A tornado can be best described as a strong, rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground. It usually rotates in a counter-clockwise direction. Some powerful tornadoes are capable of traveling at speeds of over 250 km/h and can cause severe devastation along their route of travel.
Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year and can strike without warning. They are always accompanied by thunderstorms.
Scientists believe that tornadoes form when the winds change direction during a storm. This creates a spiral column of air, which gathers momentum and travels at high speed.
An alert issued by the weather services warns people of severe thunderstorms that are capable of brewing tornadoes. These alerts are called tornado warnings and are generally issued by the authorities after a tornado has been sighted or picked up by the radar. To be safe, it is best to stay informed of weather conditions, particularly thunderstorm warnings and tornado watches. The National Weather Service issues various such watches and warnings.
Several pictures and videos of tornadoes are available on the net. Tornadoes are one of the most beautiful, dangerous, and spectacular, naturally occurring phenomena.
In case of a tornado, you should stay away from windows; have a flashlight handy, turn off gas stoves, and heaters, and move to a safe area of the house or building. If traveling by car, get out of the vehicle and lie in a low ditch or culvert; shelter yourself from flying debris.
In the U.S., most of the tornadoes occur in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Florida, Missouri, Iowa, Louisiana, Illinois, and South Dakota.
In the U.S., the peak tornado season is between March and May in the southern states, and the warm summer months in the Midwestern states that are known as the tornado belt.
Tornadoes may sometimes occur after warning signs such as the darkening of the sky, hail, loud roaring sounds, debris being swept up, funnel-shaped clouds, fast moving clouds, and the formation of wall clouds.
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