Tornadoes are one of nature's most powerful and destructive forces. Here's some advice on what a tornado is, how to prepare for one, and what to do if you're caught in a twister's path.
How Does a Tornado Form?
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground. It's often portended by a dark, greenish sky. Black storm clouds gather. Baseball-size hail might fall. A funnel suddenly appears, descending from a cloud. The funnel hits the ground and roars forward with a sound like that of a freight train approaching. The tornado tears up everything in its path.
Some of Earth's most violent events, nearly a thousand tornadoes—many of them deadly—touch down every year in the United States. Every U.S. state has experienced twisters, but Texas holds the record: an annual average of 120. Tornadoes have been reported in Great Britain, India, Argentina, and other countries, but most tornadoes occur in the United States.
How to Stay Safe
• Prepare for tornadoes by gathering emergency supplies, including food, water, medications, batteries, flashlights, important documents, road maps, and a full tank of gasoline.
• When a tornado approaches, anyone in its path should take shelter indoors—preferably in a basement or an interior first-floor room or hallway.
• Avoid windows and seek additional protection by getting underneath large, solid pieces of furniture.
• Avoid automobiles and mobile homes, which provide almost no protection from tornadoes.
• Those caught outside should lie flat in a depression or on other low ground and wait for the storm to pass.