Storm season can bring severe weather and the possibility of tornadoes. While tornadoes form more frequently in tornado alley, they can all spin up in other areas further east. Here is an article on tornado safety and how tornadoes form.
A tornado is a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. Because wind is invisible, it is hard to see a tornado unless it forms a condensation funnel made up of water droplets, dust and debris. Tornadoes are the most violent of all atmospheric storms.
About 1,200 tornadoes hit the U.S. yearly. Since official tornado records only date back to 1950, we do not know the actual average number of tornadoes that occur each year. Plus, tornado spotting and reporting methods have changed a lot over the last several decades.
The difference between a watch and a warning:
A Tornado WATCH is issued by the NOAA Storm Prediction Center meteorologists who watch the weather 24/7 across the entire U.S. for weather conditions that are favorable for tornadoes. A watch can cover parts of a state or several states. Watch and prepare for severe weather and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio to know when warnings are issued.
A Tornado WARNING is issued by your local NOAA National Weather Service Forecast Office meteorologists who watch the weather 24/7 over a designated area. This means a tornado has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar and there is a serious threat to life and property to those in the path of the tornado. ACT now to find safe shelter! A warning can cover parts of counties or several counties in the path of danger.
How do tornadoes form?
The truth is that we don’t fully understand. The most destructive and deadly tornadoes occur from supercells, which are rotating thunderstorms with a well-defined radar circulation called a mesocyclone. (Supercells can also produce damaging hail, severe non-tornadic winds, unusually frequent lightning, and flash floods.) Tornado formation is believed to be dictated mainly by things which happen on the storm scale, in and around the mesocyclone.
Why storm spotters are a valuable asset to the community: spotters are trained members of the general population, who monitor the weather on the ground and report what they see, to the NWS, etc. Storm spotters look for inflow bands (ragged bands of low cumulus clouds extending from the main storm tower usually to the southeast or south), they also look for the presence of certain types of clouds such as a beavers tail (a smooth, flat cloud band extending from the eastern edge of the rain-free base to the east or northeast), wall clouds (an isolated cloud lowering attached to the rain-free base of the thunderstorm. The wall cloud is usually to the rear of the visible precipitation area), a rear flank downdraft (a downward rush of air on the back side of the storm that descends along with the tornado), and a condensation funnel (made up of water droplets and extends downward from the base of the thunderstorm).
With all of the tornado myths circulating, it’s important that you know accurate tornado safety facts and tips.
Proper preparation should happen long before a storm rolls in that could produce a tornado. You’ll want to first learn what your local community uses for a tornado warning system. You can easily find this out by calling city hall or city’s emergency management department. The majority of cities use an audible warning via an outdoor siren. You should identify the safest room in your household for you and your family to gather during a tornado. The best location is the basement or storm cellar, if you don’t have either of those choose an interior room, that doesn’t have any windows.
Make sure everyone in your household knows what to do it’s smart to have periodic practice doing tornado drills. These drills should be designed to educate everyone in the household on what to do and where to go if a tornado warning is issued. During a storm you’ll want to keep your attention on the local news or a NOAA Weather Radio. This can help you stay informed on storm and bring any tornado watches or warning to your attention. You’ll want to do everything you can to protect your family, houses can be rebuilt, property can be replaced, but you can’t bring back loved ones.
With the advancement of technology today, many smartphones can receive emergency warnings through their cell phone carrier. There are also many different types of weather apps like radars, that can help you prepare in advance for severe weather. It is good to monitor your local weather on a regular basis, to prevent being caught in severe weather. Remember to always stay weather ready.