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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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