Tornado Information & Safety
Oakland County, MichiganHomeland SecurityTornado Information & Safety

Tornado Information & Safety

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The information provided below is designed to help you understand what to do in the event of a tornado. Also see links to the right for additional information.

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What is a tornado?,

It is a column of violently rotating winds extending down from a thunderstorm cloud and touching the surface of the earth. A tornado spins like a top and may sound like an airplane or train.

How do tornadoes form?,

Before thunderstorms develop, a change in wind direction and an increase in wind speed with increasing height creates an invisible, horizontal spinning effect in the lower atmosphere. Rising air within the thunderstorms updraft tilts the rotating air from horizontal to vertical.

What is the difference between a tornado and a funnel cloud?,

​Much like a tornado, a funnel cloud is also a column of violently rotating winds extending down from a thunderstorm; however, it does not touch the ground.

When do tornadoes generally occur?,

​Most tornadoes occur during the months of April through August in the late afternoon and evening hours. However, tornadoes can occur anytime of the day or night in almost any month of the year.

How many tornadoes usually occur in Michigan every year?,

​An average of 18 tornadoes occur in Michigan every year. Since 1950, 239 persons have been killed due to tornadoes. During the same time, Michigan has experienced 772 tornadoes.

How far do tornadoes travel once they touch the ground?,

​The average Michigan tornado is on the ground for less than 10 minutes and travels a distance of about five miles. However, they do not always follow the norm, and have been known to stay on the ground for more than an hour and travel more than 100 miles.

Can there be a tornado after dark?,

​Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3:00-9:00 p.m., but have been known to occur at all hours of the day or night.

What does a TORNADO WATCH mean?,

​Weather conditions are right for tornadoes to develop. However, a watch does not necessarily mean that a tornado will develop. Watches are usually for areas about two-thirds the size of lower Michigan and are two to six hours long. Watches give you time to plan and prepare by placing small objects inside (such as garbage cans and bicycles) which could become deadly missiles; make sure the entire family is informed and that they know what to do if a tornado is sighted; keep children under close supervision; keep an eye on the sky and listen for later statements and warnings.

What does a TORNADO WARNING mean?,

​A tornado has been sighted or is strongly indicated by radar. Seek shelter immediately and listen to the radio or television for additional information. The new Enhanced Fujita-Pearson Tornado Scale EF-0: 65-85 mph, loss of roofing material, chimney damage, large tree branches broken, some large trees uprooted. EF-1: 86-110 mph, considerable loss of roof material, mobile homes pushed off foundations or overturned, bent light poles. EF-2: 111-135 mph, large roof sections removed, mobile homes demolished, trees uprooted. EF-3: 136-165 mph, roofs and walls torn down, trains overturned, cars thrown. EF-4: 166-200 mph, well-constructed walls leveled. EF-5: over 200 mph, homes lifted off foundations and carried considerable distances, autos thrown as far as 100 meters.

Where do I seek shelter?,

​In home: A basement offers the greatest safety. Seek shelter under sturdy furniture if possible. In a home without a basement take cover in the center of the house on the lowest floor in a small room such as a closet or bathroom or under sturdy furniture. In a manufactured/mobile home or vehicle: Leave and go to a substantial structure before the storm arrives. If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine or culvert with your hands shielding your head. At work or school: Follow plans to move to interior hallways or small rooms on the lowest floor. Avoid areas with glass and wide, free-span roofs. (Schools, factories and office buildings should designate someone to look for severe weather and initiate an alarm.) In open country: If possible, get into a sturdy building, or lie flat in a ditch or depression and hold onto something on the ground.

What if you are a victim?,

​Do your best to protect yourself, your family and your neighbors from further danger. Make certain that authorities are notified that you are a tornado victim. Be prepared to cooperate with trained and authorized officers and volunteers who will arrive to give aid. Do not sign contracts to repair work, remove rubble or get new insurance without consulting authorities.