One question we find our readers regularly asking is are hurricanes stronger than tornadoes?
To answer this question, we really need to look at the similarities between the two, as well as the differences.
Both are incredibly violent and destructive storms, often leaving behind damage in the multiple millions of dollars, often billions! With a B!
It’s important to look at what we’re measuring the two against to determine which of the two is stronger, is it wind speed? Or damage caused?
Nevertheless, this post is going to go through it all, so stick around to find out the answer to this commonly asked question.
How Are Hurricanes And Tornadoes Similar?
OK, so there is no denying that both hurricanes and tornadoes are incredibly violent storms, but how are they similar to one another?
Well, they really are not that similar at all.
One of the similarities between hurricanes and tornadoes is their general structure. They are both strong rotating winds that are in an upright position and have a vortex in the middle.
This is perhaps the only similarity between the two storms, contrary to what many believe they are very different.
How Are Hurricanes And Tornadoes Different?
Although hurricanes and tornadoes are similar in some (very few) respects, they are very different in others and are not the same type of storms.
Let’s take a look.
The first way hurricanes and tornadoes differ from one another is their wind speeds.
Hurricanes typically have wind speeds of around 80mph, which although fast, is not nearly the same as some tornadoes.
A strong tornado can have speeds that exceed 200mph, sometimes reaching 300mph – making them much more violent than hurricanes.
The amount of destruction and damage caused by hurricanes is astronomical, it really puts into perspective how brutal these storms are.
A study conducted by NOAA in 1998 found that each time a hurricane touches down in the United States it causes around $3 billion in damages, and that number jumps to $5 billion globally.
When comparing these numbers to the average annual amount of tornadoes in the United States which is 1000, the financial impact is 10x less at around $500 million according to a 2001 NOAA study.
As you can see, the damage caused by hurricanes is immense, likely due to their size and the other adverse weather they cause.
As mentioned earlier, the wind speeds of tornadoes far surpass the wind speeds of the average hurricane.
EF4 and EF5 tornadoes have an average wind speed of 207mph, whilst a category 4 or category 5 hurricane’s wind speed is on average 131mph.
The intensity of a tornado is more than that of a hurricane, making the tornado more violent and intense.
Even small tornadoes can have incredibly fast winds, so strong that they can break glass windows and cause surface-level damage to communities.
However, aside from wind speeds, hurricanes bring with them a HUGE amount of rain, due to the fact that they are usually formed out on the ocean.
This means they bring with them flash floods that can devastate towns.
When it comes to how the two storms form, they are completely different. Hurricanes form in warm, ocean waters with moisture evaporating, beginning to rise and circulate.
As the storm grows, winds continue to speed up, and eventually an eye forms around the middle.
Whereas tornadoes form from supercell thunderstorms. Rotation within different levels of the atmosphere in a thunderstorm creates a funnel cloud that eventually reaches the ground.
The frequency of tornadoes is much greater than that of hurricanes.
There is an average of 1000 – 1200 tornadoes each year in the United States alone.
Compare that to the average of six Atlantic Basin hurricanes that form each year and you have a clear winner for hurricanes.
When it comes to the location, tornadoes form in 50 states in the US. However, they are usually associated with the central US in Tornado Alley.
This is a 10-state area that covers Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and more.
Florida and Texas are the two states that have suffered the most damage due to hurricanes.
Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have all seen significant losses due to hurricanes.
The areas that are hit by hurricanes are typically islands or coastal areas such as Florida, this is because hurricanes need warm ocean air to form, whereas tornadoes do not.
When it comes to the size difference between hurricanes and tornadoes, it’s massive.
Hurricanes can be hundreds of miles in diameter, but the damage path of the biggest tornado ever recorded had a damage path of 2 and a half-mile.
That said, most tornadoes are only 300 – 400 yards in diameter. Tornadoes are so large that they have even been known to spawn tornadoes inside of them.
Yep, that’s right, hurricanes can spawn tornadoes within them, causing even more destruction.
Hurricanes typically last for between a few hours and a few weeks, with the average falling somewhere in between.
Tornadoes can last from as little as a few seconds to a couple of hours at max for a strong storm.
The average is somewhere between 2 and 15 minutes for the duration of a tornado.
Are Hurricanes Actually Stronger Than Tornadoes?
If we’re measuring stronger by wind speed, then no, hurricanes are not stronger than tornadoes. But if we’re talking about damage caused and size, hurricanes take the cake all day long.
This question largely depends on how you want to measure the strength of each storm.
For the most part, hurricanes are much more destructive than tornadoes, but on average they are both equally as deadly.
They are both dangerous, violent storms that can cause a lot of damage to different parts of the United States.
So, are hurricanes stronger than tornadoes? As a whole, yes!
However, when it comes to wind speeds, the hurricane takes the win on that one.
Hurricanes and tornadoes are equally as deadly, but the sheer size of hurricanes and the triple threat that they bring, being strong winds, storm surges, and heavy rain means they are more destructive.
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this post and have learned a thing or two about hurricanes and tornadoes in this post.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, and feel free to stick around to learn more about extreme weather and natural phenomenon.
Hey, I’m Sam – the founder of GustyPlanet. I’ve had a fascination with all things weather for as long as I can remember. I witnessed my first tornado at the age of 6, and since then became an avid storm chaser that is hooked on learning as much as I can about extreme weather. This blog was created to share my knowledge and to expand and delve deeper into the wonderful world of weather phenomena. I hope you enjoy your stay here and thanks for visiting.