Tornadoes are among the most violent storms in nature. Even if it doesn’t hit you directly, the wind and hail can do enough damage for you to think about moving to another state. They’re so dangerous that it’s certainly worth knowing the signs of a tornado so you can take shelter immediately if necessary.
Although there is a certain level of risk tornadoes forming nearly everywhere, this risk is higher in states in the Tornado Alley of the United States. Tornado season is normally between March and August, but they can form just about any time of the year.
Even though it’s not easy to predict when tornadoes will form, there are some signs to look out for so you will know that a tornado is coming. But, before we discuss these signs, let’s take a look at some details about tornadoes.
What is a Tornado?
As indicated at the start of this article, tornadoes are among the most violent storms in nature. They are fast-spinning columns of air that extend from a cumulonimbus cloud to the ground. They are also called whirlwinds or twisters.
Tornadoes create winds as fast as 300 miles per hour. Their width can also reach up to 500 yards. The path of tornadoes can reach up to 50 miles and their speeds are between 10 mph and 50 mph.
The peak activity of this storm is normally between April and June.
Where do they normally form?
Even though tornadoes form just about anywhere, they are prevalent in the Tornado Alley in the United States. Located along the southern plains of central United States, Tornado Alley consists of areas where a huge number of tornadoes form.
These states include Texas, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas among others. The region where Tornado Alley is located is ideal for the formation of supercell storms that normally produce violent tornadoes.
Additionally, Florida is another place where a disproportionate number of tornadoes form in the United States.
Outside of the United States, tornadoes also form in southern Africa, northwestern and southeastern Europe, western and southeastern Australia, eastern India, and New Zealand.
Signs of a Tornado: 8 Things to Look Out For
After knowing some details about tornadoes, let’s now go into the signs showing the development of a tornado. The following are the signs to look out for if you’re wary of a tornado forming close to you.
#1: Dark, Greenish-Colored Sky
The first thing to look out for is a dark, greenish sky. While the sky normally turns dark during a thunderstorm, it will have a greenish hue when a tornado is forming. The greenish color comes from sunlight reflected off hailstones.
Hailstones normally come with tornadoes or they precede the storm. The hailstones will be quite large or around the size of a golf ball. They are created by the updraft of the storm that is located above the tornado.
#2: Rotation in a Cloud Base
Another sign of an incoming tornado a strong and persistent rotation in the cloud base. When you see a storm cloud, look at the base carefully. It normally glides toward the same direction as the storm. But, if you see some rotation while gliding, a tornado may be forming.
This rotation shows the presence of a mesocyclone in the thunderstorm. The presence of this mesocyclone or rotating updraft shows that a tornado is forming.
#3: Cloud of Debris
There are also instances when a cloud of dust or a whirling dust debris forms under the cloud base. This cloud of dust may indicate the tornado has already formed. At this point, the tornado may still be in the cloud.
The cloud of debris also shows the strong updraft pulling air up into the cloud. But, you should also take note that some tornadoes do not have a funnel. So, when you these signs, look for a place where you can ride out the storm.
#4: Funnel-Shaped Cloud
At this point, you should look for telltale signs of a funnel-shaped cloud. It may even look like a wall cloud coming down from the base of the storm. This normally happens fast and is the location of the strongest updraft in the storm.
You will be able to see the rotation in the funnel even if you’re far away. Once the base touches the ground, it is officially considered a tornado.
#5: Calm After the Storm
Tornadoes normally come right after a storm. So, you should be wary when it becomes quiet after heavy rain or hail. While the skies normally start clearing after a storm, you should be alert if the atmosphere becomes eerily serene. This is an indication that a tornado is coming.
Another sign is a sudden and intense wind shift after calm weather. Keep in mind that some tornadoes cannot be seen since they are wrapped in heavy rain.
#6: Loud Sound Similar to a Freight Train
Tornadoes are rather loud. When you notice a loud sound that does not fade away, then it is a sign of an approaching tornado. It sounds like a jet or a freight train coming from the sky.
Strong winds normally accompany the sound, which is a good indication of a coming calamity. In these cases, you should find a good place to stay in.
#7: Debris From The Sky
When debris comes falling from the sky, a tornado has already formed and is throwing debris miles away from its location. So, you should be attentive to objects that fall from the sky. While the tornado may be miles away from you, you should still look for cover.
The debris the tornado hurls away poses a big problem for people caught in the open. It may even be dangerous for people inside a small house since the debris may cause considerable damage to the structure.
#8: Bright Blue, Green, or White Flashes at Night
When you see bright flashes of blue, green, or white light close to the ground at night, it may be a sign of power lines being snapped by a strong wind. The strong wind may even be a tornado. In comparison, lightning in the clouds is normally silver in color.
These are just some of the signs to look out for to be aware of these signs so you’ll have an idea if a tornado is coming. It’s also helpful for you if you’re living in an area where tornadoes are prevalent.
Now that you know the signs of a tornado, let’s now discuss the things you should do when a tornado is forming close to you.
5 Signs a Tornado is Coming
Types of Tornadoes
There are two types of tornadoes depending on how they form: supercell and non-supercell.
While tornadoes from a supercell thunderstorm are common, they are also the most dangerous types.
In these situations, the warm air pushes through the cold air. An updraft is formed as warm air rises through the cold air. At this point, the updraft will start rotating if there is a significant difference in the speed and direction of the winds.
This rotating updraft is called a mesocyclone. It will continue drawing in warm air and increase its rotation. The energy will increase due to the cool air.
Eventually, a funnel cloud will form from the water droplets from the moist air of the updraft. This funnel cloud will continue to grow until it will start descending to the ground. The moment it touches the ground, a tornado is formed.
These tornados are formed by vertically-spinning pockets of air caused by differences in wind speed or direction. This difference is also called wind shear.
A tornado forms when an updraft moves along the spinning air and stretches. Non-supercell tornados normally happen in Eastern Colorado when cool air from the Rocky Mountains meets the dry hot air coming from the plains.
These types of tornados are small and normally happen in sparsely populated areas. There are three types of non-supercell tornadoes:
The gustnado is a simple whirl of dust or debris without a condensation funnel. It normally forms along the gust front of a storm.
A landspout is a tornado with a narrow condensation funnel. It normally forms as a thunderstorm is forming and doesn’t have a rotating updraft.
A waterspout is a landspout that forms over the water.
Tornado Spotting: What to Look For
What To Do During a Tornado
If you live in an area where tornadoes are a dime a dozen, you should already know what to do. But, if you just moved in and a tornado is forming, you may not know what to do.
Fret not since we listed some things you should do during a tornado. Continue reading so you’ll stay safe when this natural calamity strikes in your area.
#1: Look for a place to ride out the tornado
It is essential to look for a place where you can hide and stay safe until the tornado passes. If you’re in your home, hide in a small interior room on the ground floor. It can be a closet or a bathroom.
Better yet, you should take shelter in your basement or storm cellar. But, if you have no basement, you can stay under a heavy desk or table. One thing you should remember is to stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls. It’s helpful to have some emergency essentials, first aid kit in a waterproof container, and extra water stored in that place you have for sheltering in your home.
#2: If you’re caught in your car on the road, look for shelter immediately
You can park your car at the side of the road and look for a building where you can seek refuge. You should never hide under an overpass or bridge since it doesn’t provide suitable protection against flying debris.
You can look for a ditch and hide there. Just make sure to cover your head. It is also advisable to go as far away from your vehicle so you can avoid getting crushed by it in case the tornado flips it.
#3: If you’re caught in the open without a sturdy structure close by, lie flat on the ground
The best thing you can do to protect yourself when you’re caught in the open without any sturdy structure close by is to lie flat face down on the ground. You should also use your arms to protect the back of your head.
Stay away from trees or cars since the tornado may blow them in your direction.
#4: Never go after a tornado
Tornadoes are unpredictable and can change their path anytime. Due to this, you should never chase a tornado. You may not even know that it’s already moving towards you. So, try to ride it out in a safe place before you do anything else.
Have your Say about Signs of a Tornado
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