Why Are Tornadoes So Terrifying?

Dangers and Quick Safety Tips

double tornado in flat plains
Rui Almeida Fotografia/Moment/Getty Images

Perhaps one of the most feared weather anomalies is the tornado. The unpredictability of a tornado produces terror in many families. Some people are so afraid they develop a phobia called lilapsophobia. A large part of this fear stems from the fact that tornadoes can develop with little warning and are extremely violent. 

Tornadoes Cause Damage in Three Ways

  • Strong Winds: The strong winds of a tornado can rip just about anything off of the ground including trees, vehicles, and even houses. The winds inside of tornadoes travel at over 310 miles per hour. Even weak tornadoes can pull shingles and siding off of houses.
  • Debris: The second damaging effect of tornadoes is actually from the debris that the storm picks up. People have been buried alive by houses or mud picked up and then dropped by a tornado. Smaller objects become damaging projectiles when thrown by tornadoes. One tornado took a child’s bicycle and wrapped it around a tree!
  • Hail and Lightning: It is not only the wind that causes damage in a tornado, but also the hail and lightning that the storm produces. Large hailstones can damage cars and injure people, and lighting can cause fires and electrical problems.

The Environment Suffers From Tornadoes

Tornadoes produce devastating effects on the environment. They can uproot trees, cause mass migrations of animals, and destroy the habitats of local wildlife.

Family Safety During a Tornado

If there is a tornado approaching, what safety measures should you take? First, it is important to realize that there is no specific way to know if a storm is going to produce a tornado. Meteorologists have developed warning systems that tell them if a storm is capable of producing a tornado. 

During severe weather, have a weather radio on. They are relatively inexpensive and could save your life. If you hear the announcer say there is a tornado watch, that means the conditions are correct for forming a tornado. A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted. If you hear a tornado warning, you may be in danger!

If You Hear a Tornado Warning...

First, find shelter in the lowest possible place, such as a basement. If your home does not have a basement, go to the innermost room. Stay clear of windows or anything heavy like furniture or appliances. A bathroom is a good location.

Take your battery-powered weather radio to your shelter and turn it on. Kneel on the floor and cover your head with your hands. This is the best position to be in to avoid damage during a tornado.

Should you be caught out in the open with a tornado approaching, do not try to outrun the storm. Find a low lying spot such as a ravine and crouch down with your arms over your head. Because tornadoes are so unpredictable, you are in much more danger if you try to outrun them.

While tornadoes cause much damage in the areas where they hit, one good thing about tornadoes is that the area they damage is relatively small. If you take a few safety precautions, you have the best chance of making it through a dangerous tornado.

Resources and Further Reading

  • The Weather Watchers Library: Tornadoes by Dean Galiano
  • Tornado Alert! By Wendy Scavuzzo

 Edited by Tiffany Means

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Harms, Associate Writer Nicole. "Why Are Tornadoes So Terrifying?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, thoughtco.com/tornado-safety-overview-3444293. Harms, Associate Writer Nicole. (2020, August 25). Why Are Tornadoes So Terrifying? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/tornado-safety-overview-3444293 Harms, Associate Writer Nicole. "Why Are Tornadoes So Terrifying?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/tornado-safety-overview-3444293 (accessed April 17, 2021).