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Introduction: A storm is a type of violent atmospheric disturbance. Hurricanes, thunderstorms, and blizzards are storms. So are tornadoes. A tornado is a rotating column of air that forms from thunderstorm clouds down to the ground. One usually only lasts a few minutes, but can last longer. A tornado can touch down in one place or leave a path of damage as it travels across the ground. Tornadoes can potentially form anywhere on Earth. However, with over 1,000 tornadoes per year, more tornadoes occur in the United States than any other country. Weather patterns of the Great Plains region create more tornadoes than other parts of the U.S. This region is often called Tornado Alley.

Meteorologists are still studying the science of tornado formation. Tornadoes usually form along with strong thunderstorms. However, most thunderstorms never create tornadoes. Tornadoes are devastating storms because of their intense wind speeds. Both wind and flying debris can cause property destruction and death. Since gathering wind speed data from tornadoes is difficult and dangerous, tornadoes are ranked by the damage they cause. In the United States, tornado damage was historically rated with the Fujita scale. This scale ranged from F0 tornadoes that caused light damage to F5 tornadoes that caused incredible damage. Today, its updated version, the Enhanced Fujita scale (Enhanced F-scale) is used. Scientists analyze the intensity of property damage caused by the tornado and assign damage ratings based on the scale.

Like with any storm, being prepared is key. A tornado watch will be issued when weather conditions are favorable for tornado formation. A tornado warning will be issued when a tornado has been seen or is visible on radar. Some communities sound tornado sirens to warn people of approaching tornadoes. Seek cover in a basement or storm shelter immediately! Never wait to watch a tornado.