a total distance of 20 miles.
  • Residents knew the tornado was coming – the tornado sirens sounded the alarm in Moore about fifteen minutes before the tornado struck.

Check out this compilation of mobile phone footage edited by The Guardian.