Tornadoes in the United States
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Tornadoes in the United States

Although tornadoes can strike anywhere in the United States, most of them strike east of the Rocky Mountains. Be prepared, and know what to look for when a tornado strikes. With over 1,000 tornadoes a year, you could be the next one affected. Always be prepared for the worst, and hope for the best.

In small town Oklahoma, the community wakes up to a clear blue, warm, and sunny day. In the Oklahoma City metro, the citizens are off to work on a normal spring day. As every one gets ready to leave work that day, clouds start to roll into the state. When rush hour hits, nearly 1,252,987 people are out on the road trying to reach home. All of a sudden, the wind picks up in small town Oklahoma. Sirens start to ring, tornado sirens. The citizens go to take shelter, and a minute later, their houses are crushed by a powerful EF3 tornado. The sirens start to blast in the Oklahoma City metro, and a few minutes later, the north side is hit hard by another EF3 tornado. The warning sirens were put out in enough time for most people to make it to safety, but over 100 people are injured and 2 are confirmed dead. Many people are homeless, and aid is being brought in from across the region.

This scene happens multiple times a year in the United States. The United States has the highest number of tornadoes in the world, averaging 1,274 per year. Tornadoes are one of nature’s fiercest types of weather. A tornado is a rotating column of air that forms inside of a thunderstorm, and reaches the ground. Tornadoes are classified on the enhanced Fujita scale from EF0 to EF5. An EF0 contains winds from 65 to 85 mph. An EF5 contains winds in excess of 200 mph. but how do these monsters form?

Tornadoes only form in certain conditions. The atmosphere must be unstable for the formation of tornadoes. This means that the ground layer has to be warm and moist, while they upper atmosphere needs to be dry and cold.  The warm moist Gulf of Mexico air must meet cold artic air. This will cause a sudden updraft, and even faster downdraft, thus creating a thunderstorm. When winds from opposite directions enter a storm and meet, they create a horizontal column of air. The column of air then slowly shifts to a vertical position, and creates an area of low pressure near the base of the storm. Air rushes in to fill in the low pressure pocket, and becomes strong enough to pick objects up.  This will go on for a normally short period of time, and then the downdraft of the storm will rip apart the rotation of the storm. So now that you know how tornadoes are caused, were do they form?

In the United States, tornadoes form mostly east of the Rocky Mountains. The conditions needed for tornado formation are best in this region, specifically in Tornado Alley. When you see a picture of a tornado on a wide open field, you are probably looking at the region called Tornado Alley. This region contains the states from Texas to North Dakota and from the Rockies to the Mississippi River. Tornado Alley accounts for nearly 75% of the tornadoes in the United States. Even though you may not live in a tornado prone area, tornadoes can form anywhere in the continental United States. Always check the weather, and be prepared for anything, because the United States is constantly hammered with storms. 

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Interesting information about the tornadoes.

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