The most extensive tornado outbreak on record, in almost every category, was the Super Outbreak, which affected a large area of the central United States and extreme southern Ontario in Canada on April 3 and April 4, 1974. Exceptional tornado coincidence: The small town of Codell, Kansas, was hit by a tornado on the same date three years straight. Exceptional tornado survivor: Matt Suter of rural Fordland, Missouri, holds the record for the longest known distance traveled by anyone picked up by a tornado who lived to tell about it. Follow members of a National Geographic team as they careen into the hearts of storms and take a closer look at tornadoes and the phenomenal forces that drive them. Tornadoes peeled roofs off homes, tossed big-rigs in the air, and left flattened tractor trailers. The start of spring brings blooming flowers, balmier temperatures and something else not so pleasant: the threat of tornadoes. Tornadoes are some of the toughest weather Mother Nature can dish out, often appearing with little warning and possessing strong winds that can cause serious damage. Some 1,200 tornadoes touch down across the United States each year, most commonly in the spring months, a transition time when unsettled weather is more likely to occur.
Even if you don't live in Tornado Alley, you could experience a tornado, and preparation and understanding your risk is key.
The United States is essentially the world capital of tornadoes because of a fluke of geography. Though this setup is most common over Tornado Alley, it can happen anywhere that conditions are right. While the peak time for tornadoes tends to be in the spring, there is no defined tornado season like there is for hurricanes.


A so-called second tornado season typically ramps up in November, again because of the transitional weather common in the fall.
Tornadoes can also happen at all times of the day.Storms tend to sweep from west to east across the country, which makes the time that tornadoes occur in particular areas vary.
Hurricanes and tropical storms can produce tornadoes when they form in the summer and fall months, typically in the thunderstorms in their outer bands.
This trips a lot of people up, but the difference is pretty simple: A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service when weather in a particular area could produce tornadoes (often this means thunderstorms are in the area).
If you're under a tornado warning, it means that a tornado has been spotted on the ground in your area or that the storm circulation seen on Doppler radar could produce a tornado. There are a lot of tornado safety myths out there, and many of them can put you in danger instead of making you safer.
For more safety tips and ideas on making a tornado safety plan, visit the SPC tornado safety site. Climatologists can look at the likely atmospheric patterns that will come into play in a given spring to deduce whether it might be a blockbuster year or a quiet one, but individual tornadoes are just too small to be able to predict far in advance.
Effectively, forecasters can only say when and where a given storm system is likely to produce tornadoes with the next few days or hours, then watch for signs of them on radar or for spotters to see one on the ground and send a warning that generally only amounts to a few minutes. Not only did this outbreak feature an incredible 148 tornadoes in only 18 hours, but an unprecedented number of them were violent; six were of F5 intensity, and twenty-four F4.
The worst tornadoes form from so-called supercell thunderstorms when warm, moist air is trapped underneath cool, dry air and when winds high up travel in a different direction than those at ground level. The peak in tornado formation in the United States tends to shift from south to north from the late spring to midsummer, according to the SPC.


Areas nearer the Rockies are less likely to see the late afternoon and early evening tornadoes that are more common in the East. The circulations that produce them are often smaller and shorter-lived than in the storms on the Great Plains and so are harder to detect and to warn for, though the tornadoes they spawn can be just as dangerous. But it doesn't mean tornadoes will definitely occur, it just means you need to be alert and paying attention to weather updates.
Tornado season starts roughly in March and is at its most active from May to June, but plenty of tornado outbreaks buck that pattern.
This outbreak had a staggering sixteen tornadoes on the ground at the same time at the peak of the outbreak. But the data that is available suggests that outside of the United States, other tornado-prone areas include Canada's prairie provinces, northeastern Mexico, northern Argentina, southern Brazil, Britain, Bangladesh and parts of southern Russia, according to the SPC. Research has found that nighttime tornadoes are twice as likely to kill people as daytime tornadoes, largely because people are asleep and may not hear weather radios or sirens. No topographic features or the fact that you're in a big city are barriers against a tornado strike, as plenty of big cities have been hit in the past and likely will be again in the future. More than 300 people, possibly as many as 330, were killed by tornadoes during this outbreak.
The threat of nighttime tornadoes increases in the winter as daylight hours shrink, and the mid-South leads the nation in experiencing nocturnal twisters.



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