Tornadoes are violent rotating columns of air that usually occur on the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. They are natureas most violent storms and can cause severe damage.
On Saturday, a wild weather front dropped three weak tornadoes in parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island. They ripped off trees, snapped power poles and knocked cars off the road.
Tornadoes are violent rotating columns of air that reach speeds of 300 mph, which can destroy buildings and create deadly flying debris. They are spawned inside thunderstorms, which contain rotating, upward-blowing areas of air called mesocyclones.
They are often accompanied by lightning, heavy rain and strong wind gusts. They are natures most violent storms.
To develop, a tornado needs to have a good source of warm, moist air flowing inward to power it. This is typically provided by the thunderstorm itself, which has a large cloud of hot, moist air called a mesocyclone.
As the mesocyclone grows, increasing rainfall drags with it an area of fast-descending air known as a rear flank downdraft (RFD). This RFD carries the rotating mesocyclone to the ground and then forms the core of the tornado.
A tornado can appear as a funnel-shaped cloud between the base of the thunderstorm and the ground, or as a thin, rope-like form. They can also be nearly invisible, observable by the debris they throw up from the ground.
Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can uproot trees and turn harmless objects into deadly missiles. They can devastate a neighborhood in seconds.
Storms develop in warm, moist air in advance of eastward moving cold fronts. These thunderstorms produce hail and strong winds.
Tornadoes form when a change in wind direction and an increase in wind speed create an invisible, horizontal spinning effect in the lower atmosphere. An area of strong rotation two to six miles wide extends through much of the storm.
In a tornado, winds can reach 300 mph or more! Damage paths can be up to one mile wide and 50 miles long.
If you live in the path of a tornado, find a safe place indoors where you can shelter from the wind and debris. Stay there until the dangers have passed.
Tornadoes can cause severe damage, ripping roofs and walls off buildings, uprooting trees, damaging metal buildings like factories, destroying cars and throwing them far. These tornadoes are very powerful and can kill people.
Many of these tornadoes are weak, but they still cause significant property and crop damage. In fact, tornadoes were responsible for about 6,000 fatalities and tens of thousands of injuries in the United States from 1950 through 2020.
In Rhode Island, the number of tornadoes is relatively low, but we have had a few very destructive ones. They caused millions of dollars in property and crop damage.
Two tornadoes touched down Saturday evening in the Scituate and Coventry areas of Rhode Island and one in North Smithfield near Providence, causing no deaths or injuries. These were the first tornadoes to hit this part of the state since 1950, according to National Weather Service records.
Tornadoes are not as common in Rhode Island as they are in other states of the union. Although the state has seen its fair share of thunderstorms, the warm and humid air masses that typically lead to tornado formations have been less of a factor this year.
One of the reasons for this is the proximity of Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The cool breezes blowing over the bay and the ocean can help weaken storms as they move north into the state.
There are many reasons why this little state has not had to deal with a tornado. But it is safe to say that the best explanation is the marine influence. The state is also lucky to have a low population density, which means that it will likely be able to recover from any disasters quickly. If you live in Rhode Island, be sure to have a quality storm shelter on hand in case a severe thunderstorm does strike your town.