Tornadoes and Hurricanes… A Two-Headed Monster

Here’s a scary question. Would you rather be in the middle of a tornado or a hurricane?

And here’s the only logical answer. Neither.

Nothing good can come from being in the path of a tornado or hurricane. If your area of the country is not normally susceptible to one, it may be to the other.

We’re now one month into spring. Meaning both devastating weather events will soon occur in various parts of the country.

Tornadoes have already been wreaking havoc. Including a severe weather outbreak April 1 and 2 causing deaths, damage, and destruction in more than a dozen states. We’re likely to see more soon. And hurricane season starts in six weeks.

Winds are main common denominator

Today I want to look at both of these extreme events. First, we’ll examine their similarities, then their differences. Finally, I’ll provide some tips on how to deal with them.

Here’s the number one thing tornadoes and hurricanes have in common. Very strong horizontal winds swirling around their centers.

Most tornadoes feature wind speeds of less than 110 miles per hour. But some particularly intense tornadoes pack 300 mph or greater wind speeds. Hurricanes have sustained winds of at least 74 mph, with some recorded as high as 195.

Hurricanes always rotate counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere. And clockwise in the southern hemisphere. Tornadoes usually do the same. Sometimes a local wind will cause a tornado to spin in the opposite direction.

Another similarity is moisture. Hurricanes carry more because they suck up water from oceans. But tornadoes are always accompanied by rainstorms and/or thunderstorms. Both events can lead to deadly and destructive flooding.

Tornadoes dwarfed by hurricanes

The differences between hurricanes and tornadoes are more pronounced than their commonalities.

The horizontal scale of a hurricane is normally about 1,000 times larger than that of a tornado.   

Tornadoes are small-scale circulations in comparison. They average 250 feet across.

But some tornadoes are huge. A massive tornado in Moore, Oklahoma in 2013 was 1.3 miles wide and included winds over 200 mph.

Hurricanes move slower

Another major difference is their lifespans. Tornadoes are rotating columns of air in contact with the earth’s surface. They develop from storms in a high wind-shear environment.

They usually form rapidly and move quickly. Tornadoes generally travel about 10 to 20 miles along the ground. They can rip up everything in their path. Including structures, trees, and power lines.

Hurricanes form near the equator over warm waters. They can travel thousands of miles over many days. Often they gain strength before reaching land.

Tornado warning signs include darkening skies. And clouds rotating in a circular pattern. And the spotting of a funnel cloud. Often a rushing or roaring noise occurs. With hurricanes, we usually learn about them days before landfall.

Those contrasts make preparation different for both weather events. Let’s look at tornado preparation first.  

Preparing for a tornado

No amount of preparation will enable you to stand up to one of nature’s most furious foes. Your best bet when a tornado strikes is to put yourself in the best possible position to avoid the storm.

But you don’t have to wait for a tornado to practice dodging it. There are actions you can take now to protect yourself and your family.

First, you should have an emergency response plan in place. Whether you are at home or the office, everyone should know what to do and where to take shelter.

If conditions are right for a tornado to develop, a tornado watch is issued. Pay close attention to your surroundings. When a tornado has been spotted in your area, a tornado warning will be announced. Seek shelter immediately.

5 tornado action steps

Tune into emergency radio communicated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their reports will always be ahead of mainstream media reports.

Offering five steps to take during a tornado is They are:

  • If you’re indoors, get to a basement, storm cellar or the lowest level of a building. Stay away from windows, doors, corners of buildings, and outside walls.
  • You may be indoors but can’t get to a lower level. Find the smallest interior room or hallway as far from the exterior of the building as possible.
  • If you’re driving, head to the closest structure where you can take shelter. 
  • If you’re driving but can’t get to a shelter, get out of the car. Lie face down with your hands over your head in a ditch or other lower level near the roadway. 
  • If you’re driving and you see a tornado, don’t try to outrun it. Pull over immediately and seek shelter. Avoid overpasses, bridges, tall buildings, and flying debris.

Most people who suffer post-tornado injuries get hurt while trying to clean up debris. Including glass and nails. Keep an eye out for downed power lines, ruptured gas lines, and damaged structures. 

Hurricanes bring extensive flooding

At the center of a hurricane’s air circulation is the eye. Inside it’s calm. But the strongest thunderstorms and winds are in the wall around the eye.

One advantage in dealing with a hurricane is you will have more advance notice to prepare. Meteorologists can usually accurately predict a hurricane’s strength when it reaches landfall.

The downsides to a hurricane are they can be slow moving and bring excessive amounts of water. They can cause extensive flooding and are often accompanied by thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Plus sustained rains and winds. Hurricanes can knock out power for days and cut off usable water supplies. 

Preparing for a hurricane

Have an emergency response plan in place in case a hurricane heads your way. Have a supply of survival food and your bug-out bag ready to go. Knowing your evacuation routes will save valuable time.

You should also have a reliable source of backup power. You’ll need this for keeping some lights on, cooking meals, running medical devices, etc., when your power goes out.  

One thing that’s impractical to do in advance is preparing your home. But you should be ready to do this when you hear about an approaching hurricane. This involves:

  • Boarding up windows with plywood or installing storm shutters.
  • Securing your roof and siding to your house frame with straps. 
  • Reinforcing garage doors and trimming long tree branches. Plus bringing outdoor furniture into your house.
  • Familiarizing family members with your home’s utility shut-off switches and valves. In case you need to evacuate.

Other activities to engage in before a hurricane approaches your area are:

  • Familiarize yourself with emergency routes and shelters. Print out those routes and keep them in your vehicle’s glove compartment.
  • Make yourself aware of community shelters in your neighborhood.
  • Make sure your car has a full gas tank. And that important items such as a first-aid kit are in your car. 

Check emergency radio and mainstream media reports. Close your blinds and move your most valuable possessions away from windows. Stay away from those windows. Close interior doors and remain in interior rooms.

Once the storm has passed, continue to watch weather reports. Use flashlights instead of candles if power is out. If you’re returning after evacuating, keep an eye out for flooding. As well as ruptured gas lines and damaged structures.

Be aware water may have become contaminated. Report any damage sustained by your home to your insurance agent.

One or both could find you unprepared

Depending on where you live, you may think you don’t need to worry about tornadoes or hurricanes. But please consider this.

The largest Atlantic hurricane on record was Sandy. Its winds spanned 1,100 miles. Sandy affected 24 states.

Tornadoes have occurred in all 50 states. Yes, tornado alley (Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Oklahoma) usually gets the worst tornadoes.

But other states get more than their share. Including Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. The worst months for tornadoes are usually April through June. There were 1,341 recorded tornadoes in the U.S. in 2022. And 1,423 last year.

As with everything else in life, the key is preparation. It’s far better to be ready for something that never occurs than not be ready for something that does.


  • Joretta Hayes - April 15, 2024

    I have your generator, the side kick, 3 of the solar containers, survival food, the sleeping bags for warmth, and 3 water Filtration systems. I don’t regret one penny that I have spent preparing. I am up in age if something happens to me, it is comforting to know those I love will be prepared.

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