In the United States, “tornado season” generally is in the spring when tornadoes are more prevalent from April through July, with May and June being the peak months. But like thunderstorms, tornadoes can form any time of the year.
Tornado Watch: Conditions are conducive to the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area.
Tornado Warning: A tornado has actually been sighted by spotters or indicated on radar and is occurring or imminent in the warning area.
It is difficult to generalize the clues that portend tornadoes, and even potentially dangerous, because people looking for given conditions may be led to a false sense of security when these conditions are not present. Some of the myths we grew up with are not good predictors:
- A tornado may be in close proximity to sunshine, or it may be totally enshrouded in heavy rain.
- Sometimes the air before a twister hits is eerily calm; in other cases strong, gusty winds are followed by a tornado.
- Large hail and tornadoes can be produced by the same thunderstorm. However, many hailstorms are not accompanied by tornadoes, and vice versa.
- While many tornadoes move from a southwest direction, they can also travel from other directions such as west or northwest.
- Twisters can take a variety of not only sizes but also shapes: from the traditional Wizard-of-Oz-like funnel, to snake-like “multiple vortices,” from a drawn-out rope shape to a wide, churning, “smoky” appearance.
- The sound of a tornado has been likened to that of a freight train or a jet engine, but there is no guarantee that you will hear such a noise before it’s too late.
Know your safe place!