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Tornado Factbox


Tornadoes at a Glance

Formation: Rotating thunderstorms or supercells cause the most destructive and deadly tornadoes.

Many supercells never produce a tornado. They can produce damaging hail, extreme winds, frequent lightning, flash floods and can last for many hours.

Duration: Tornadoes can last from several seconds to more than an hour. Most last less than 10 minutes.

Damage: The new, Enhanced F-scale is becoming the standard for assessing tornado damage.

Even with engineering guidelines, tornado wind speeds are based on calculations.

Frequency: About 1,300 tornadoes strike the U.S. each year.

The true average is not known due to recording mistakes, erroneous classification or under reporting.

Path: Most tornadoes move from southwest to northeast, or west to east. Some change direction or even backtrack.

Prediction: One or two days in advance, forecasters look for temperature and wind flow patterns which can cause enough moisture, instability, lift and wind shear for tornadic thunderstorms.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
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