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Given the recent spate of tornadoes in the United States over the last few years--most recently in Indiana--we figured it would be useful to learn about this natural disaster. Sure, they've been well-publicized by pop culture, but we're here to separate the myths from the facts.
Tornadoes occur all over the world, but they are definitely more frequent in the USA (especially east of the Rocky Mountains). In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported worldwide and they result in approximately 80 deaths and 1500 injuries.
So what exactly is a tornado? Essentially, it is a violent, rotating column of air that extends from the surface of the Earth to a thunderstorm in the air! They are commonly referred to as 'twisters' and 'cyclones', though the larger is a broader meteorological term that has other meanings as well.
The word tornado is an altered form of the Spanish word tronada, which means thunderstorm. This, in turn, was taken from the Latin tonare, meaning "to thunder."
Thunderstorms develop in warm, moist air that advances in front of eastward-moving cold fronts. These thunderstorms then end up producing hail, strong winds and tornadoes. A tornado is not necessarily visible. However, the low pressure caused by the high wind speeds and rapid rotation usually causes water vapor in the air to become visible as a funnel cloud or condensation funnel.
Tornadoes take many shapes and sizes and can be categorized into weak, strong and violent categories. While weak tornadoes hardly do any damage, the violent ones are responsible for over 70 percent of all tornado-related deaths!
The lifespan of these tornadoes also varies according to the intensity and can last from anywhere between a minute to over an hour! There are different scales dedicated to rating the strength of these but the most popular one is the Fujita Scale, which checks how much damage is caused by a tornado.
In case you find yourself forewarned about such a storm, the smartest thing you could do is leave your belongings, take your loved ones with you and find immediate shelter in a basement or some sort of room without windows. This one simple step can provide you with more protection than anything else!
In case you've never witnessed the wrath of a tornado before, here's a glimpse:
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