Tornadoes are relatively short-lived local storms. They are composed of violently rotating columns of air that descend in the familiar funnel shape from thunderstorm cloud systems. The weather conditions that tend to generate tornadoes are unseasonably warm and humid earth surface air, cold air at middle atmospheric levels, and strong upper-level jet stream winds.
Tornadoes can occur anywhere in the United States during any month of the year. However, the Great Plains and the Gulf Coast States experience the largest number of Tornadoes. The greatest frequency of Tornadoes occurs in April, May, and June.
Path & Destruction
The destructive path of tornadoes averages about 250 yards in width and 15 miles in length. In extreme conditions, a tornado may travel more than 300 miles and leave a path of total destruction more than a mile wide. Tornadoes will travel up to 70 miles per hour (mph), with wind speeds approaching 400 mph within the tornado’s center. Tornadoes usually travel from a westerly direction to an easterly direction.
Visit Missouri Storm Aware.
- Myth: Areas near rivers, lakes, and mountains are safe from tornadoes.
Fact: No place is safe from tornadoes. They can cross rivers, travel up mountains, and roar through valleys.
- Myth: Low pressure with a tornado causes buildings to "explode" as the tornado passes overhead.
Fact: Violent winds and debris slamming into buildings cause the most damage.
- Myth: Windows should be opened before a tornado to equalize pressure and minimize damage.
Fact: Opening windows allows damaging winds to enter the structure. Leave the windows alone; instead, immediately go to a safe place.