Tornado Facts That Will Blow Your Mind

It was the miracle shot that potentially saved thousands of lives. Six years ago today, an Alabama basketball player sank a last second shot against Mississippi State, sending the SEC tournament game into overtime. As a result, when an EF-2 tornado tore through the heart of Atlanta only minutes later – severely damaging numerous downtown landmarks including the Georgia Dome – the majority of the 20,000 fans in attendance were still in their seats.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), tornadoes are the No. 1 severe weather-related killer in Georgia. Although they can strike at any time, March, April and May are typically the most active months for twister activity – so there’s no better time to start preparing for these dangerous storms. Here are a few other notable tornadoes that took place in the spring.

  • April 1936: Known as the “Gainesville Tornado,” a pair of storms converged in Gainesville, killing 203 people and injuring 1,600. Property damage included destruction of four blocks and 750 homes in northern parts of the state. This storm made the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration list of the 10 deadliest U.S. tornadoes on record.
  • March 2007: On March 1, a record 21 tornadoes touched down in central and south Georgia, leaving nine people dead, nearly 100 injured and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. The 143-bed Sumter Regional Hospital in Americus took a direct hit from a violent EF-3 tornado, but fortunately the staff was able to safely evacuate all 53 patients from the 265,000-square-foot complex.
  • April 2011: From April 25 to 28, there were more than 150 reported tornadoes and approximately 321 fatalities in six states throughout the Southeast. In Georgia alone, 15 tornadoes touched down, including a rare powerful EF-4 tornado that struck Catoosa County, the ninth in the state’s history. The outbreak killed 15 Georgians, injured 143, caused extensive property damage and left more than 49,000 residents without power.

And here are a few key facts about tornadoes.

  • The United States has the highest number of tornado occurrences in the world with an average of 1,000 tornadoes reported each year.
  • According to the National Weather Service (NWS), there were 55 tornado-related deaths nationwide last year.
  • Most tornadoes form from severe thunderstorms, but hurricanes or tropical storms can also produce them.
  • They can appear without warning and remain invisible until dust and debris are picked up or a funnel cloud appears.
  • Winds may exceed 300 miles per hour and often move at less than 35 miles per hour.
  • Tornado watches are issued by NWS when atmospheric conditions promote the forming of tornadoes.
  • Warnings are issued when Doppler radar detects a mesocyclone in a thunderstorm, or when a funnel cloud has been spotted.
  • The Fujita scale is used to estimate the wind speed of a tornado by the damage the tornado causes. In 2007, a team of meteorologists and wind engineers updated the original scale – which was developed by Theodore Fujita of the University of Chicago in 1971 – with the Enhanced F Scale. The category scale ranges from EF0 to EF5.
    • EF0: Wind estimates between 65 and 85 miles per hour.
    • EF1: Wind estimates between 86 to 110 miles per hour.
    • EF2: Wind estimates between 111 and 135 miles per hour.
    • EF3: Wind estimates between 136 and 165 miles per hour.
    • EF4: Wind estimates between 166 and 200 miles per hour.
    • EF5: Wind estimates more than 200 miles per hour, which can tear a house off its foundation and send automobile-sized missiles flying through the air.

Although tornadoes may be unpredictable, the sudden nature of this type of disaster calls for diligent preparedness so you’re not caught off-guard. If one struck tomorrow, would you be ready? Take proactive actions and prepare in advance to protect you and your family before disaster strikes. Visit our website to ensure you have a reliable alert system and plan in place.