By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
From late winter to mid-summer, tornado season sweeps through the South and Midwest states. With an average of 1,200 tornadoes reported each year, the USA has the highest number of tornadoes in the world, and this year is no exception. Cyclones spinning at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour are destroying houses, trees, and cars in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Tornadoes are birthed from violent thunderstorms, when warm, moist air clashes with cooler, dry air to create instability in the atmosphere. If wind direction changes and speeds up at the same time, this begins to create an area of rotation 2-6 miles wide, inside of which a vicious tornado can form.
Similar to how earthquakes are rated on a Richter scale, tornadoes are scored by the Enhanced Fujita Scale from EF0 to EF5. At EF0, “gale” winds range from 65 mph to 85 mph, while EF5 winds are described as “incredible” at over 200 mph. Currently, most of the tornadoes hitting the USA are EF3, which are called “severe” winds.
The National Weather Service predicted the recent dangerous tornado outbreak, so at least states could prepare themselves for the worst. However, the damage is impossible to prevent, especially with hail bigger than golf balls falling from the sky. Power outages are sweeping across several counties, and a half-mile-wide tornado rampaged for 80 miles through the suburbs of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Image of waterspout courtesy of Joey Mole and NASA.