Are Tornadoes Dangerous? (Truthful Guide)

are tornadoes dangerous

In this post, we’re going to take a look at the dangers of a tornado, and specifically answer a question we see many of our readers asking: Are tornadoes dangerous?

In short, yes tornadoes are dangerous. They come with incredibly strong winds that can tear down buildings and wreak havoc in towns and communities.

Tornadoes are extreme weather events that often occur in the United States and other parts of the world.

They can last from as little as a few seconds to three hours and can be violent enough to derail trains and throw cars in the air, or cause only minor damage.

Let’s take a closer look…

Is A Tornado Actually Dangerous?

So, is a tornado actually dangerous? Yes, without question.

I think it goes without saying that tornadoes are incredibly dangerous extreme weather events that are capable of causing mass destruction and taking lives.

In the United States alone, tornadoes do around $400 million of damage and kill an average of 70 people each year.

All tornadoes are considered dangerous, even if defined as “weak” as they still have the ability to damage homes and can cause injury to people.

The high winds that come with tornadoes can pull down phone lines, rupture gas pipes, and cause large buildings to fall.

It’s not only the tornado and the vortex that are a concern when a tornado strikes, it is also the collateral damage and many other hazards that form as a result.

Why Are Tornadoes Dangerous?

Tornadoes are some of the most violent and destructive types of weather on the planet.

They are violently rotating columns of air that can have speeds of up to 480 km/h (300mph) and often come with other extreme weather such as heavy hail, flooding, and sometimes thunder and lightning.

Some tornadoes are so strong that they can knock down trees, throw cars up into the air and destroy large buildings and businesses.

The destruction and threat that tornados pose are unquestionable, with even smaller EF-1 tornadoes being able to smash windows and pick up livestock.

The strength and power of tornadoes vary greatly, the Enhanced Fujita scale ranks tornadoes on their wind speeds.

Below are the different strengths of a tornado based on this scale:


The biggest threat to people during a tornado is the large amount of debris that they often pick up and carry with them.

If a tornado comes close to you, this debris can hit you and cause serious damage, but as well as that you may be picked up from the tornado and thrown around within the vortex and debris.

Smashed glass that gets caught in a tornado can quickly become missiles, and if the tornado gets close to you it can cause some serious damage.

Tornadoes have been known to pick people up and take them as high up as a 1/4 mile in the sky.

A typical tornado has winds of 110mph or less and is about 250m across and travels a mile before dissipating.

However, the behavior of tornadoes is extremely varied, and two tornadoes that may look the same can have drastically different effects.

Tornadoes are also able to develop very quickly, and what was once an EF1 or EF2 tornado can quickly grow to an EF3 or EF4, making them all dangerous.

Is A Tornado The Most Dangerous Storm?

As we now know, tornadoes are incredibly dangerous storms that should not be taken lightly.

But is a tornado the most dangerous storm?

Well, this really depends. Another incredibly powerful storm is a Hurricane, also known as a Tropical Cyclone.

Hurricanes and tornadoes are both destructive types of storms, but they are very different in their nature.

Hurricanes are much, much larger than a tornado, and generally leave a lot more damage on their path.

However, the winds of a tornado are far greater than that of a Hurricane, with large tornado wind speeds estimated at between 200mph – 300mph, and that of a Hurricane usually reaching around 80mph.

Hurricanes typically cause around $3 billion worth of damage every time they touch down in the United States.

When compared to the damage of all 1200 tornadoes that land in the US, which is about $500 million, we can see that the financial damage caused by Hurricanes is much greater.

If you’re measuring the danger between the two by human life, then a tornado is likely more dangerous than a Hurricane.

This is because Hurricanes typically form over the ocean, where they can feed off the warm tropical air, and when they move inland they become much weaker.

Not only that, but Hurricanes mainly impact coastal areas, whereas most tornadoes are formed in the central USA.

Tornadoes can rage through land growing by the minute, causing a lot of risk to human life in multiple states, especially in Tornado Alley.

How Dangerous Are Tornadoes To Humans?

Tornadoes are incredibly dangerous to humans, especially the stronger storms that have high wind speeds and move quickly.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when faced with a tornado is that they underestimate it, and try to outrun it in their vehicle.

Most tornadoes can move across the land at 30mph but can have bursts of between 50 – 60mph, making it near impossible to outrun in a car, especially with traffic and extra hazards brought on by a tornado.

Tornadoes pick up debris that is spinning around at a very high speed, if this debris hits you, even whilst in a vehicle, it can cause serious damage.

They have also been known to pick people up from the ground, as well as roll people across the floor which can cause broken bones and injuries.

The biggest risk to people during a tornado is the sheer amount of debris that is getting flown around by the tornado.

Cars can be thrown across roads, trees can be caught up in the vortex and broken glass and heavy objects can act as missiles.

The good news is that now in today’s modern world we have some incredible technology that can often predict tornadoes before they happen.

This means it gives people in that area some time to prepare and evacuate the area if necessary.

Getting underground is the safest option when a tornado strikes, do not stay in your vehicle or home if a tornado is coming by as these are terrible places for refuge.

Can You Survive If A Tornado Picks You Up?

Believe it or not, some people have actually been picked up off the ground from large tornadoes and taken high up into the sky, and then taken back down without injury.

Sounds crazy, right?

Well, Matt Sutter survived being sucked up into a tornado when he was 19 years old and lived to tell the tale.

Although it’s incredibly rare, and most people that end up inside of a tornado will die as a result of the debris, it does happen.

Tornadoes are more than capable of picking people up and taking them up a height. They are strong enough to throw mobile homes like they are pebbles.

Final Thoughts

Are tornadoes dangerous? Absolutely! These extreme weather events should not be taken lightly and should be treated with respect.

If you happen to live in an area of the world that is prone to tornadoes, do you’re best to prepare and ensure you have a safe evacuation plan for yourself and your family.

Tornadoes come with a lot of risks, they can grow and grow until they are powerful enough to destroy everything in their path.

Hopefully, this post has been insightful and you’ve learned some of the dangers of tornadoes.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, if you have enjoyed it feel free to stick around and learn more about tornadoes and other extreme weather.

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