Tornado Season

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air which descends from a thunderstorm cloud system. The destructive forces generated by tornadoes are unbelievable. Large buildings are reduced to rubble. Railroad cars are lifted off their tracks, and straws of grass are driven into trees and telephone poles.

These small, severe storms, form thousands of feet above the earth’s surface, usually during warm, humid, unsettled weather, and usually in conjunction with a severe thunderstorm. Sometimes a series of two or more tornadoes are associated with a parent thunderstorm. The funnel-shaped cloud of the tornado is made visible by cloud droplets, dust and debris sucked into its circulation and contains very high-speed winds rotating about a small, relatively calm center. Scientists have estimated that wind speeds vary from 100 miles per hour in weaker tornadoes to over 300 miles per hour in the strongest.

On the average, tornado paths are only a quarter of a mile wide and seldom more than 15 miles long. However, there have been spectacular instances in which tornadoes have had paths of more than a mile wide and 300 miles long. Most tornadoes travel from the southwest to northeast with an average speed of 30 mph. But the speed has been observed to range from almost no motion to 70 mph.

Most tornadoes occur in the deep south and in the broad, flat basin between the Rockies and the Appalachians, but no state is immune. Peak months of tornado activity for Kentucky and south central Indiana are usually April, May and June. However, tornadoes have occurred in every month and at all times of the day or night. A typical time of occurrence is on an unseasonably warm and sultry spring afternoon between 3 PM and 9 PM.

Continued vigilance and quick response to tornado watches and warnings are critical, since tornadoes can strike anywhere at any time. Most tornadoes are abrupt at onset, short-lived and often obscured by rain or darkness. The best way to deal with them is preparedness. Every individual and business should have a tornado emergency plan for their homes and places of work, and should learn how to protect themselves in in cars, open country, and other situations that may arise.

Remember, if a tornado warning is issued for your area, a tornado is imminent. Know what to do, have an emergency plan to protect yourself and those for whom you are responsible. Quick response when a tornado approaches can save many lives. There may be only seconds in which to act.

Remember, tornadoes can occur at any time. The time for planning is now. is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.