By Triston VanSkyock and Jacob Patterson

How Tornadoes Form

Warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cool, dry air from Canada meet, and they create instability in the atmosphere. A change in wind direction and an increase in wind speed with increasing height creates an invisible, horizontal spinning effect in the lower atmosphere.

Information on Tornadoes

  • Tornadoes usually form in areas where winds at all levels of the atmosphere are not only strong, but also turn with height in a clockwise or veering direction.
  • Tornadoes are most likely to form during low pressure thunderstorms.
  • Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.
  • They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.
  • They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.
  • Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.

Spotting a Tornado

  • The skies will be dark, usually greenish in color.
  • Hail can be falling down.
  • Listen for a loud roar, like a freight train.
  • Look for a low, dark cloud usually rotating.
  • If you see any of these signs seek shelter.

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Protecting Yourself From Tornadoes

  • If you are in a building go to a basement or the center of an interior room on the lowest level of the building. Do not open any doors or windows.
  • If you are in a trailer or mobile home, immediately get out and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building. Mobile homes offer little protection from tornadoes.
  • If you are outside try to get to a low lying area like a ditch. Do not get under a bridge or overpass. Do not try to out run the tornado. If you are able get to a nearby sturdy building or storm shelter.