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Watch this video before reading the text. It will help you visualize how a tornado looks like in real life!
There is a small town in Kansas called Greensburg. One night in 2007 something terrible happened there. A siren went off a little before ten o’clock. A siren is a machine that makes a loud noise to warn people of danger. This siren warned the people of Greensburg that a tornado was moving toward them. The tornado was as wide as seventeen football fields. Its winds were moving faster than 200 miles per hour.
The tornado destroyed Greensburg. It threw cars and trucks through the air. It lifted some homes off the ground. It knocked other homes down. It also killed ten people.
The tornado was gone in less than ten minutes. Then people in Greensburg came out of their basements. They climbed through the ruins of their town. The tornado had destroyed everything. A person in downtown Greensburg said, “There’s really nothing left.”
How do tornadoes form?
A tornado is a spinning tube of wind. It forms during a thunderstorm. Thunderstorms happen when warm, wet air mixes with cool, dry air. Next, the air moves in circles to form a wide tube of spinning air. That tube stretches down from the sky to the ground. Once it touches the ground, it becomes a tornado.
People in Kansas are used to tornadoes. That is because they live in an area where a lot of tornadoes happen. It is called “Tornado Alley.” “Tornado Alley” is in the middle of the United States. It has the right kind of weather for thunderstorms and tornadoes to form. It has warm, wet air from the Gulf of Mexico mixing with cool, dry air from the Arctic. It also has a lot of wide, open space that allows many tornadoes to form. There are over 600 tornadoes in “Tornado Alley” every year.
How do scientists predict dangerous storms?
Some scientists study weather. They try to figure out when storms are going to happen. They use radar to help them. Radar is a tool that can track storms, including tornadoes. It tells scientists how far away tornadoes are and how fast they are moving. Although the winds in a tornado spin fast, tornadoes move across the ground more slowly. They move at 18 to 30 miles an hour. That is slow enough for scientists to learn where a tornado might go.
The information that scientists gather about tornadoes is shared with the public. The public gets this information from alerts called watches and warnings. A tornado “watch” means there are weather conditions that could cause a tornado. A “warning” means that a tornado has formed and been seen. These alerts let people know when they might be in danger.
A tornado warning saved many lives in Greensburg. Sirens warned people that a tornado had formed. They gave people time to go somewhere safe. Many people went into their basements. Twenty minutes after the sirens went off, the tornado came through and destroyed their town.
This video explains how a tornado is formed. Note the similarities that it has with what you just read.
“Tornado Alley Facts.” Tornado Alley Facts - Learn About Tornado Alley, www.tornadofacts.net/tornado-alley-facts.php.