Tornadoes often strike without much warning causing devastation in their path. Places like Tornado Alley, the Midwest and southeastern US face the most funnel clouds throughout the year, but tornadoes can strike anywhere at any time.
It’s important to know the warning signs of tornadoes in order to get to safety as quickly as possible.
Tornado Watch vs. Warning
A tornado watch does not actually mean that a tornado has been seen; rather, it means that the weather conditions could produce a tornado. Now, on the other hand, the term “tornado warning” means that a funnel cloud or an actual tornado has been reported or spotted in a certain area.
Rain and Hail
Before a funnel cloud begins there is often a big storm. Not always, but usually rain and hail hit before the actual funnel cloud. The rain falls quickly and hard then stops suddenly. This is the wind suddenly changing course. When the wind picks up this fast, it will pick up debris and throw it.
A wall cloud is an easy visible sign to know if a tornado could form quickly. If the wall cloud is rotating, take caution as it could turn into a tornado. It is often low to the ground as the base of a thunderstorm.
The Calm Before The Storm
The air is often still and quiet right before a tornado hits. After the rain and hail hit hard, suddenly the sky gets quiet. The clear sky suddenly opens up as the tornado forms.
This is one of the most obvious signs of a tornado. A rotating funnel cloud will extend from the clouds to the ground. After it hits the ground, it becomes a full blown tornado usually. The funnel cloud will sometimes stay in the sky and not hit the ground. You should still be cautious as it could turn into a tornado at any point in time.
Freight Train Noise
A tornado isn’t quiet. If you’re hearing a sound that resembles a freight train, it could very well be a tornado already in route. Tornadoes often sound like a loud rumble of ongoing thunder.
Cloud of Debris
A tornado is often full of all kinds of debris. Tornadoes are columns of wind without color, but full of debris. The dirt and debris inside the tornado creates the color. If a cloud full of all sorts of debris is near, it is often a tornado.
It’s important to have a plan of where to go and what to do in case of a tornado. Have a meeting place with your family. A basement or a storm shelter is often the best place to take cover from the storm. If you do not have these places, an interior room without windows can be used as a storm shelter. If you are out in the open without shelter, go to the lowest possible place. Have a “go bag” with extra clothing, batteries, a radio and a first aid kit. Do not wait for a tornado to hit before taking cover.