Can A Tornado Pick Up A Car? (Useful Guide)

can a tornado pick up a car

Tornadoes are incredibly strong extreme weather events that can cause destruction to everything in their path in a matter of seconds.

Some tornadoes last for only a few seconds and are mild, whilst some are much more powerful and can whip up debris and snap powerlines with ease.

In this post, we’re going to explore a question we find many of our readers asking when it comes to tornadoes: Can a tornado pick up a car?

The short answer to this is a resounding yes, tornadoes can absolutely pick up cars and even heavier objects.

Let’s take a closer look…

Can Tornadoes Actually Pick Up Cars?

Tornadoes can pick up cars, and they have done and still do on many occasions.

Some tornadoes are so strong that they rip through the landscape at incredibly fast speeds and tear up anything in their path.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they witness a tornado is trying to outrun it in their vehicles.

A strong tornado is capable of moving at speeds of over 300mph, so you really have no chance of outrunning one of these large beasts.

Thankfully, the average tornado moves at around 30mph, but that doesn’t mean you should try to outrun it.

Tornadoes can pick u debris that is often left scattered on the road, this can cause traffic delays and other hazards that are a danger whilst in a car.

The best thing to do if you’re faced with a tornado is to get out of your vehicle and look for cover, ideally underground or lower than the ground level of the tornado.

What Type Of Tornado Can Pick Up A Car?

An EF-1 tornado is strong enough to push a moving car off the road, whilst an EF-2 is strong enough to pick the car up completely.

There are a couple of different classifications that are used to measure how large and violent tornadoes really are:

WeakEF0, EF1Wind speeds of 65 to 110 mph
StrongEF2, EF3Wind speeds of 111 to 165 mph
ViolentEF4, EF5Wind speeds of 166 to 200 mph or more

EF2 and upwards tornadoes are incredibly strong, they can make quick work of moving cars, wildlife, property, and other objects that are usually on the ground.

Given that EF2 tornadoes are able to lift up cars and throw them around when you think of the power behind an EF4 and EF5 tornadoes you can see why they are so damaging and destructive to communities.

These types of tornadoes rip down skyscrapers and newly built buildings with ease and will take out anything in their path.

How Much Weight Can Tornadoes Pick Up?

Strong tornadoes can pick up a surprising amount of weight, they can lift up mobile homes, large work vans and have even been known to completely derail trains.

However, the objects that travel the furthest are the lightweight ones, as they can stay floating in the tornado’s wind for sometimes hours.

Although rare, tornadoes have been known to lift up humans and cows to heights of around 1/4 mile and set them back down without serious injury.

But what is the heaviest thing a tornado has picked up?

Well, the Pampa, Texas tornado moved machinery that weighed more than 30,000 pounds!

Whether that machinery was picked up into the air or slid along the ground is unknown, but that’s a serious amount of weight that has been moved from a tornado.

A tornado would not have any issues lifting a car or a 2000 – 3000 pound van in the air.

Is Being In A Car During A Tornado Safe?

Being in a car during a tornado is not safe at all. In fact, it’s probably the worst place you can be when a tornado strikes.

As mentioned earlier, some tornados can move at incredible speeds, and given the traffic and hazards tornados cause, you really don’t want to be in a car when one strikes.

A tornado of a decent size could easily lift your car off the ground and throw it spiraling through the air, but as well as this risk, being in a car poses risks of lampposts, electrical lines, and other debris landing on the car.

A car is not a safe place to seek refuge during a tornado, try to find a cover that is as low as possible, in a bunker or underground is best.

Cars are also at risk of being struck by lightning, and given that tornados often bring with them large thunderstorms, a car certainly isn’t a good place for cover.

If you do find yourself in a car whilst a tornado hits, the best thing you can do is to ensure you have your seat belt on, cover your head with your hands, and a cushion or blanket if available.

If you think you can get down to below the level of the road before the tornado comes, it’s you’re best bet and you should do it.

Final Thoughts

So, can a tornado pick up a car? Yes, with ease.

A large tornado will have no trouble whatsoever throwing a car into the air. Trucks, vans, and mobile homes are not safe either.

Cars are one of the worst places to seek refuge during a tornado, they offer little protection and essentially trap you in a small space that can be thrown around and cause serious injury to everyone inside.

Some tornadoes have been known to derail trains and move as much as 30,000 pounds of weight.

Hopefully, this post has been helpful in answering your question and you’ve learned something new about the sheer strength and power behind some tornadoes.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, feel free to stick around and learn more about extreme weather and natural phenomenon.

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