“It does not take an EF5 tornado to cause a deadly event for your family. So we are wanting people to respond to any tornado warning as if it’s the worst thing that could happen to that family” says Steve Runnels, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Springfield.

Chilling. Those images of the Joplin tornado damage and strong words of warning from the National Weather Service are chilling. And while violent EF5 tornadoes like the one we saw in Joplin are rare, a “weak” tornado still packs winds over 100 mph and can be deadly.

Moisture and warm air create instability, or fuel in the atmosphere for upward winds. Once these upward winds start to spin, we’ve got a tornado. These tornadoes range in severity, but even the so-called weak ones can uproot trees, and flip over cars. That’s why— whether a tornado warning says radar indicated or observed, it’s important to heed every single warning.

“We have the ability to detect tornadoes on radar, that’s why a lot of our tornadoes are going to say radar indicated, still a potentially deadly event. On the other hand, what Joplin taught us, if we can confirm the threat, storm spotters or even the Doppler radar itself, we’ve got some capabilities, but if we confirm the threat, we can tell the public that storm has destroyed an elementary school, overturned mobile homes, uprooted trees, and that coveys a certain greater level of impact and hopefully people take shelter a whole lot quicker” explains Steve Runnels, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Springfield.

Warnings are issued during the event. After, the National Weather Service heads out to the devastation with wind experts to look at the structures, vegetation, anything that can put together the story… Was it a tornado or straight-line winds? How strong were the winds in the tornado? It can mean the difference between damage to shingles, and complete destruction of the home.

That’s what the ED scale is… It’s labeled 0-5, and determined after the event when they do that storm survey of the damage to determine wind speed. The categories of wind speed range from weak to significant to catastrophic. These weak EF0-EF1 tornadoes can still pack upwards of 100 mph winds, seeing damage like uprooted trees which can land on homes and cars.

More significant structural damage can be seen at EF3 winds as high as 135 mph. EF4 and EF5 are incredibly strong tornadoes – devastating and catastrophic damage with winds upwards of 200 mph, homes will be destroyed.

While tornadoes are possible any time of the year, we typically see them in the spring season when we can tap into warm, cold, dry, and moist air at once…the months of March, April, and May.

By strength, the violent EF4 and EF5 tornadoes are rare, we tend to see more weak to significant EF0-EF3 tornadoes. However, even the so-called weak EF0 has caused injuries and fatalities.

Hundreds injured, died in EF2-EF3 tornadoes in SW Missouri since 1962. Joplin tornado killed and injured over 1,000 people. So take these warnings seriously. In the event of a tornado warning, seek shelter inside a sturdy building, get to the lowest level or interior room of home away from windows. Evacuate mobile homes.

When taking shelter, put a helmet on the kids to protect their head. Get low…in the basement or interior room like a closet or bathroom away from windows. Put your severe weather safety kit with first aid items, food, water, batteries and flashlights in your safe place ahead of possible warnings during the first issuance of a Tornado Watch.

If you’re stuck on the road during a tornado warning, it is actually safer to evacuate your car and lay down low in a ditch.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/tornado/prepare.shtml