Published on April 07, 2021

Tornado Awareness: The Real Spin on Weather

stormy weather art

Who doesn’t love the feeling of a warm spring day after a cold dreary winter?

Spring can be so refreshing – with flowers blooming and beautiful sights and sounds of nature all around. Along with the mesmerizing changes of spring also comes changes in weather as warm, moist air and the enhanced jet stream create ideal conditions for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

What often starts as a minute change in weather conditions in one area of the country can have drastic changes as it travels hundreds of miles and may in fact turn into a severe thunderstorm or deadly tornado. These often, unpredictable changes in weather are known to meteorologists as the “butterfly effect” as noted by mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz in his 1960s work pertaining to weather prediction. Lorenz used a metaphorical example of a butterfly in the Amazon flapping its wings to create a small puff of air, the air gaining momentum as it travels weeks across the country until finally becoming a deadly tornado as its winds reached Kansas.

Let’s test your knowledge to see if you are weather savvy as defined by the National Weather Service:

What is a thunderstorm?

A thunderstorm is the result of warm, moist air rising to cooler regions of the atmosphere. When a thunderstorm is classified as severe it contains one or more of the following ingredients: hail - one inch or greater, and winds gusting to 50 knots (57.5 miles per hour).

What is a tornado?

A tornado extends downwards from a thunderstorm and forms a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends to the ground. We can see tornadoes when these columns of air pick up water droplets, dust and debris. Tornado winds can range from under 100 miles per hour (mph) to an excess of 200 mph.

When are tornadoes most likely?

In the United States, April, May and June are the most active months for tornadoes, although they can occur anytime. The average annual number of tornadoes between 1991-2010 was 43 for Mississippi and 44 for Alabama.

How are tornadoes measured?

Enhanced Fujita Scale describes the strength of a tornado based on the amount and type of damage caused by the tornado. The F-Scale of damage will vary in the destruction.

• EF0- light damage (40-70 mph)
• EF1- moderate damage (73-112 mph)
• EF2- significant damage (113-157 mph)
• EF3- severe damage (158-206 mph)
• EF4- devastating damage (207-260 mph)
• EF5- incredible damage (261-318 mph)

The Tornado Condition Index, or TORCON is a 1-10 threat scale. The greater the number, the greater the threat.

What is a tornado watch?

Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. You should be prepared to act. Review and discuss your emergency plans, check supplies and your safe room. Early action can save lives!

What is a tornado warning?

A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office and typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter or law enforcement who is watching the storm. You need to act! Move to an interior room on the lowest level of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, vehicle or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris.

Stay Weather Aware

At North Mississippi Medical Center, we use multiple sources to monitor and protect our employees, patients and visitors. Fortunately, with today’s technology there are many ways to monitor the weather, including the National Weather Service, local TV weather broadcast, The Weather Channel, NOAA weather radio, FEMA and other widely available weather apps.

At North Mississippi Medical Center, we use multiple sources to monitor and protect our employees, patients and visitors.