Tornado Facts:

  • Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air extending from severe thunderstorms to the ground.

  • Tornadoes are usually preceded by very heavy rain and, possibly, hail.  If hail falls from a thunderstorm, it is an indication that the storm has large amounts of energy and may be severe.  In general, the larger the hailstones, the more potential for damaging thunderstorm winds and/or tornadoes.

  • The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction, with wind speeds of 250 m.p.h. or more!

  • An average tornado damage path is one to two miles long, but can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.

  • Widths vary considerably during a single tornado, from less than ten yards to more than a mile, but are typically about 50 yards wide.

  • The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, though tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.

  • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 m.p.h., but vary from nearly stationary to more than 70 m.p.h.

  • Tornadoes can occur throughout the year; however, the peak season in North Carolina is March through May.

  • Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., but have been known to occur at all hours of the day or night.

  • National Weather Service (NWS) Offices in Raleigh, Morehead City and Wilmington, NC; Blacksburg and Wakefield, VA; Greenville-Spartanburg, SC; and Morristown, TN provide warnings for North Carolina.

  • The NWS is now using Doppler Radar to sense air movement within thunderstorms.  Early detection of increasing rotation aloft within a thunderstorm can allow time for lifesaving warnings before the tornado forms.