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How Strong Is a Tornado?

Joplin tornado

After reading an article about the likelihood of a tornado taking Dorothy’s house to Oz, I started wondering how strong the average tornado really is.

The article concluded that, in order to move Dorothy’s house, the tornado would need to produce winds at least 334 miles per hour. A tornado like this would top the Enhanced Fujita Scale used to measure wind speeds of tornadoes.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale is as follows:

  • EF0 65-85 mph
  • EF1 86-110
  • EF2 111-135
  • EF3 136-165
  • EF4 166-200
  • EF5 more than 200 mph

According to an article in USA Today, the fastest wind speed ever recorded was 318 mph, from a tornado that hit Oklahoma City in 1999. The tornado that carried Dorothy away would have had to be inconceivably intense. After seeing how tornadoes of that strength devastated Joplin, Missouri in 2011, the idea of a house landing safely in one piece is far fetched to be sure. Still, it makes for a great story.

In an article on USTornadoes.com, it is stated that 20 states have experienced tornadoes in the EF5 category. They have a chart of strongest tornadoes by state from 1950 to 2011. Kansas, where Dorothy is from, has had 8 EF5 tornadoes in that time-frame.

The US sees around 1300 tornadoes a year, but the majority of them seem to be EF0 – EF2. And that is relatively good news, but still a concern. Tornadoes do a great deal of damage, even when they are “weak.”

Are tornadoes a big concern where you live? Even if an EF5 isn’t likely, 96% of the US has experienced strong tornadoes that are EF2 or higher, so it makes sense to be prepared for them. If you don’t have a suitable room in your home, or if you don’t have a basement, have you considered building a storm shelter?

Make sure you have an emergency survival bag and first aid kit close by so you are as prepared as possible for a tornado, no matter how strong it is. A search and rescue kit may be wise to have on hand as well. People are likely to need help after the dust settles.

photo credit: DVIDSHUB via photopin cc

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