Interesting Tornado Facts for Kids

Interesting Tornado Facts for Kids

Hey kids did you know that tornadoes are fast and destructive! They can move at wind speeds up to 300 miles per hour and destroy everything in their path. Do you want to learn cool facts about the whipping and swirling winds of a tornado?  Check out these interesting tornado facts for kids!

What is a Tornado?

A tornado is a rapidly spinning column of air that touches the cloud above it and the ground below it.  Tornadoes can generate the most powerful, violent winds on Earth.  The word tornado comes from the Spanish word tronada meaning thunderstorm.  Tornadoes are sometimes referred to as twisters.

What does a Tornado Look Like?

A tornado looks like a swirling funnel cloud of air, that touches both the cloud above it and the ground below it.

How does a Tornado Form?

Tornadoes usually form during thunderstorms. They begin inside storm clouds.  These storm clouds are called cumulonimbus clouds.  These clouds bring thunder, lightning, rain, wind, and even hail.

Tornadoes occur when warm humid air rises up from the ground toward the cumulonimbus clouds where it is met with a cooler air mass and strong winds.  A change in wind direction along with high wind speeds causes the air to swirl horizontally and create a vortex similar to when you unplug the bathtub drain and the water swirls down the drain.  The difference is that during a tornado the air makes a vortex of air that goes upward into the cumulonimbus cloud.  The rising air from the ground pushes up on the swirling air and it tips to the side.  The funnel of swirling air begins to suck up more warm humid air from the ground causing the funnel to grow longer and longer once that funnel of air touches the ground it’s officially a tornado.

Tornado Rating Scale

In 1971, Theodore Fujita created a Fujita Tornado Scale.  The Fujita Tornado Scale rates tornadoes from F-0-F5.  F-0 tornadoes are the least dangerous and cause the smallest amount of damage.  The F-5 tornado is the most damaging and causes the most severe amount of damage.

Over the years scientists continued to research tornadoes and their rate damage.  In 2007 the Fujita Tornado Scale was enhanced.  Tornadoes are now rates on an EF-0-Ef-F-5 scale.

Scientists are only able to give estimates of wind speeds in a tornado.  These estimates are based on the amount and severity of the damage they cause.

Tornado RatingWind Speeds Damage 
EF-065-85 MPHBroken tree branches, down power lines
EF-186-110 MPHDamage to roofs and uproot small trees
EF-2111-136 MPHTear off roofs, damage to mobile homes, uproot large trees
EF-3137-166 MPHTurn over cars, trucks and mobile homes
EF-4167-200 MPHDemolish houses, destroy neighborhoods
EF-5201- over 300 MPHDestry towns, derail trains
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Tornado Warning

Meteorologists are scientists that study weather.  They are always researching new ways to predict tornadoes.  Currently, people only have about 13-15 minute warnings before a tornado occurs. Meteorologists would like to be able to give people more time to get to safety.

Where do Tornadoes Form?

Tornadoes can occur all over the world.  The United States has the highest number of tornadoes every year.  The cool air masses from Canada meeting the warm air masses from the Gulf of Mexico is the perfect combination for tornadoes to form.

Tornado Alley

Tornado Alley is a region in the middle of the U.S where tornadoes frequently occur.   This region is located in parts of the following states: South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado.

The country’s most devastating tornadoes occur in Tornado Alley.  Tornadoes in this region occur most frequently during the months of April, May, and June.


Tornadoes also occur in the state of Florida.  The tornadoes that occur in Florida are usually less damaging than the ones the occur in Tornado Alley.  In Florida tornadoes usually occur during the months of January, February, and March.

Interesting Tornado Facts for Kids

  1. Tornadoes mostly occur in the afternoon.
  2. Most last less than 10 minutes
  3. Tornadoes have a with between 300-500 yards. The widest tornado on record was on May 31st 2013 in El Reno Oklahoma. The tornado was 2.6 miles wide!
  4. In the Northern Hemisphere, most tornadoes rotate counter-clockwise.  In the Southern Hemisphere, most tornadoes rotate clockwise.
  5. There has been a record of a tornado touching the ground in all 50 states.
  6. Most tornadoes are classified as an EF0 or EF1
  7. Oklahoma has had the most violent tornadoes on record from 1950-2016.  With a total of  65 EF4 or higher tornadoes.
  8. On average Texas has the most tornadoes per year.
  9. Meteorologists or Atmospheric Scientists study tornadoes.

Tornado Damage

Damage from a tornado can be severe. Tornadoes move very quickly, in under 10 minutes entire neighborhoods can be destroyed. Trees can be uprooted, A roof of a house can be torn off, cars can be flipped over. Tornadoes can even take an entire house down only leaving pieces for families to look through to gather belongings.