Each year, about a thousand tornadoes touch down in the United States. If you live in Nebraska, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas, you live in Tornado Alley which is where tornadoes strike regularly in the spring and early summer.
Tornadoes form in severe thunderstorms and appear as funnel clouds from the storm to the ground. Wind speeds in the tornado can be as high as 300 mph and are considered the fastest winds on earth. The fastest wind speeds ever recorded in a tornado were on May 3rd, 1999 in Oklahoma. The wind speed reached 318 mph!
As a result of these tremendous wind speeds, tornadoes leave a path of destruction which can be one mile wide and several miles long. When they touchdown, tornadoes have devastating effects. Tornadoes are so powerful they can lift a house off its foundation and drop it several blocks away. Kitchen utensils have been found embedded in nearby trees from these storms. It’s these formidable winds that can also cause cars and trucks to become airborne and turn flying debris into weapons. Dozens of Americans are injured every year when they are struck by flying debris from tornadoes. Unfortunately, many also die.
Texas Tornado History
One of the worst tornadoes in US history occurred in Waco, Texas, in 1953. It was a hot, stormy day and raining heavily when the tornado touched down in the late afternoon. When it dissipated, it left a 23 mile long path of absolute destruction. That day in Waco, nearly 600 people were injured and another 114 were killed. The storm damaged hundreds of homes and businesses and several more were completely destroyed. It took days for survivors to pick through the rubble and rescue victims. The tornado in Waco in 1953 caused an estimated $43 million in damage. Today, that cost would be approximately $310 million.
Know the Warning Signs
Because three out of every four tornadoes occur in the United States, you should know the warning signs of an approaching tornado and be prepared to take shelter immediately. Watch for dark skies which are often accompanied by thunderstorms, hail, and loud roaring noise typically described as a freight train. While some tornadoes make a considerable amount of noise, others make none at all. The noise a tornado makes depends on the amount of debris the tornado is carrying or what it’s hitting as it moves along the ground. For instance, a tornado moving in a populated neighborhood may make a loud roaring noise as it destroys everything in its path, while a tornado moving along the open grassy plains may be nearly silent.