Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air extending from severe thunderstorms to the ground and are usually preceded by very heavy rain and, possibly, hail. If hail occurs it is an indication that the storm has large amounts of energy and may be severe. These thunderstorms develop in warm, moist air in advance of eastward moving cold fronts. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and over 1,500 injuries.


- FO Gale Tornado (40 - 72 mph)
- F1 Moderate Tornado (73 - 112 mph)
- F2 Significant Tornado (113 - 157 mph)
- F3 Severe Tornado (158 - 206 mph)
- F4 Devastating Tornado (207 - 260 mph)
- F5 Incredible Tornado (261 - 318 mph)


Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year.

  • Peak tornado occurrence in North Carolina is March through May.
  • Tornadoes can occur at all hours of the day or night, but are most likely to occur between 3 and 9 P.M.
  • The average tornado path is 1 to 2 miles long and about 50 yds wide.
  • The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, but have been known to move in any direction.
For Additional Information
Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities
Are you Ready for a Tornado? (Vietnamese )
¿Está preparado para un tornado?
Tornado Awareness Information (English) (Spanish)
Emergency Management Guide For Business And Industry
Disaster Supplies Kit (English) (Spanish) (Vietnamese)
For Kids
Disaster Preparedness Coloring Book (English) (Spanish) (Vietnamese)
Home | Contact Us | Fire Safety | Heat Waves | Hurricanes | Kids Page | Special Needs | Terrorism | Thunderstorms | Tornadoes
Designed by Jerren Saunders
Last Updated: June 12, 2002