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Tornadoes are widespread and can occur almost anywhere when the right weather conditions exist. While the Midwest and Southwestern areas of the United States experience a high number of twisters each year, even areas such as central Washington State (which had two small tornadoes in May 2004) and California (which averages four twisters every year) can be affected.
More than 700 confirmed tornadoes touch down each year in the United States, causing millions and millions of dollars of property damage. In addition, more than 2,400 people have died in the past 30 years as a result of tornadoes. The deadliest tornado year in the U.S. was 1925 when almost 800 people died.
An area of the United States hit by more tornadoes than anywhere else in the entire world has earned the nickname “Tornado Alley.” This area incorporates much of the Midwest and Southwestern parts of the country including Texas and going north towards Ohio, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
If you live or are traveling in tornado country, then the answer is a resounding “Yes!” to owning a weather alert radio. Emergency weather alert radios can be lifesavers and come in portable or tabletop models, operate on batteries or an AC adapter, and even can be powered with a cigarette lighter adapter. External antennas are available to boost reception range and many modern weather alert radios also incorporate strobe or emergency warning lights.
Tornadoes are one of Mother Nature's most destructive storms, usually occurring during the spring and summer months.
Tornadoes (sometimes called twisters) are violently rotating columns of air extending from a thunderstorm in the air to the ground that can cause tremendous property destruction, injury and loss of life. According to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) the most violent tornadoes ever recorded in the United States have registered rotating wind speeds of more than 250 miles-per-hour and created damage paths in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.
Tornadoes are usually associated with heavy thunderstorm activity and occur only under very special environmental conditions.
For a twister to form the surrounding air must be moist enough to support the building thunderstorm; the lower layers of air must slowly be turning or rotating; the surrounding atmosphere must be highly unstable; and there should be a strong jet stream aloft.
When all of these factors combine in just the right sequence, a tornado may form.
Tornadoes can also accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.
Preparing in advance is a key to surviving dangerous storms such as tornadoes.
According to FEMA, identify a place to take shelter in such as a basement, another underground area, or an appropriate interior room. Stay away from windows (flying glass is a major hazard during tornadoes) and make sure the room is outfitted with an emergency alert weather radio, a first aid kit and other supplies such as water, batteries, blankets, etc.
Contact your local American Red Cross or government emergency management office for additional information.
Tornadoes may occur at any time of the year and are not limited to geographic area – twisters have occurred in every state in the country. Tornadoes occur most frequently during the spring and summer months east of the Rocky Mountains or from March through May in the southern states. The peak tornado season in the northern states is usually late spring and early summer.
Dark clouds, hail and winds are usually signs that a tornado might possibly be forming. They usually occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm and it's not unusual to see clear, sunny skies behind a tornado.
Late afternoons appear to be “prime time” for tornadoes. While the spiraling monsters can strike at any time of the day or night if weather conditions are optimal, more than 40 percent of all twisters are reported between 2 and 6 p.m. However, tornadoes that occur at night are common along the Gulf Coast.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|