Facts and safety – what you need to know
When the atmospheric conditions are just right, a tornado can strike with little warning and cause large amounts of damage in a very short time. Here are few tips that can minimize your risk and help keep you and your family safe.
What is a tornado?
Tornadoes (also referred to as twisters) are violently rotating columns of air that emanate from thunderstorms and come into contact with the ground. Twister intensity is measured using the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale – which rates tornadoes on a measure from 0-5, based on the amount of wind and type of wind damage.
How common are they?
About 1,000 tornadoes are reported nationwide each year. They occur most often in the central U.S., though they can appear almost anywhere. A tornado can happen at any time of the year, though most occur between early spring and July.
What are the warning signs?
Signs that a twister is coming include:
- Dark, greenish skies
- Large hail
- Dark, rotating, low-altitude clouds
- A loud roar (like the sound of a train)
In areas like Ohio, where there is a history of tornado activity, there will be a tornado warning siren and digital messaging system to alert residents that a twister is incoming.
What’s the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?
Both tornado watches and warnings are issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/National Weather Service. But there are important differences between the two alerts.
A tornado watch: means conditions are favorable for tornadoes. Be alert to changes in the weather and pay attention to local radio and TV stations for updated storm information.
A tornado warning: means a twister is likely to develop in your area. This means that danger is imminent and you need to take shelter immediately.