Tornado Basics


What Is A Tornado?

The Glossary of Meteorology defines a tornado as a “violently rotating column of air, pendant from a cumuliform cloud and underneath a cumuliform cloud, and often (but not always) visible as a funnel cloud“. In order for it to be considered a tornado, it MUST be in contact with the cloud base and the ground. Tornadoes may or may not have a visible funnel.

How to Tornadoes Form?

The truth is, nobody knows the exact mechanics for what makes a tornado happen. What we do know is the basic set of principles that must be present for the conditions to exist for tornadoes to happen. Warm moist air and cold dry air mixing under the right condition can cause the kind of weather conditions that create tornadoes. The worst of these are occure from supercells-which are rotating thunderstorms known as a mesocyclone.

Tornado Safety

There are a lot of myths and rumors out there regarding tornadoes. Here are some of the most common, according to the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office.

  • Tornadoes don’t cross rivers.
    • Landforms can and do influence the way tornadoes move after they touch the ground, but rivers do not have any effect on them. The deadliest tornado ever recorded-the Tri-State Tornado of 1925-crossed both the Wabash and Mississippi rivers without any problem.
  • Opening your windows will keep your house from exploding.
    • THIS IS VERY UNSAFE. DO NOT DO THIS! Opening windows will delay the time it takes for you to reach safety, allow debris to fly through the house without losing any of the speed or force that would have happened had it had to pass through standard home windows.
  • The southwest corner of the building is the safest
    • There is no directional corner that is the safest, as tornadoes can come from any direction and the debris that they hurl around isn’t limited to a direction, either. The safest place to be is in a below ground storm shelter, or a reinforced above-ground storm shelter. If neither of those are available, a small reinforced room such as a closet or bathroom on the lowest level of the home, closest to the center is your safest place.

June 8, 1974

On June 8, 1974, the worst tornado outbreak in Tulsa history occurred, causing damage in Tulsa proper, Stroud, Mannford, Kiefer, Skiatook, Sapulpa, Broken Arrow and Owasso. Often  called the “Brookside” tornado, the storms of that day caused excessive damage over a nearly 40 square mile radius, one of the largest in recorded history.

Miraculously, there was only one death in Tulsa: 70 year old Joseph Byars. 13 others died during the outbreak, including a 2 year old girl who died from drowning. Not surprisingly, drowning is one of the leading causes of death during extreme weather events.

The tornadoes knocked out the power to more than 80,000 homes and buildings. Floods destroyed homes that had their roofs ripped off by the heavy winds. Because of the excessive damage, roads became impassable, thus hampering rescue efforts.

The damage and death tolls from these storms would have been much greater and more widespread if the tornadoes had stayed consistently on the ground and skipping over property. This is actually a common behavior in tornadoes, but it doesn’t work exactly the way most people think.

Tornadoes don’t actually “skip”.  Rather, there are changes in the circulation, or perhaps the strength of the structure plays a key. More than one tornado can be involved, making it appear as though the tornado has jumped over and around.  Occasionally, tornadoes will retract, and touch back down, but most of the time, this is not the case.

Life in Tulsa

Welcome to my blog.

I love weather. All things weather. When I go to college, I want to become a meteorologist and study tornadoes. It’s a good thing I live here in Oklahoma! What a great place for that.

Anyway, this blog is about weather and weather related stuff.

Thanks for checking me out and hopefully, I’ll have more stuff for you soon!