The Anatomy of a Tornado

The site of a tornado is both amazing and terrifying one of Mother Nature’s unexpected furies. With very little warning it strikes with awesome power clearing everything in its path, it lifts back in to the air and touches down again maybe only a few yards away or maybe a few miles. The tornado has a mind all of its own.

A tornado also called a funnel cloud or twister is swirling tunnel of air. The air inside the funnel can reach a speed up to 379 miles per hour.

The anatomy of a tornado is actually quite simple compared to other types of storms. Tornadoes can present themselves in one of two ways, as a result of a supercell storm system or the non supercell form.


Includes three types of tornadoes; the gustnado which is a weak tornado that forms as a result of a shelf cloud within a semi to organized storm front.

The landspout is formed from a collection of cumulus clouds in an unorganized storm front and is similar to a swirling windstorm.

The waterspout is a tornado that forms over the water much in the same way a landspout forms.


A supercell storm is a powerful thunderstorm which produces the right conditions of air mixture for a tornado to form. The tornado forms as a result of the rotating air that is already rising known as the updraft. The tornado becomes an extension of the storm forming its own tunnel of organized air moving rapidly in a circular motion. Once it is formed it breaks free of the supercell and is classified as a tornado.

A tornado also called a funnel cloud or twister is swirling tunnel of air. The air inside the funnel can reach a speed up to 379 miles per hour.

The category of a tornado is based on the Fujita Scale that has six breakdowns that classify the strength a tornado. From the website


* F-0 ~ wind speeds from 40 to 72 mph
* F-1 ~ wind speeds from 73 to 112 mph
* F-2 ~ wind speeds from 113 to 157 mph
* F-3 ~ wind speeds from 158 to 206 mph
* F-4 ~ wind speeds from 207 to 260 mph
* F-5 ~ wind speeds from 261 to 318 mph
* F-6 ~ wind speeds from 319 to 379 mph

Since 1950 there have been 52 tornados that were classified as F5’s the most recent was May 4, 2007 in Greensburg, KS. Wiping the town right off the map. “The National Weather Service concluded that the tornado was 1.7 miles wide at it widest point and tracked 22 miles before lifting.” Thirteen people were killed and hundreds injured.

In 2007 alone 54 people were killed as a result of a tornado. Many states in the past few years have had to endure more than a dozen tornadoes touching down in the same areas.

Tornadoes are most common in the area of the United States known as Tornado Alley which includes Alabama, Texas, Ohio, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota. While Florida and Mississippi also have their share of tornadoes as well.

A tornado can touch down anywhere – it’s not restricted to certain states, it just seems to favor some states more than others.