Tickle Your Brain

Tornado with dust and debris cloud forming at surface

Tornadoes, or twisters, are spinning columns of air.  A tornado’s funnel stretches from a cloud to the ground.  In a supercell storm, warm air gets pulled up, and cold air falls down, which makes the clouds spin.  It forms a funnel cloud, and the whirling wind spins everything up along with it.  The most powerful twisters can produce winds up to 300 miles per hour!

Tornadoes are some of the most violent storms on earth.  They can strike at any time, in any place in the world.  The United States is hit with more twisters than any other country.  About 800 tornadoes strike the United States each year.

Climate change is affecting the weather, and Ohio has been getting more tornadoes than usual.  We have already tied our record for the most tornadoes in a year.  62 tornadoes so far in 2024!

Do you know what to do if a tornado strikes nearby?  Find shelter.  A basement, or storm cellar is best.  But get to the lowest floor you can, stay away from windows, and cover your head so you don’t get hit with any flying debris.


These articles are written by library staff using library resources such as books, eBooks, and databases. Information can vary from book to book and database to database. Tickle Your Brain is meant to be a jumping off point for starting conversations about new topics of learning. It is not to be used as an authoritative resource.

A massive tornado that hit near Dodge City, KS in 2016, at the end of a long dirt road.  Three cars are stopped on the road in front of the twister.  The funnel cloud is wider than the road itself, and you can see the dust and debris whirling around the base. , A car turned upside down by an F5 tornado that hit Moore, OK in 2013.  The picture also shows major damage to a house, and major debris littered around the yard.
Did You Know?
  • It can be hard to measure the strength of a tornado, but there is a scale to rank tornadoes from zero to five, based on the wreckage after the storm.  It is called the Fujita scale, after the scientist who created it.
  • F0 tornadoes cause some damage, but not all that much.  They break branches off trees, knock bricks off chimneys, and topple signs.  Not too bad after getting hit by a tornado.
  • But F5 tornadoes generate incredible damage!  They lift strong frame houses off their foundations and sweep them away.  Cars can also fly farther than 100 meters away.
  • It is estimated that 1,500 tornadoes hit the earth’s surface each year.  More than half of these strike an area in central United States nicknamed Tornado Alley.
  • The worst tornado to hit in United States history was named the Great Tri-State Tornado.  On March 18, 1925, a twister tore a 219-mile path through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.  Most tornadoes stay on the ground for less than five minutes.  This one lasted for more than three hours!  It wiped out whole towns and killed 695 people.