Due to the Weather: Ways the Elements Affect Our Lives

By Abraham Resnick | Go to book overview
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19
TORNADOES

Tornadoes are sudden windstorms that are extremely violent, consisting of cyclonic whirling movements that have a history of causing hundreds of thousands of deaths throughout the world. Tornadoes occur along an abrupt cold front where air masses of strongly contrasting temperatures collide. They usually take place in late spring or early summer on a calm, hot, humid day. Within that mix there is usually a cumulonimbus cloud and a very low air pressure extending downward in a cone-shaped movement of air in a counter-clockwise direction.

In the United States dozens of deaths from tornadoes occur each year, on average forty-four. The country experiences 163 tornado days and 638 tornadoes annually. As many as 1,109 tornadoes were reported in the United States in 1973, a record year. During a seventy-year-period, 1925- 1995, as many as 4,944 people died from tornado disasters in the United States. From 1967-1996, death from tornadoes averaged 70 each year.

The word tornado is of Spanish origin and is related to the English word "turn." Tornadoes, popularly referred to as twisters, or cyclones, can readily be spotted as a funnel cloud of small diameter, having wind speeds that can reach incredible velocities of 318 miles per hour (most are 100-150 mph). They normally average about 300-400 yards in width (some could extend a mile or more), travel haphazardly along paths from several miles to fifty miles, most often in a southwest to northeast direction and are associated with very low barometric pressure readings and heavy rains.


HIGH-RISK AREAS FOR TORNADOES

Killer tornadoes usually strike across the plains of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas late in winter and early spring. This region is known as "Tornado Alley," but other areas of the United States have also been ravaged by lethal tornadoes. When it comes to where a tornado may hit,

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