National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Severe Thunderstorms in the Midwest and Heavy Snow in the Northern Rockies on Wednesday

Scattered severe thunderstorms (Slight Risk Level 2 of 5) are possible Wednesday afternoon and evening from southern Lower Michigan into parts of the Midwest/Ohio Valley. A cold front sweeping across the north-central U.S. will bring additional heavy snow along the mountains and foothills of the northern Rockies into Thursday. Read More >


Severe Weather Awareness Week
Make a Plan Severe Thunderstorms Flash Flooding Tornadoes
Lightning Watches, Warnings, & Reception Mobile Home Safety
Tornadoes & Tornado Safety
Tornado Facts

Tornadoes are one of nature's most violent storms. In an average year, about 1,000 tornadoes are reported across the United States, resulting in 85 deaths and over 1,500 injuries. A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction, with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can exceed a mile in width and 50 miles in length.

Tornadoes can occur anywhere in our Four-State Region, at any time of the year, and at any hour of the day or night. However, peak tornado season is during the months of March through June, with nearly 70 percent of all tornadoes occurring during this time period. April is the single most active tornado-producing month in our region. Incidentally, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma rank among the top states in the nation in the number of reported tornadoes, with Texas ranked as number 1.

Did You Know?
Tornado near El Reno, OK, on May 31, 2013
The widest tornado ever recorded occurred south of El Reno, Oklahoma, on May 31, 2013.  This tornado was on the ground for 16.2 miles and had a maximum width of 2.6 miles.  Photo is courtesy of Jeff Snyder.

After a tornado event, National Weather Service meteorologists make every attempt to survey the damage and classify the storm based on the Enhanced Fujita scale. This classification is made by examining the type of structures damaged and the distance that debris was blown from its source. Our meteorologists will also determine the storm’s touchdown and lifting points, as well as the length and width of the track. If a tornado has occurred in your area, please report it to the National Weather Service, but only when the threat to your safety has passed.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale
Enhanced Fujita Scale
Tornadoes can travel at over 50 mph, and can destroy a building in a few seconds. Therefore, it is important to know the safety rules for surviving a tornado.
Tornado Safety Guidelines

When inside homes and small buildings:

  • Go to the basement or the lowest level of the building.
  • If no basement is available, go to a closet, bathroom, or an interior hallway away from any windows. The closer to the center of the building, the better.  Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can.
  • Protect yourself from flying debris with thick blankets, pillows, cushions, sleeping bags, or mattresses.

When inside schools, hospitals, factories, or shopping malls:

  • Go to the designated shelter areas, usually an interior hallway on the lowest floor level.
  • Always stay away from windows.
  • Kneel on the floor against the wall and place your hands over your head to provide some protection against flying or falling debris.

When inside mobile homes, portable classrooms, or vehicles:

  • Leave these structures and go inside a strong building for shelter.
  • If there is no shelter nearby, get into the nearest ditch or depression. Lie flat with your hands shielding your head.
Planning ahead and knowing the safety rules is essential for being prepared when a tornado strikes.
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