Tornadoes most violent storms
Tornadoes are the most violent of all storms. They are so powerful that no one can predict what they may do. Tornadoes uproot large trees, overturn houses, and carry away telephone booths and cars.
One tornado picked up a schoolhouse, turned it around, and then set it down backwards.
Another one carried off a horse, then dropped it on the ground. Luckily, the animal remained alive.
In Russia, during one tornado, people were amazed to see money falling out of the sky. At least a thousand coins dropped from the clouds. The winds had removed the earth from a buried treasure and picked up the coins.
A typical tornado is usually shaped like a funnel — wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. When it has picked up enough material (leaves, dirt, pieces of wood, etc.), it sometimes looks like a giant elephant. But tornadoes can come in other shapes, too.
Tornadoes consist of twisting winds that are probably the strongest on earth. Scientists say that they can reach speeds of up to 320 kilometres an hour. That is why they are so dangerous.
Most tornadoes last less than an hour, but some can last several hours. Such tornadoes are especially destructive.
A tornado’s path is narrow, but within this narrow path a tornado can destroy everything. It can even kill people.
The greatest killer tornado in history roared through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana on March 18, 1925. It killed 689 people. This tornado was one of the largest and fastest tornadoes ever recorded. Its path was about 354 kilometres long and up to 1.6 kilometres wide. The storm travelled at a speed of about 97 kilometres an hour.
Tornadoes occur throughout the world, but mostly in the United States. The central states, from Texas to Michigan, have probably more tornadoes than any other place on earth.
Most tornadoes occur in spring. A hot, humid day in the afternoon or in the early evening is the most likely time for this dangerous storm. Large clouds appear in the sky. They become darker and darker. There are sounds of thunder in the distance. Bright flashes of lightning are seen. A cloud then forms a funnel and begins to twist. A hissing sound begins as the funnel cloud moves towards the earth. It moves faster and faster. The faster the winds, the louder the noise. If the funnel touches the ground, it picks up everything it can. The hissing becomes a loud roar. The violent winds of a tornado blow down almost everything in its path.
Scientists have often wondered what the inside of a tornado is really like. Only a few people who saw the heart of a tornado have lived to describe it later. One of these people was Will Keller whose farm was in Kansas where tornadoes are common. He described what he saw when a tornado swept over him.
“At first everything was as still as death. There was a strong gassy smell, and it seemed as though I could not breathe. There was a screaming, hissing sound coming directly from the end of the funnel. I looked up. To my astonishment, I saw right into the heart of the tornado. In the center of the column there was a circular opening about a hundred feet wide. It extended straight upward for about half a mile.”
While inside the walls of the circular funnel Will Keller saw bolts of lightning everywhere. Flashes shot from side to side of the funnel.
Keller always remembered those few seconds when he looked up into the heart of a mighty tornado. When it finally moved away, he saw it pass over a neighbour’s house and barn and tear the buildings apart.
Fortunately, meteorologists can predict tornadoes, and today, people have a much better chance of protecting themselves.
From Speak Out 1-2, 1998
Some people think that you are safe from tornadoes if you are near rivers, lakes and mountains. How wrong they are! Tornadoes can go up 3,000-metre mountains, as well as across rivers and lakes.
No two twisters are exactly alike. Each tornado has its own colour, sound and shape.
Each tornado is filled with surprises because nobody can ever tell where it might go or what kinds of things it might do. This is why tornadoes are the most dangerous storms of all.