WeatherGuide Fayetteville 2011 : Page 20
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Nature’s most violent storms.
Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air, stretching from a storm cloud down to the ground. Witnesses often describe the sound of a tornado as that of an approaching freight train. On a local scale, tornadoes are the most destructive of all atmospheric phenomena.
Although tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, these deadly forces of nature are found most frequently in the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains, during the spring and summer months. According to NOAA, in an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries.
Tornadoes are not to be confused with funnel clouds; a funnel cloud is a rotating column of air that has not touched the ground. When that occurs, the funnel cloud becomes a tornado.
A waterspout is a tornado occurring over water. Specifically, it normally refers to a small, relatively weak rotating column of air over water beneath a towering cumulus cloud. Waterspouts are most common along the Gulf Coast and southeastern states. They occasionally move inland, becoming tornadoes and causing damage and injuries.
Tornadoes form in severe thunderstorms due to changes in wind direction and speed at different heights of the storm. Rising air within the thunderstorm updraft tilts the rotating air from horizontal to vertical. As the air spins upward from the bottom of a tornado, its force can literally lift anything in its path.
In the southern states, peak tornado occurrence is in March through May, while peak months in the northern states are during the summer. In some states, a secondary tornado maximum occurs in the fall.
Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 and 9 p.m., but are possible to occur at all hours.
The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction. The average forward speed is 30 mph, but may vary from nearly stationary to 70 mph.
Tornadoes can last from several seconds to more than an hour. Most tornadoes last less than 10 minutes. (NOAA)
2011: A Record-Breaking Year For Tornadoes
The 2011 January-May tornado count will likely rank as the second highest since modern records began in 1950. In terms of the number of tornado-related fatalities, there were 525 during the January-May period. Those include the devastating tornadoes that struck Alabama and Mississippi in April, and Missouri and Oklahoma in May.
Terms to Know
This is issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. They normally are issued well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. During the watch, people should review tornado safety rules and be prepared to move to a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.
This is issued when a tornado is indicated by radar or sighted by spotters; therefore, people in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately.
Tornado Warnings can be issued without a Tornado Watch being already in effect and are usually issued for a duration of around 30 minutes.
When a Tornado Warning is issued, there are steps to take for safety.
If you are already inside, go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement or storm cellar or the lowest building level.
If you don’t have a basement, go to the most interior room of your home: a bathroom or a closet. Grab a mattress, pillows and blankets to protect you from flying debris.
Move away from windows.
Listen to a battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates.
If you’re in a mobile home, get out, even if it’s tied down. If your community has a tornado shelter, go there fast. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground away from your home, protecting your head.
If you’re outside with no shelter, lie flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding.
Don’t seek shelters in unsafe places during a tornado. These include: cars, under bridges and overpasses, mobile homes, or under picnic tables.
If you are driving, don’t park under an overpass. A wind-tunnel effect can cause higher wind speeds, driving debris toward you and even propelling you out from under the overpass.
Don’t open the windows in your home. You may be exposed to flying glass if you’re opening windows when the twister hits.
If you are in a hi-rise apartment or condo building, don’t use elevators.You could get trapped if the power is lost.
Don’t panic – if you are in a public place like a stadium or arena when a tornado siren or alert goes off. If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms.
Read the full article at http://digital.cumulusweather.com/article/Tornado/788799/76220/article.html.