Severe Weather Awareness Week: Tornadoes and tornado safety


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Tornadoes can form just about any time of year for East Tennessee, Southeast Kentucky and Southwest Virginia.

However, as we head toward our spring severe weather season, the likelihood of tornadoes increases. We have seen several tornadoes over the years in our region.

How tornadoes form

Part of understanding tornadoes is understanding how they form.

Tornadoes occur in rotating thunderstorms in which there is low-level wind flow in one direction and upper-level flow in another. In the middle, a tube of air begins to form. It is horizontal or parallel to the surface, and it will spin, waiting for an updraft of wind. The wind can get lifted up with the heating of the air and then get into a thunderstorm developing complex. Due to that updraft, the tube of air becomes more vertical and rotation continues.

The environment then becomes just right for tornadoes to form.

How tornadoes are measured

Tornadoes are measured using the Enhanced Fujita scale. This measures tornado strength based on the damage that the tornado creates and estimates of the wind speed. For an EF-5, you’re looking at wins over 200 miles per hour.

Across our area, some counties see more tornadoes than others. McMinn county over the years has seen a higher number of tornadoes. While tornadoes here are not as frequent as they are in Dixie Alley or the Midwest, we certainly get our share.

Tornado safety

Where’s the safe spot in your home? Well for most, if you have a basement that’s where you need to be. This is the safe zone. But if you do not have a basement, you want to go in an interior hallway or perhaps a small bathroom, just make sure it is in the middle of the home.

(This is one of a series of stories by the WATE 6 Storm Team for Severe Weather Awareness Week.)


Flooding and flood safety

Lightning formation and lightning safety

How hail forms and hail sizes

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