Tornado

Did you know that tornadoes can reach speeds of 300 miles per hour?

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms.  A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds.  They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms within the funnel. Their damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. More powerful tornadoes have the ability to move large and heavy objects. Most tornadoes move from southwest to northeast, but they can move in any direction or suddenly change their path. 

In Colorado, the primary threat of tornadoes is east of the Continental Divide along the Front Range and foothill counties.  Most of tornadoes here occur in June, followed by July and May, mainly during afternoon or evening hours.

Despite the risks tornadoes present, everyone can take steps to prepare.  Explore the information below to discover how to keep yourself and family safe during a tornado!

Cover photo courtesy of Douglas County ─ Lemon Gulch Tornado

Within text photo courtesy of Douglas County ─ Castle Rock Tornado

Before

  • Maintain an emergency kit or check list of emergency items to take with you.
  • Develop a family communication plan in case your family is separated.
  • Identify a safe shelter location. A basement is best, followed by interior rooms on the lowest level of the building away from windows. Mobile homes are often unsafe in a tornado – identify a neighbor’s house or public shelter where you can go if a tornado warning is issued.
  • Obtain a NOAA Weather Radio to receive alerts about impending severe weather.
  • Sign up for reverse telephone alerts for your county, and don’t forget to include your cell phone.
  • Make sure you have sufficient insurance coverage – including flood insurance, which is separate from your homeowners policy.
  • Photograph or video the contents of your home in case you need to file a claim.
  • Store copies of your important documents in another location, such as a bank safe deposit box.
  • Consider building a safe room inside your home.

During

  • Immediately go to your pre-identified safe shelter – there is no time to gather possessions.
  • If possible, crouch under a sturdy piece of furniture, such as a table. Cover your head and neck with your hands and arms.
  • If you are outside and no other shelter is available, get in a vehicle and drive to shelter if possible. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to outrun a tornado.
  • If you must use a vehicle for shelter, keep your seatbelt on, cover your head and keep it below the window level.
  • Do not use an overpass or bridge for shelter.
  • If no other shelter is available, lie in a low spot and cover your head, but be alert for water filling the location.

After

  • Avoid downed power lines and leaking gas lines – report them to your utility company.
  • Watch for broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects.
  • Avoid damaged buildings until declared safe by officials.
  • Notify your family that you are safe – phone lines may be down, so be prepared to send text messages.
  • Check property for damage and contact your insurance company to file a claim, if necessary.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Tornadoes
  • NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory
  • State of Colorado Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan
  • Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Lightning…Nature’s Most Violent Storms
  • Tornado Project

It Happened Here

Windsor, Colorado experienced a tornado and hail storm in May 2008 that caused an estimated $193.5 million in insured losses. It was rated an EF3 tornado ─ wind estimates in the heavily damaged areas were as high as 130 to 150 mph. One person died as a result of trying to outrun the tornado and several injuries were reported.

Fast Facts:

  • Tornadoes can occur at any time of day, any day of the year.
  • Tornadoes may strike quickly with little or no warning.
  • Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months.
  • Colorado residents can expect an average of forty tornadoes every year, which ranks Colorado as ninth in the country for numbers of tornadoes.