Tornadoes are localized and destructive windstorms that occur over land and are characterized by long, funnel-shaped clouds extending toward the ground and made visible by condensation and debris. A tornado that develops over a body of water is referred to as a waterspout. Tornadoes can form anywhere, but they occur most predominantly in the United States, specifically east of the Rocky Mountains. They can also form at any time during the year but are observed most frequently between the spring and summer months due to the hot and dry weather conditions that breed tornadoes. On average, there are 800 reported tornadoes per year, which are responsible for 80 deaths and 1,500 injuries in the United States alone.
A tornado is rated on the Enhanced Fujita scale according to wind speed and the damage that it causes. The tornado is then ranked from an EF0 to an EF5. EF0 tornadoes go undetected many times because of their weak winds, while EF5 tornadoes are very rare because of the incredibly powerful winds they must produce. Tornadoes can appear to be nearly transparent until they pick up dust and debris from their destructive path. Wind speeds can exceed 250 miles per hour for more violent tornadoes, and the largest can create a path of damage a mile wide and 50 miles long. A tornado was once documented carrying a motel sign 30 miles and dropping it in a different state.
If a warning is issued or if threatening weather approaches, you should move to a predetermined shelter, such as a basement. If an underground shelter is not available, an interior room on the ground floor would be the next safest place. When in the safest room in the building, hide under sturdy pieces of furniture and stay away from windows.
Mobile homes do not offer enough protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned. Additionally, if you find yourself in an automobile while a tornado approaches, you should leave it immediately and go into a suitable structure for protection. Never try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle as they are too powerful and can change direction without notice, possibly towards the path of your car. If you happen to be working outside and cannot get into a suitable structure for protection, you should avoid areas with many trees and vehicles. Find a gully, ditch, or other low point and lay down flat. If a sturdy object is available to protect your head, use it. If a sturdy object is not available to you, use your arms to block any debris from contacting your head.
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