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Although tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, these destructive forces of nature are found most frequently in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer months. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries. A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.

What to do if a Warning is Issued

In a building, move to a pre-determined shelter such as a basement. If underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture. Stay away from windows. If you can, cover yourself with a blanket or sleeping bag. In a high-rise building, use the stairs to go to the designated shelter area or an interior room on the lowest floor possible. If caught outside, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression in the ground. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.

Weather radios are the main source of emergency weather notification for the county. Stay informed, in tune and in touch a NOAA weather radio is your best option for instant local severe weather notifications. Read more at

Special NOAA Weather Radio receivers, available at most electronics stores, can be set to turn on only if a severe weather warning is sent out from an NWS office. When a special frequency tone is picked up by the radio, the tone turns the radio on and sounds a brief alarm, followed by the warning information. NOAA Weather Radios are becoming standard equipment in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, places of worship and other public gathering places throughout the country.

During a tornado, the safest place to take shelter is in an interior room on the ground floor like a hallway, stairwell or bathroom.

 Know the Terms

Tornado Watch - Issued when conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. Monitor local radio or TV stations to stay informed and to know immediately if a Tornado Warning is issued.

Tornado Warning - Issued when a tornado has been sighted in the area. Take shelter immediately. Radar technology known as DOPPLER has the ability to detect wind directions that may indicate a tornado and a Tornado Warning may be issued before one is actually sighted by the public.

Note: In Northwest Florida, tornadoes form quickly and seldom last very long. Warning for these types of tornadoes is often not possible. Remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado. Many people have stated that a tornado “sounds like a train.” Tornadoes are usually not detected until they have picked up visible dust and debris.
Look for weather apps powered by the National Weather Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale)

The Enhanced Fujita Scale categorizes each tornado by intensity, estimating wind speed associated with the damage caused by the tornado. The scale is divided into six categories. 

The Enhanced Fujita Scale categorizes each tornado by intensity, estimating wind speed associated with the damage caused by the tornado. The scale is divided into six categories.
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