Severe weather awareness week continues today in New York, Connecticut, Vermont, and Massachusetts as the National Weather Service urges all residents to be weather ready by protecting themselves from the hazards of flooding, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms. Each day during the week a different severe weather topic is reviewed and today’s discussion will take an in depth look at tornadoes along with a severe weather communication drill that will be conducted at 1:15 p.m.
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air in contact with the ground and attached to the cloud above. The strongest tornadoes have wind speeds in excess of 200 mph, widths approaching one mile wide, and lengths of many miles. These strong tornadoes can be on the ground for up to an hour or longer. Most tornadoes are weaker and can move at varying speeds. About 77 percent of all tornadoes in New York are rather weak, 21 percent are strong, and a slim two percent are violent.
Each year, an average of nine tornadoes touch down in New York, with about five of those occurring in eastern New York. The most common time for tornadoes to occur in our region is between May and August, but they have occurred during every season. Despite some misconceptions, tornadoes can touch down anywhere and also any time of day, although the most frequent time is typically during the heat of the day in the afternoon or evening.
A specific atmospheric environment is conducive to tornado development. In order for a thunderstorm to produce a tornado, it most typically occurs in a region where winds change direction and speed with height, which creates a horizontal spinning in the atmosphere. A strong upward motion, or updraft, from a severe thunderstorm is what turns that horizontal spinning in to the vertical. This area of rotation in the thunderstorm is referred to as the mesocyclone and can be anywhere from two to six miles wide. Most tornadoes form in this area of rotation.
If a tornado warning is issued, move to an interior room or basement that is safe. Stay away from windows, get as low to the ground as possible, and cover your head. Be aware of flying debris during a tornado as it is often the leading cause of most injuries and fatalities. Those in mobile homes should evacuate and move to a designated place of safety as a mobile home offers little protection from a tornado and will likely be completely destroyed or thrown away. There are many ways to receive watch and warning information from the National Weather Service, including the best way which is a NOAA weather radio. Every home in American should have a NOAA weather radio. Local television and radio media also broadcast severe weather alerts over their airwaves and computers or wireless devices can also receive warnings.
At 1:15 p.m. this afternoon, the National Weather Service, the New York State Office of Emergency Management, the New York State Department of Education, and the New York State Broadcasters Association will conduct a test of the hazardous weather warning system. This drill will allow the National Weather Service to test communications systems available during hazardous weather situations.
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