Although most everyone has seen what a tornado looks like, whether it be from photographs, actual video footage, or perhaps even from real life experience, few people can accurately define all the terms associated with a tornado. For example, what is the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning? In some cases, knowing these terms can make you better prepared and aware, and give you additional time for preparation. Below you will find a comprehensive list of tornado terms as well as some tips relating to these terms.
When issued, a tornado watch generally indicates that weather conditions in the given area are favorable for the formation of a tornado. During a tornado watch it is important to:
- Stay alert and continue to listen for updates or instructions on the radio or television.
- Keep your eye on the horizon for any funnel-shaped clouds. If you spot any, call 9-1-1 to inform the proper authorities.
When issued, a tornado warning means that an actual tornado funnel has been seen or detected electronically by a weather radar in or around your area. During a tornado warning it is important to take the following safety precautions:
- Go indoors, preferably into a basement or storm cellar. If the building you are in does not have either, find an interior room or hallway on the lowest level of the building with no windows to protect yourself from flying glass. Place yourself in the center of this area.
- Protect your head from flying objects by getting under something sturdy like a heavy table and covering your head with your arms and hands.
- If you cannot get inside of a building in time, look for shelter in a low-lying area such as a ditch.
- Never remain in your car. Tornadoes are much too fast to outrun and are strong enough to lift a car up and throw it.
A rotating column of air coming down from a cloud but not touching the ground.
Small tornadoes that are born off of major tornadoes and can go off in their own destructive path.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations network of volunteer tornado spotters.
A column of storm winds between the top and bottom of storm clouds, and from which tornado funnels drop.
Powerful storm clouds that give birth to mesocyclones and their corresponding tornadoes.
A tornado that occurs out at sea.
A device dropped in the path of a tornado to measure such information as strength, sped and direction.
Fujita Scale (Fujita-Pearson Scale)
A way of categorizing tornadoes in relation to damage done and estimated wind speed. The scale is from F0 to F6.
F0- Gale Tornado with wind speed 40 - 72 mph
F1- Moderate Tornado with wind speed 73 - 112 mph
F2- Significant Tornado with wind speed 113 - 157 mph
F3- Severe Tornado with wind speed 158 - 206 mph
F4- Devastating Tornado with wind speed 207 - 260 mph
F5- Incredible Tornado with wind speed 261 - 318 mph
F6- Inconceivable Tornado with wind speed 319 - 379 mph