April 23, 2010

Did you see the images on television last night of snowplows removing hail (not snow – HAIL!) from the highways in Colorado? And if you click here you’ll see video of a tornado that touched down in Texas last night.

There are strong thunderstorms predicted throughout this weekend in the Eastern two-thirds of the US, and Tornado Watches are in effect for communities that regularly experience these violent storms.

Why is all this happening at once? Well, it’s April, and that generally marks the beginning of the tornado season in the U.S.

A tornado’s funnel looks like a huge elephant’s trunk hanging down from a cloud. The funnel acts like a giant vacuum cleaner…whenever the “hose” touches the ground, it sucks things up into the air.

 Usually, tornadoes are local storms. A typical tornado is only 400 to 500 feet wide, has winds of less than 112 miles per hour, and last only a few minutes. But sometimes, monster tornadoes a mile wide with winds up to 500 miles per hour are born in very large thunderstorms – also called supercells – and they can cause tremendous destruction. Tornadoes have moved houses down a whole block, bounced 20-ton tractor-trailers up and down on the highway, even picked up a pond full of frogs and rained them down on a nearby town!

Photo Credit:  Howard Bluestein, Photo Researchers, Inc.

If you live near an area that is prone to tornadoes at this time of year, the most important things to remember are:

·      Pay attention to early warning sirens and alerts on radio and television, so that you can take shelter before a tornado strikes.

·      Cars and mobile homes are NOT safe during a tornado. Go to the basement of a solidly built house.

·      If you are in an apartment or home without a basement, getting into a bathtub and covering yourself with a couch cushion protects you on all sides.

·      If you are out walking or biking, life flat in a ditch if there is no rain. If there is rain, there may be a danger of flash flooding, so stay out of the ditch, get away from trees and power lines, crouch down and make yourself as small as possible - be a "human basketball"!

You don’t have to worry too much in advance about tornadoes, but finding out when they are coming and knowing what to do is certain to help you if one strikes.     


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Weather, Earth Science Books, Tornadoes   •  Permalink (link to this article)   •  Share: