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April 13, 2011 / Dave Gorham

When is Tornado Season? Every Day

Yes, tornadoes have occurred every day of the year and in every state, however it’s generally accepted that tornado season is springtime — and that means now. From early March through the end of May, strong cold fronts invade from the north clashing with the warm and humid air masses lying across the Plains, the South, the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast.

This wedge-shaped torndo is thick enough with rain, cloud and debris to block out the sun. Image: NOAA and NSSL

Basic meteorology explains what happens when the two air masses collide: The cold dry air undercuts the warm humid air, forcing the warm air aloft where it cools and condenses into clouds and then rain. The more dramatic the differences in the air masses, the more dramatically the warm air is directed upward. With all the conditions just right, a volatile situation like this can lead to not only violent thunderstorms but often deadly tornadoes.

This dramatic tornado image is so striking it has been the subject of many Urban Legends and manipulated in many photo editing programs. Image: NOAA.

One has only to look to the news over the past few weeks to see outbreaks of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes: Tornadoes in Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, and Florida to name a few. Nationwide, the United States can expect an average of more than 1,000 tornadoes annually.

What can be done? As with many situations, the best defense is a strong offense. That means taking action now, before a tornado (or any other form of severe weather) strikes your community or your home. And that means preparation before the storm.

Your tornado safety plan at home should include not only knowing what to do, but all members of your family should practice what to do at least once per year. Often there are only seconds to react and your reaction to a tornado threat should be second nature. You should have a shelter and a designated place to meet after the storm. Turn on your TV, radio and/or NOAA Weather Radio for the latest on the severe weather from your local news and government agencies. Know the signs of a tornado and the types of weather that precede a tornado — the dark sky, the rotating cloud base, hail and/or very heavy rainfall and, of course, the noise often described as sounding like a freight train coming down the street.

These resources can help you formulate a tornado safety plan and become more aware of tornadoes and the severe weather that produces tornadoes:

  • What is a tornado?
  • Tornado Safety from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, Oklahoma.
  • Is your community StormReady?
  • The Online Tornado FAQ page.
  • Tornado facts from FEMA.
  • Tornado safety tips for kids.
  • Where and what is Tornado Alley?

    Today's Storm Development Outlook from ImpactWeather's StormWatch team identifies Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri as areas with a moderate risk of severe weather, which includes the possibility of tornadoes. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

In addition, Formidable Footprint: A National Neighborhood Exercise Series offers free training on many subjects concerning natural disasters and on April 30 they focus their expertise on tornadoes. You can learn more about Formidable Footprint here and register for the tornado exercise here.

YourWeatherBlog has written about tornadoes before. You can read some of these posts here, here and here.

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One Comment

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  1. Brick / Apr 14 2011 10:06 PM

    Dave this is cool! Wow, that image with the lightning AND the Tornado is amazing! 😯

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