Monday, July 6, 2015

What's Your Tornado IQ??

What do you know about tornadoes?

Did you know....
  • A professor at the University of Chicago, Ted Fujita, created the F scale to rate the strength of tornadoes; they used to be called F-1 to F-5. The scale was recently enhanced to show the extent of damage typical of certain winds instead of just the speed of the winds, so now it is the "Enhanced Fujita" or "EF" rating..

EF 1 Wind=65-85 mph
EF 2 Wind=86-110 mph
EF 3 Wind=111-135 mph
EF 4 Wind=136-165 mph
EF 5 Wind=166-200 mph
EF 6 Wind=over 200 mph
  • Every tornado has a unique shape, color, and sound.
  • Tornadoes can be 'skinny' or 'massive' and still do a lot of damage.
  • Tornadoes are usually only on the ground for 10 minutes or more.
  • They usually occur between 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
  • Tornadoes have happened in all 50 states, and occur in the U.S. more than in any other country
  • The most powerful tornadoes occur in the U.S.

Here is how a tornado forms:
They start from a 'super cell' thunderstorm:

And once the conditions are right, a tornado begins:

'Tornado Alley' refers to the central area of the U.S. where conditions are most often perfect for tornadoes to form: The warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico collides with the dry polar air from Canada:

They look like a hook on radar: you will hear the meteorologists talking about a 'hook echo'...This system had multiple hook echoes, here outlined in purple:

Talk about a super cell! Or two or three or......

Here is a radar image of tornadoes that hit the Oklahoma City area of Oklahoma in 2013: you can see two distinct hook echoes-south of Mustang and just to the west of Kingfisher:
Read more about this tornado system here:

What do you do if you have been told or have reason to think there is a tornado on its way?
This giant twister is almost ready to touch down. What exactly are the people in cars waiting for? Something more obvious?

If you are caught in your car and see a tornado approaching, do NOT stay in the car. Park it. Get out. Run to the nearest building, and if there is no building, find a depression in the land such as a ditch or a low spot. Lay down on your stomach and cover your head against flying debris. Do not take cover under a bridge. Be aware that drainage ditches may fill with water when it is raining heavily. Keep in mind that even if it looks like it is moving away from you, a tornado can change direction unexpectedly.

Here is why you should not stay in your car:

....because your car may become an airplane.

Here is a twister that has touched down in a field; notice the debris at the bottom--

Again, don't get out of the car to stand and stare. Take cover!

                               A neighborhood before and after.

And tornadoes do weird things:
Rock, paper, scissors, wood through cement...

We are definitely not in Kansas anymore...

Granaries folded in on themselves....

the "Dollhouse" effect...
Have you ever heard meteorologists debate whether a storm was a tornado or straight-line winds? Here's a good explanation of which is which:
  • If you live in an apartment and there is a tornado imminent: If you know someone on the first level of the building, go to that apartment. Otherwise, choose a room in your apartment with no windows if possible. The bathtub is a good idea; if you have time, cover yourselves with a mattress or cushions to avoid flying debris. The hallways of a building can also be more stable than being in an apartment.

  • If your house does not have a basement, you can also get into your tub and cover up with cushions. The reasoning is that you have a solid framed-in refuge away from a lot of objects you would have in most other rooms that will go flying, and if there are no windows in the bathroom, so much the better.

  • Think in terms of what might fall on top of you, and choose a spot with less of that risk if possible-near a bookcase is probably not a good idea, for example.

  • If you live in a mobile home, go to the shelter provided. If there is no shelter, you are probably better off to go outside and lay down in a low spot, rather than stay in the home.

  • If you do have a basement, head for it: any spot downstairs is going to be safer than upstairs. Again, stay away from windows. There is no particular corner that will be better than others.

  • Know where your bicycle helmets are and put them on when the storm is imminent and while you are taking cover. They can protect you from flying debris as well as a certain amount of crushing head injuries.

  • It isn't going to matter if you capture a great video or picture of a tornado....if you're not alive to show it to anyone afterwards. Let others take pictures and videos if they want. You need to get to safety.

  • It is an old myth that you should open your windows a crack to avoid the house imploding. Tornadoes do not work that way: they are basically super-strong winds, and if they hit your house, the windows will be shattered, not 'blown out' from the inside. It isn't worth the time it would take for you to run to each window and open it a little.

  • Keep fresh batteries on hand and know where your flashlights are. A battery-operated radio is an excellent way to keep track of whether the storm has passed. If you seldom use it, tune it to a weather station so it is ready when you turn it on.

  • Emergencies are the best reason to keep your phone charged. Your electricity will probably be cut off for a while after the storm.

Here are excellent websites with tornado information: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association FEMA site (Federal Emergency Management)
'Tis the season---let's be prepared.
*Also see the Triogenius 4-29-13 post on Meteorology as a career.

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