Tornadoes are frightening natural weather events that have the potential to cause massive destruction and death throughout the areas they tear through.
They are categorized using the Fujita scale and are given a rating between EF0 and EF5, with the higher ratings being stronger tornadoes.
Powerful EF5 tornadoes can have wind speeds of up to 300mph, allowing them to pick up cars, throw mobile homes, and rip trees from their roots.
In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at just how strong tornadoes really are and answer a question that often comes up when discussing these weather events. “Can a tornado pick you up?”
YES, a tornado is certainly capable of picking up a human. Although rare, strong tornadoes have lifted people off the ground and carried them some distance before dropping them. It’s a scary thought but it does happen.
Can Tornadoes Pick Up Humans?
Yes, a tornado with strong enough winds is more than capable of lifting a person off the ground and into the air.
Strong tornadoes have lifted objects MUCH heavier than humans high into the air many times.
Cars, livestock, mobile homes, trees, and just about anything that isn’t deep-rooted into the ground can be picked up by a tornado.
Therefore even a small tornado has the ability to lift a human off the ground, especially those that are lightweight such as the elderly or children.
This is why it’s incredibly important to be aware of the dangers that tornadoes present and to always evacuate and stay well clear of them, even if you think they may not be a threat.
How High Can A Tornado Pick People Up?
A human body is incredibly light in comparison to vehicles or buildings, so picking people up is easy for most tornadoes.
The average body weight of a human is 136 pounds (62kg), so you would be thrown around like a rag-doll if you happened to come into contact with even a mild tornado.
The height at which a tornado can take a person will depend on the tornado, but taking a person hundreds of meters into the sky would be easy for a tornado.
Once a human comes into contact with a tornado, anything can happen, and the chances of the human surviving such an event are incredibly slim.
Debris amongst other objects the tornado has picked up on its path will be hurtling around the vortex at incredible speeds and the person will likely be struck by them in a matter of seconds.
What Happens If A Tornado Picks You Up?
If you were unlucky enough to find yourself being picked up by a tornado, you would likely be hit by debris several times before meeting a swift death.
If you somehow managed to avoid the swirling debris, the tornado would likely lift you up to a height before dropping you and you would hit the ground so hard that you wouldn’t survive the impact.
Gruesome, I know.
Your eardrums would likely burst from the sound of the tornado and you would be in a state of total shock.
The likelihood of surviving being picked up by a tornado is slim to none, and it would almost certainly be the debris that kills you before anything else.
Tornadoes pick up all sorts on their paths, heavy objects, dirt, and debris amongst other things that could easily impale you or strike you on the head.
Has Anyone Been Picked Up By A Tornado?
Believe it or not, people have actually been picked up by tornadoes before being put back down and still living to tell the tale.
Matt Suter was 19 when he survived being swept up inside of a tornado. An EF2 tornado ripped through his grandmother’s mobile home and Suter was sucked right up inside the twister.
He was immediately rendered unconscious by being struck by a lamp in the mobile home.
He woke up in a grassy field sometime later after being thrown over a barbed wire fence. Luckily he only suffered a minor head injury from the lamp but his feet were badly scratched.
A small price to pay for a tornado ripping through a mobile home!
The NWS GPS measure the distance from the mobile home to the field where Suter woke up as 1,307 feet away, roughly a quarter mile.
What Is The Heaviest Thing A Tornado Has Picked Up?
It’s difficult to say what the heaviest thing a tornado has ever picked up is, but we do know that the Tampa, Texas tornado in 1995 picked up machinery weighing 30,000 pounds.
Well, whether it was slid or picked up is unknown, but the tornado did move the machinery across the room.
Tornadoes have no problem throwing 2,000 – 3,000 pound trucks into the air, this has been documented many times.
The strength of the tornado plays a part in how heavy the objects it can pick up are, with strong EF5 tornadoes being able to pick up VERY heavy objects.
The majority of tornadoes in the United States are EF0 – EF1 and even these can cause major damage to motor homes and vehicles.
Hopefully, you now have a clear answer to “can a tornado pick you up” and have learned more about the strength of tornadoes in this post.
YES, tornadoes can absolutely pick up humans, this has been done many times despite it being a rare occurrence.
Humans weigh very little in comparison to the heavy objects that even weak tornadoes pick up, so it’s important not to get too close to these weather events as they are very dangerous.
Picking up a human is no problem for even weak tornadoes as we weigh so little. People can be lifted into the air and carried quite a distance before being dropped, just like Matt Suter.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I’ll catch you in the next one!
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.