There are countless differences between a hurricane and a tornado. Both are very severe, menacing storms. Nevertheless there may be one that prevails to be more dangerous then the other. I have not had the “pleasure” of suffering either and would like to keep it that way. I have studied them however and did a research paper in high school on both storms. There is no clear cut answer for the question, “Which one is more dangerous.” The only way to know truly which one is worse is to experience both of them. However I will continue to describe each one and the difference between the two. I will try to prove hurricanes are, in my educated opinion, in fact more dangerous then tornadoes.
When warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cool dry air from Canada meet they formulate and instability in the atmosphere. Invisible horizontal spinning affects in the lower atmospheres are created, when you have a change in wind speed with increasing height. When the air rises within the updraft it tilts the rotating air from spinning horizontally to spinning vertically. When this happens you end up with an area, 2-7, miles long that extends though most of the storm. This is where most tornadoes form, within the area of strong rotation. Usually tornadoes form from violent thunderstorms. Tornado seasons varrie among different areas of the country. In souther states tornado season is usually between March and May. Then again in the fall. In the norther states it is usually in the summer time. Tornadoes are most likely to form between 3 PM and 9 PM in all areas.
A hurricane needs a very warm ocean to conduct its energy. It also needs a disturbance of some sort in the atmosphere, such as a front or depression. Hurricanes ordinarily start as a tropical storm. Add some energy, upper level winds, moisture and a trigger of some kind and you get a hurricane. A hurricane moves with the wind. Hurricanes can be tracked because of this. Meteorologist can see where the wind stream is going, therefore can track the direction of the hurricane. This is why they can warn cities and states to evacuate. I thought that these were a few interesting facts about the history of hurricanes. The earliest hurricane on record came from Christopher Columbus in 1494. There are records from the early settlements in Virginia, that talk about the waves of Cheapeake Bay rising 12-16 feet in the 1600’s and 1700’s. However none of these records came from Meteorologists. The first recorded hurricane from a meteorologist was in 1871, before that most of the hurricanes on record was from ships journals.
There are many ways to stay safe during each of these storms. It is very important to know what to do if ever you encounter a hurricane or tornado. In a hurricane you should be in a room with no windows. If in a room with windows and a window breaks the storm is now in your house. This makes for a very unsafe condition. So the first rule of staying safe is always to be in a room with no windows, if you have no rooms like this a closet is a good alternative. Even if your board your windows they are still unsafe. Hurricanes can hurl object with super human strength. A hurricane can blow a very small object right through ply wood and shatter the window. Secondly stay out of the garage, a garage door is very unsafe. Finally you should lie under a table or some other sturdy object. Do not let yourself be fooled if there is a calm in the storm. Usually this means your are in the eye of the storm. Stay close to your refuge during the first few minutes of a calm to make sure that the storm is in fact over.
Staying safe in a tornado is somewhat easier. Usually the best place to be is in a shelter such as a basement or usually in places where tornadoes are a normal occurrence they have specially designed basements, or storm cellars. If there is no basement or cellar you should go to the lowest level of where you are and stay away from windows, doors, outside walls and corners. Like a hurricane you should get under a table or other sturdy object during a tornado. In both cases it is a good idea to cover yourself with something such as a mattress. This helps to prevent injuries from debris that is being whipped around by the storm. You should use your arms to help protect your neck and head. A mobile holds absolutely no protection for you from a tornado. If you are aware that one is coming you should evacuate immediately. If caught in a storm in one you should make the best possible effort to get to a place that has a more secure shelter. If you get caught outside in a tornado you should lie in a ditch and cover your head with your hands, keep watch for flooding though. Never get under a bride or overpass and never try to outrun a tornado. Always try to avoid being outside since debris is one of the leading causes of fatalities with tornadoes and hurricanes.
The differences between hurricanes and tornadoes leads into why one is more dangerous then the other. Hurricanes needs warm water. It acts as a source of energy. One of the most prominent differences between the two is a hurricane starts over the ocean. Once it hits land it dies. However it can do a lot of damage before it completely dies out and the winds from a hurricane, while it is out to sea, are still very dangerous. A hurricane is a very large storm and can cover many miles. Tornadoes are significantly smaller then hurricanes. They usually last a very short period of time and do not cover much land.
There are also similarities between the two. For example they can both start over water. They both form when warm damp winds blow into one another from different directions and both of them have eyes. The danger of the eye is that it can be very wide, in both storms. People can misinterpret the eye of the storm wrongly. The eye of the storm or the “calm” is in the middle of the storm. Have you ever filled a two liter soda bottle full of water, then spun it around? If you have then you know that when you stop spinning it, it forms a cyclone of water. There is a spot in the middle of the swirling water that is just air. This is similar to the eye of either storm. It’s the middle of the swirling winds. It can span across many miles and deceives people into thinking that the storm is over. When actually it is only just halfway over.
Which leads me to comparing both storms, in hopes to prove my theory that hurricanes are more powerful then tornadoes. First lets compare wind speeds. Since winds can cause the most damage I think that is a good place to start.
A tornado is mostly a swirling spiral of powerful winds. While a hurricane is more of an all over type of wind. Tornadoes are classified based on there winds. An F5 tornado is the most powerful tornado of all. It’s winds can reach 320mph. That is almost half the speed of light. An F5 tornado harbors the most dangerous winds on earth. The winds of an F5 tornado can pick your car up and fling is the length of a foot ball field. You would not want to be in the path of anything moving that fast. However most tornadoes usually have winds less then 200mph. Which is still very dangerous. If you think about it, would you want to be in the path of anything moving that fast either? A hurricane has dangerous winds as well. Week hurricanes usually have about 90mph winds. While a strong hurricane can have winds that can top at 200mph. With hurricane winds like that it is impossible for a human to stand up. Remember that old skit on seaseme street? So I guess both storms can have winds that top at about the same speeds. However a tornado at it’s weakest usually has the wind speeds of a hurricane at it’s strongest. As I said before, there are no other winds on earth stronger then a tornadoes. So tornadoes win the wind speed battle.
The next battle will be size. Let’s look at the size’s of both storms. A hurricane’s size has absolutely nothing to do with its force. It actually usually the smaller ones that have the stronger winds. However a hurricane can span over entire states. They normally are about 200-300 miles in diameter. The biggest ones can be over 700 miles. While tornadoes are actually pretty small. Drastically small when comparing them to a hurricanes size. Normally tornadoes range from 36 yards to a few hundred yards at the ground point. However larger ones can be more then a mile in width. That is still nothing compared to a large hurricane that as I said before can span across 700 miles. Still tornadoes can travel on land over several hundred miles before disappearing. Even thought a tornado can travel several hundred miles through the sky a hurricane still rule the sky with over a 700 mile span. I think that hurricanes dominate in size.
Now lets take a look at frequency and range. Hurricanes needs warm oceans to fuel there rage. Once they hit land then tend to die quickly. This factors greatly on where they can strike. The more inland you go, the more your risk of being caught in a hurricane declines. Tornadoes can occur anywhere there is a shift in the winds. There more likely to occur over flat terrain but are not limited to there. In fact tornadoes can also form over water. Tornadoes can usually be found in the United States. They do touch down in other area’s as well, such as Europe, India and Australia. We usually see about 800 tornadoes a year in the United States. While most hurricanes never even see populated areas. Even though tornadoes do not have the size factor that hurricanes do, they make up for it in their frequency. There have been years that we have had 100 times as many tornadoes then hurricanes. Tornadoes can also strike anywhere, while hurricanes are limited to coastal areas.
So far we are on a pretty even scale as to which one is actually more dangerous then the other. Which is why it is so hard to answer this question. Let’s compare the damage each one can cause. Since it had been awhile since I wrote my paper I actually did look this one up. In April, 1974 we had the biggest out break of tornadoes on record. It was actually called the “super outbreak”. During these few days 148 tornadoes touched down over 13 states. They causes damages of over $600 million. $100 million was from one tornado alone that destroyed half of the town Xenia, Ohio. Hurricanes can really pack a punch. Not only can hurricanes destroy a home but because of the rain and surf that come along with them they can also erode shores and flood cities. Just look at what happened to New Orleans. They are still recovering from the damages. Not only did it leave millions of people stranded, it also destroyed a historical town that will never be the same. Because of all the elements that come with a hurricane, I think that they cause more damage then tornadoes. Which can run through a town and still leave many buildings untouched. Unlike a hurricane that is likely to cause damage to everything in the area of the storm.
So lets move on the the most important one. The death toll. Tornadoes kill on average 100 people per year in the United States. The Great Tri-State Tornado in March 1925, is still the worst on record as far as deaths. it killed 695 people and left 2,207 injured after it’s fury. It also destroyed more then 15,000 homes. Although tornados can be tracked pretty well and people warned greatly in advance, there are still some cases that are unavoidable. Hurricanes however kill many more people per year. Even though the numbers keep going down due to weather tracking and evacuation method each hurricane that hits the United States still manages to take many life’s. Each one has it’s own numbers but they are always in the hundreds. Hurricanes always take more life’s when they strike, compared to tornadoes. This is one aspect that a hurricane wins hands down.
So after debating all of these issues, which one ends up on top? Neither one is something I want to encounter anytime soon. Tornado’s are powerful in the own way, however they rip through a town picking there way among a few houses and people. While a hurricane unleashes it’s wrath on everything in it’s path. Hurricanes also have more Ali’s in there destruction then a tornado does. Bringing with it rain, winds and the ocean. Hurricanes also have a higher death toll because there are so many factors in there storm. While tornado’s are a forces to be reckoned with, hurricanes are hell it self unleashing it’s fury. Hands down, hurricanes are bigger, badder and far more deadly then tornado’s.