Monday, March 16, 2009


Tornado Season, Watches, & Warnings

In the United States, "tornado season" is generally in the spring. Tornadoes are more prevalent from April through July, with May and June being the peak months. But like thunderstorms, tornadoes can form any time of the year.

The area in which tornadoes are most prevalent is known as "tornado alley," typically defined the region from Texas north to Nebraska. But, of course, tornadoes can and do occur in every state in the country.

For accurate and timely storm updates in your area, watch The Weather Channel, check for severe weather alerts, listen to NOAA Weather Radio, or get free severe weather alerts on your phone and in your email from The Weather Channel.

Slideshow: Tornado and severe thunderstorm watches and warnings

tornado risk

Tornado Watches and Warnings
Two key alerts relate specifically to tornado conditions.

Tornado Watch - Conditions are conducive to the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area.

Tornado Warning - A tornado has actually been sighted by spotters or indicated on radar and is occurring or imminent in the warning area.

In addition, severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes, or cause damage of their own from wind gusts of 58 mph or greater and/or hail 3/4-inch in diameter or larger.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch - Conditions are conducive to the development of severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning - A severe thunderstorm has actually been observed by spotters or indicated on radar, and is occurring or imminent in the warning area.

While tornadoes can still occur without a watch or warning being in effect, advances in the science and technology have greatly increased the ability of meteorologists to provide advance notice of them.

It is difficult to generalize the clues that portend tornadoes, and even potentially dangerous, because people looking for given conditions may be led to a false sense of security when these conditions are not present.

Tornado Facts

A tornado may be in close proximity to sunshine, or it may be totally enshrouded in heavy rain.

Sometimes the air before a twister hits is eerily calm; in other cases strong, gusty winds are followed by a tornado.

Large hail and tornadoes can be produced by the same thunderstorm. However, many hailstorms are not accompanied by tornadoes, and vice versa.

While many tornadoes move from a southwest direction, they can also travel from other directions such as west or northwest.

Twisters can take a variety of not only sizes but also shapes: from the traditional Wizard-of-Oz-like funnel, to snake-like "multiple vortices," from a drawn-out rope shape to a wide, churning, "smoky" appearance.

The sound of a tornado has been likened to that of a freight train or a jet engine, but there is no guarantee that you will hear such a noise before it's too late.