Tornadoes are one of nature's most violent storms. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported across the United States, resulting in 80 deaths and over 1,500 injuries. While uncommon to Stokes County, tornadoes have occurred in the past. A tornado is as a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Tornadoes come in all shapes and sizes and can occur anywhere in the U.S at any time of the year. In the southern United States, peak tornado season is March through May and are most likely to occur between the hours of 3 and 9 p.m. but have been known to occur at all hours of the day or night.
If weather conditions warrant, the National Weather Service will issue a Tornado Watch. A tornado watch indicates that weather conditions favor the development of tornadoes. Look for signs of dark, often greenish sky; large hail; wall cloud; a loud roar, similar to a freight train. Some tornadoes appear as a visible funnel extending only partially to the ground. Look for signs of debris below the visible funnel. Some tornadoes are clearly visible while others are obscured by rain or nearby low-hanging clouds. If a tornado warning is issued, a tornado has been spotted.
The intensity of tornadoes are ranked by the Fujita Tornado Intensity Scale.
· F-0: 40-72 mph winds, chimney damage, tree branches broken
· F-1: 73-112 mph winds, mobile homes pushed off foundation or overturned
· F-2: 113-157 mph winds, considerable damage, mobile homes demolished, trees uprooted
· F-3: 158-205 mph winds, roofs and walls torn down, trains overturned, cars thrown
· F-4: 207-260 mph winds, well-constructed walls leveled
· F-5: 261-318 mph winds, homes lifted off foundation and carried considerable distances, autos thrown as far as 100 meters
· Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio or Local Television for warning instructions.
· Take cover immediately if a tornado is imminent; go to a designated shelter in a basement or an interior room such as a closet or bathroom.
· If you are in an automobile, mobile home or in the open; seek shelter in a sturdy structure or lie in a ditch or depression.
· Always protect your head and body from flying debris.