Tornado Facts For Kids

Tornados (also known as “twisters”) are dangerous and destructive storms. They begin as funnel clouds with high winds, and once they touch down on the ground, they are called tornados. They cause heavy rain, thunder, lightning, flash flooding, and hail. Wind speeds can reach 318MPH causing damage to everything in its path.

The powerful winds that rotate in a funnel-shaped cloud that has a devastating impact and produces the most damage.

Tornado Facts for Kids:

      • The wind from a tornado can reach speeds up to 318mph
      • Over 1,000 tornadoes are reported in the US every year.
      • Waterspouts are tornados that form on the water.
      • Hail is often associated with tornados.
      • Damage paths can be one mile wide and up to 50 miles long
      • On average Texas had the most tornados every year
      • The average tornado is about 660 feet wide
      • On average they move at 30 miles an hour
      • Once on the ground, a tornado can last a few seconds or as long as three hours
      • A microburst is like a tornado but can cause more damage than a tornado.
      • A wall cloud is a cumulonimbus cloud that is very dark and low. Usually, a tornado forms out of these.
      • Gustnados are whirlwinds that do not last long enough to become tornados.
      • Land spouts are tornados that are very week and usually are more like a waterspout.
      • A dust devil is a tornado that happens in a sandy area.

    What Causes a Tornado?

    Tornadoes come from supercells, a supercell is a severe thunderstorm that has winds with a rotating updraft which creates an unstable atmosphere.

    Supercells are mostly seen in the central part of the United States. On average, about one in five or six supercells storms can cause a tornado.

    A supercell thunderstorm in the American great Plains

    Tornadoes can happen at any time of year.

    In southern states, tornado season starts in March through May. In northern states, tornado season peaks during the summer

    Tornadoes begin to form when warm air and humid air collide with cold, dry air.

    We see them more often along a part of the country known as “Tornado Alley.”

    Tornado Alley Covers:

    • Arkansas
    • Iowa
    • Kansas
    • Louisiana
    • Missouri
    • Nebraska
    • North Dakota
    • Oklahoma
    • South Dakota
    • Texas

    Generally, we see most tornadoes between 3 PM and 9 PM. As we move through the day, warm air changes place with cooler air, and this helps feed the tornado.

    Of course, this all depends on many factors, and we do see tornadoes happening at all different times of the day.

    What Does it Sound Like When There is a Tornado?

    Most people that have heard a tornado say that it sounds like a train or an airplane.

    They are very loud, and the sound is so powerful that it can hurt the ears of people who hear it.

    Are Tornados Dangerous?

    Yes they are very dangerous because tornado winds can reach speeds of up to 480km per hour

    Twisters are frequently accompanied by severe thunderstorms and wind gusts. Hail is also common.

    Since the wind speeds are so strong, they can cause a power outage, damaged houses, businesses can be destroyed and they can damage all the areas they cover.

    The distance they travel varies with most lasting 10 mins. But, within this time, they can cover five to ten kilometers distance. In some extreme cases, they can last for hours and travel a distance of 150K.

    Tornados move very quickly so when they cause damage it can happen over a large span of area.

    Towns and cities that have regular tornado outbreaks will have a warning system in place. The  National  Weather Service will also monitor severe thunderstorms and offer advice on any tornado formation.

    How long is Tornado season?

    Tornado season is from March through June. But, tornadoes outbreaks have been seen every month of the year, depending on the weather conditions.

    How much do Scientists know about Tornadoes?

    You may have seen Storm chasers on TV. Most of these are scientists who spend part of their year monitoring the phenomena. They use weather radar to find and track tornadoes.

    They issue tornado warnings to advise people to get to safety.

    They detect and record them. They track tornado damage because this helps them understand how powerful it was.

    Weather forecasting people use something called the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EFS) the help us understand how powerful a tornado was.

    They are on the F scale of 0 to 5 based on how much damage they’ve caused:

    • EF0 – Winds at 65 to 85 mph, minor to no damage. Roof tiles missing, smaller trees uprooted, etc.
    • EF1 – Winds at 86 to 110 mph, moderate damage. Stripped roofs, mobile homes overturned, windows and other glass broken, outside doors lost, etc.
    • EF2 – Winds at 111 to 135mph, considerable damage. Roofs torn off, large trees uprooted, cars blown around, etc.
    • EF3 – Winds at 136 to 165 mph, severe damage. Entire stories of even well-constructed homes destroyed, severe damage to large buildings like shopping malls, trains blown off of the tracks, etc.
    • EF4 – Winds at 166 to 200 mph, extreme damage. Whole houses leveled, cars and other large objects are thrown around like toys, etc.
    • EF5 – Winds greater than 200 mph, total destruction. Even strongly built houses are swept away, cars and other heavy objects can be flung as far as a mile away, tall buildings may collapse, etc.

    Tornado Terms to Know

    • Tornado -A tornado usually looks like a funnel cloud or a funnel shape. Some of them look dark and others are small. Usually when there is a tornado, it looks darker because there is debris that is in the tornado and it causes it to look darker.
    • Funnel Cloud -A funnel cloud is the part of the tornado that spins and rotates. It moves downward but does not touch the ground. When it touches the ground, it only then becomes a tornado.
    • Supercell Thunderstorm – can be small or large low or high topped. They can produce torrential rainfall, large hail, strong winds, flooding, dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning, and deadly tornadoes. These sometimes produce tornados that are over 200 miles per hour.
    • Mesocyclone – A mesocyclone is a rotating vortex that is in a supercell thunderstorm. Even though this looks like a tornado, it does not always form a tornado.

    What Should You Do If There is a Tornado?

    A funnel cloud touches down during a severe thunderstorm and becomes a tornado near Bushnell, Nebraska.

    If there is a tornado, you need to take cover and find shelter quickly.

    If you are outside – Stay away tornados are fast; you won’t outrun it. Get to the nearest building, crouch down low protecting your head. Find a room without windows, if possible.

    If you are inside – find a room without windows and crouch down low, protecting your head. Some buildings in tornado areas might already have a “safe room.”

    After the storm – check id there is a disaster kit this will have first-aid supplies and things like whistles, flashlights, rain gear. You still need to be aware of your safety power lines could be down and building unstable.

    Storm Chasing


    Tornadoes are dangerous storms nature can throw at us, a storm chaser is a person who chases storms for several reasons.

    They will track tornado outbreaks for the National Weather Service (NWS) who are run by the National Oceanic& Atmospheric Administration or NOAA for short

    They can issue warnings on tornadoes in the United States on Weather radio, TV News, etc.

    Storm chasers can be scientists who study meteorology, and using things like Doppler radar can track a storm system and watch for severe weather outbreaks.

    These are important people that can escalate the deadliest storms to Emergency management specialist

    What Did You Learn?

  • How do tornados form?
    Tornados form when the ground is dry and moisture forms in the air. There must be a wind to make the tornados form.
  • What is a funnel cloud?
    A funnel cloud is a spinning cloud that is in the air. It only becomes a tornado when it touches the ground?
  • Is a tornado dangerous?
    A tornado can be very dangerous due to high winds that can cause much damage to an area.
  • Should I take shelter if there is a tornado?
    You should find shelter when there is a tornado warning so that you can be safe.
  • Do tornados happen in the United States?
    Some of the biggest tornados have happened in the United States.
  • What sometimes comes with a tornado?
    With a tornado, you will have strong winds, thunderstorms, and hail