Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air extending from a cloud to the ground. They are often (but not always) visible as a condensation funnel cloud.    They usually start as funnel clouds and may be accompanied by a loud roaring noise. Significant damage can occur even when the condensation funnel does not reach the ground.

Tornadoes can occur at any time of day, any day of the year, and appear rapidly when conditions are warm, humid, and windy. Monitor weather conditions and reports for severe weather watches and warnings. Stay safe by:

  • Immediately seeking shelter inside a building
  • Go into a safe room (with no windows), such as a closet or bathroom
  • Cover your head with hard helmet, sit in a corner for protection, and listen to the radio for weather updates
  • Stay away from windows
BC Tornado 20140306. Photo credit Ahfachkee School


  • Tornado Watch– is issued when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes or severe thunderstorms. During a watch, be ready to move to a safe room (an interior room without windows), remain alert, and stay tuned to the weather for more updates.
  • Tornado Warning– is issued when a funnel cloud or rotation in is detected in your area by radar or sighted by a storm spotter. Seek shelter immediately in a safe room or an interior room such as a closet, bathroom, or hallway! Stay tuned to your radio for alerts and information.
Collier March 2003 Tornado. Photo Credit Chief Paul Wilson, Ochopee Fire Dept.

Tornadoes are considered to be the most erratic, most unpredictable and most violent of all atmospheric storms.  Winds in the strongest of these storms can exceed 250 miles per hour. 

The intensity of tornadoes and the damage they cause is rated using the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale.  A tornado is given an EF rating of 0-5 .

Enhanced Fujita Scale

Visit these websites for more information about tornadoes and steps to take to keep your family safe:

National Weather Service Tornado FAQ ( (

American Red Cross (

Tornado Downtown Miami 1997. Photo credit Timmy27 via Wikimedia


Automated system that sends emergency notifications by email and/or telephone.




Information is the key to developing hazard awareness and keeping families safe. Download the Hurricane Safety Guide.

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