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Plan & Prepare

Family Preparedness: Tornadoes

(Much of the information on this page is adapted from information provided by the American Red Cross, FEMA and the National Weather Service).

Tornadoes: Read This First!

Track The Weather

Track color-coded maps with New Jersey's real-time NWS weather forecasts:

Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or a local news source for weather information and for instructions from public safety officials. Remember: A battery-powered radio is a vital part of your Emergency Supply Kit.

Tornadoes: The Facts

A tornado is a violent windstorm characterized by a twisting, funnel-shaped cloud. It is spawned by a Severe Thunderstorm, or sometimes as the result of a Hurricane, and produced when cool air overrides a layer of warm air, forcing the warm air to rise rapidly. The damage from a tornado is a result of its high wind velocity and wind-blown debris.

Tornado season is generally March through August, though tornadoes can occur at any time of year. They tend to occur in the afternoons and evenings. Over 80 percent of all tornadoes strike between noon and midnight.

When a tornado threatens, individuals need a safe place to go and time to get there. Those most at risk are individuals in manufactured homes or automobiles.

Even with advances in meteorology, tornado warning times may be short or even impossible. Lives are saved when individuals receive and understand the warning, know what to do, and know the safest place to go.

The Fugita-Pearson Tornado Scale measures tornado strengths, from F-0 (weakest) to F-5:

  • F-0: 40-72 mph, chimney damage, tree branches broken
  • F-1: 73-112 mph, manufactured homes pushed off foundation or overturned
  • F-2: 113-157 mph, considerable damage, manufactured homes demolished, trees uprooted
  • F-3: 158-206 mph, roofs and walls torn down, trains overturned, cars thrown
  • F-4: 207-260 mph, well-constructed walls leveled
  • F-5: 261-318 mph, homes lifted off foundation and carried considerable distances, autos thrown as far as 100 meters

According to The Tornado Project, only about 1 percent of all tornadoes from 1950-1994 were classified as "Violent" (F-4 and F-5). About 25 percent were classified as "Strong" (F-2 and F-3). The great majority, about 74 percent, were "Weak" (F-0 and F-1).

However, The Tornado Project reports that while "Violent" tornadoes occur less frequently, they cause a very high percentage of tornado-related deaths. "Violent" (F-4 and F-5) tornadoes caused 67 percent of tornado-related deaths from 1950-1994. "Strong" (F-2 and F-3) tornadoes caused 29 percent. "Weak" (F-0 and F-1) tornadoes caused only 4 percent.

Learn More

Follow these Links for much more information on Tornadoes and Tornado Preparedness.

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New Jersey Office of Emergency Management
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