One of the most dangerous conditions in the weather’s multiplicity of threats is the tornado. The only thing predictable about a tornado is its unpredictability. North America gets more tornados than any other part of the world, around a thousand per year in the United States.
While hurricanes hang around over open water and usually give us reasonable notice of their plans, tornadoes can happen at almost any place and time.
A violent tornado can arise suddenly, with enough power to pick up cars, houses, and people. There are reports of people being plucked into the air, only to be put down safely about a quarter of a mile away. A twister in 1923 was reported to relieve a man of his trousers, which were retrieved some time later in a tree over a mile away. In 1964, a tornado in Michigan deposited cancelled cheques and clothing in Strathroy, Ontario, Canada. The lifting power of a tornado is incredible. In 1970, a thirteen ton tank was moved three quarters of a mile by a tornado in Texas.
Tornadoes can reach rotating speeds of up to three hundred miles per hour. But meteorologists are uncertain what causes the vortex of a tornado to spin in a rotating vertical column, spinning faster as the tornado tightens and reaches the ground.
So next time you see a funnel cloud, move quickly to a good shelter. You can never tell what’s going to happen next.