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Tornados. Author R.T. Schindler. Distributed by the Disaster Team Supercourse ( Developers. Developed by Randall Schindler while at Steven F. Austin University Distributed by the Supercourse Tornado Team, Harold Brooks, NOAA, Daniel Mccarthy, NOAA, Schaefer, NOAA

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Author R.T. Schindler

Distributed by the Disaster Team

Supercourse (

  • Developed by Randall Schindler while at Steven F. Austin University
  • Distributed by the Supercourse Tornado Team, Harold Brooks, NOAA, Daniel Mccarthy, NOAA, Schaefer, NOAA
  • Eric Noji, CDC, Scott Lillianbridge, Uni. Texas,
  • Francois Sauer, Supercourse, Kansas City
  • Faina Linkov, Mita Lovalekar, Ronald LaPorte, Supercourse Pittsburgh
  • Doug Barrett, Janet Winterton, Fraser, Kevin Maney, USA Today
  • At the time of a tornado teachers need to present up-to-date information to students
  • A group of Global Experts in meteorology and prevention from academia, education, and industry have banded together to distribute cutting edge tornado lectures to schools for free
  • As the disaster evolves, new slides will be sent
additional lectures by world experts
Additional Lectures by world experts

"Tornadoes" lecture by Lillibridge, Scott

"A Historical Look at Tornadoes: Damage and Death" by Harold which have also threemore links to online lectures: Development of synthetic severe thunderstorm climatologies( deaths in the US and mobile homes( distribution of tornadoes by F-scale in time and spaceHarold Brooks.( “Tornado-Related deaths and injuries due to the May 3, 1999 by Sheryll Brown, Pam Archer,Elizabeth Kruger and corresponding author Sue Mallonee from InjuryPrevention Service, Oklahoma State Department of Health

tornado history
Tornado History
  • The “Tri-State Tornado” is the most violent tornado on record
  • On March 18, 1925, the tornado formed in Missouri and traveled 219 miles across Illinois into Indiana
  • The funnel was up to .75 miles across and traveled as fast as 73 mph.
  • It killed approximately 635 people
first tornado forecast
First Tornado Forecast

On March, 25 1948, Major Fawbush and Captain Miller determined that the conditions of the atmosphere just west of Tinker AFB, OK were suitable for tornado development. The first tornado forecast ever was issued. A few hours later, a tornado arrived causing significant damage to the base. However, no deaths and only a few injuries occurred because many had been warned by the tornado forecast.


A violently rotating column of air (vortex), hanging from a cumulonimbus cloud, with circulation that touches the surface of the earth

supercell storm
Supercell Storm
  • Severe weather occurs as strong downbursts…large hail…occasional flash floods and weak to violent tornadoes
  • Severe event almost always occur near the updraft interface typically in the rear (southwest) storm flank. Some of the supercells have the interface on the front of the southeast flank
  • High predictability of occurrence of severe events once a storm is identified as a supercell
  • Extremely dangerous to public
  • Extremely dangerous to aviation
the supercell
The Supercell

Tornado forms here

tornado facts
Tornado Facts
  • Tornados can occur almost anywhere in the world
  • Duration: a few minutes
  • Diameter (Avg.): 0.4 km
  • Length of path (Avg.): 6 km
  • Funnel can travel from 0 mph up to ~70 mph, usually travels at 30 mph
  • 99% of all tornados in Northern Hemisphere rotate counterclockwise
  • Texas is #1 for frequency of tornados per year
  • Between 1950 and 1995 Texas had 5,722 recorded tornados
  • Risk of death in a tornado in Texas: 1 in 1,054,267
  • Texas cost per person per year for tornados: $3.94
tornado myths
Tornado Myths
  • A highway overpass is a safe place to take shelter under during a tornado
  • Opening windows during a tornado will help balance the pressure between the inside and outside of the house and may prevent destruction of the structure
  • One should seek shelter in the southwest corner of a house or basement.
tornado oddities
Tornado Oddities
  • Tornados are reported to routinely carry objects many miles and have:
  • sucked the frogs out of a pond and dropped them on a town
  • carried a necktie rack with 10 ties attached 40 miles
  • carried a flour sack 110 miles from a mill
  • Tornados also drive objects into other objects and have:
  • Driven splinters into an iron fire hydrant
  • Driven straw and grass into telephone poles
when tornados occur
When Tornados Occur
  • Anytime of the year- usually in the spring, summer, and fall
  • Most tornados occur during late spring in the month of May
  • Between the late afternoon and early evening is when most tornados are spawned
  • The most dangerous time for formation during evening hours

A typical late afternoon tornado

where tornados occur
Where Tornados Occur

Tornado Alley covers the Great Plains states

tornado wind speed
Tornado Wind Speed

In 1971, Dr. Fujita developed a way of measuring the winds of a tornado. He reasoned that there was a link between wind speed and the damage caused by a tornado. There are 6 categories of tornados (F0 – F5)

f0 category
F0 Category
  • (Weak) winds (40-72) mph , little damage
  • Damage: tree branches snapped, chimneys toppled, signs torn down
f3 category
F3 Category
  • (Strong) winds: (158-206) mph, severe damage
  • Damage: most trees uprooted, trains overturned, roofs torn off, walls demolished
f5 category
F5 Category
  • (Violent) winds: (261- 319) mph, incredible damage; rare

Damage: bark peeled off trees, houses lifted off foundations, vehicles travel greater than 100 m through the air

tornado forecasting
Tornado Forecasting

Meteorologists who predict tornado development analyze the current atmospheric conditions such as: air temp., barometric pressure, the locations of fronts, wind velocities, convection, etc. Probably the most useful tool a meteorologist can use to identify tornados is radar, specifically Doppler radar (WSR-88D)

tornados on radar
Tornados on Radar

Doppler image of a rain-wrapped tornado

the life cycle of a tornado
The Life cycle of a Tornado
  • The “Life Cycle” of a tornado consists of four distinct stages.
  • These stages were first determined during the Union City, OK tornado of 1973
  • Most tornadic events are difficult to classify and may not exhibit stages that are obvious to the observer
  • Sometimes events become unclear: one tornado weakens another appears, or single event?
  • Tornados do not “skip” – gaps in damage path may indicate a temporary weakening in intensity
Early Stage:

Tornado funnel develops (may be transparent) and extends down from the cloud to the ground

Mature Stage: Tornado funnel reaches maximum width as well as maximum intensity then begins to shrink

Decay Stage:

tornado may remain stationary and take on a ropelike appearance before dissipating

the tornado outbreak of may 3 1999
The Tornado Outbreak of May 3, 1999
  • Severe thunderstorms move into Ok, TX, Ks and spawn estimated 70 tornados, most occurred in Oklahoma
  • In Oklahoma 40 people killed, 675 injured
  • Damage: $1.2 billion
  • Largest tornado outbreak in Oklahoma history
  • 1,780 homes completely destroyed
  • 6,550 homes damaged

Microbursts are downdrafts from thunderstorms consisting of a narrow column of cool air traveling at high speeds which can cause damage similar to a weak tornado over a small area


A waterspout is a tornado that forms over a body of water, or a tornado that moves from land onto water

storm chasers
Storm Chasers

Storm chasers are a group made up of meteorologists and scientists, as well as amateur observers who voluntarily put themselves in the path of a severe thunderstorm in order to hopefully observe a tornado and obtain photographs and scientific data.

tornado indicators
Tornado Indicators
  • A greenish colored sky associated with the thunderstorm (caused possibly by the scattering of light by particles in the sky)
  • Mammatus clouds
  • A sudden drop in barometric pressure
  • Large hail of at least .75 in. diameter
  • Strong winds > 60 mph
  • Frequent and intense lightning
  • A rotating wall cloud or a cloud that appears to hang from the sky
  • A loud rumbling noise- seek shelter!
tornado damage
Tornado Damage

Tornados mainly cause damage by picking up something and throwing it through the air or hurling objects against something

A 20-ton trailer blown off U.S. 30; it bounced 5 times

A pick-up truck caught in the path of a tornado

early warning systems
Early Warning Systems

The National Storm Prediction Center constantly monitors the weather and radars across the U.S. They are responsible for issuing tornado watches and warnings.

  • Tornado Watch: a parallelogram is drawn around a 10,000 mi.^2 s area where the atmosphere seems to possess the conditions necessary for tornado development (severe thunderstorm)
  • Tornadowarning: a county has a thunderstorm which appears to have produced a tornado or someone has physically spotted a tornado, apparent funnel, or observed damage from what could be a tornado! SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY!!
  • http//
  • Church C., Burgess D., Doswell C., Davies-Jones,R., ed. The Tornado: Its Structure, Dynamics, Prediction, and Hazards.
  • American Geophysical Union Press: 2000
  • Liu, Henry. Calculation Of Wind Speeds Required to Damageor Destroy Buildings. Publication within The Tornado