Can Tornadoes Go Down Hills? (Helpful Guide)

can tornadoes go down hills

Tornadoes are incredibly dangerous natural events that are capable of generating wind speeds of up to 300mph.

They can form out of seemingly nowhere and cause havoc within local communities before disappearing just as fast as they appeared.

The average travel speed of a tornado is around 30mph, which means they can move locations and traverse across the land very fast.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at a question that often comes up when discussing traveling tornadoes. Can tornadoes go down hills?

In short, yes, they certainly can. Tornadoes can travel both up and down hillsides quite easily and are more than capable of crossing mountain ranges, rivers, and even lakes.

Can Tornadoes Travel Down Hills?

Despite the many myths out there that tornadoes are unable to travel down hills, tornadoes are in fact more than capable of traveling down hills and mountain ranges.

Whilst it is true that tornadoes tend to favor traveling uphill and reaching higher elevations than downhill, they do still travel downhill when required.

New research from the University of Arkansas has shown that whenever possible tornadoes will reach for high ground and avoid traveling downhill where possible.

They also cause greater damage when they travel uphill and less damage when going downhill.

With that said The Weather Channels tornado expert Dr. Greg Forbes, who worked closely with Dr. Ted Fujita who created the original F-scale on which tornadoes are currently rated has stated that he has had different results from the University of Arkansas study.

“The results of this study do not seem to be ‘universal’ in that they disagree with most previous studies, including some of those by Fajita and some of my own,” said Dr. Greg Forbes.

He added, “of course, every tornado can have its own behavior.”

Dr. Forbes also pointed out that tornadoes are not nearly as common in mountainous areas as they are in the Great Plains.

“It has more commonly been observed that tornadoes intensify and get more narrow (i.e., become more concentrated) as they descent mountain slopes – somewhat in the same sense as a bathtub vortex intensifies as water is pulled down the drain.”

How Can Tornadoes Travel Down Hills?

Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air that can travel across the landscape at speeds of up to 30mph.

They often cause mass destruction in their path and nothing can stop a strong tornado when it gains momentum, not a hill, lake, or even building.

Tornadoes generally move in a west-to-east pattern through a lot of the central USA states in tornado alley, but they are known to be unpredictable and switch direction in a matter of seconds.

When a region is surrounded by hills or valleys, tornadoes will hop and skip over valleys and hills, with more noticeable damage being caused to the tops of hills.

Do Hills Slow Tornadoes Down?

Typically tornadoes run the longest on flatland as there is little to no resistance on the ground level pushing back against the tornadoes’ wind speed.

However, there is no terrain that will slow a tornado down as they are not affected by the landscape beneath them.

Lakes, rivers, mountains, hills, or even man-made buildings have little to no effect on a tornado and are not capable of slowing them down.

Strong EF4 and EF5 tornadoes can rip through cities like a hot knife through butter, tearing up everything in their path and leaving behind a lot of destruction.

Even the steepest hills and mountain ranges have little effect on a tornado and are not capable of slowing the tornado down.

To this day, modern technology still has no way of stopping a tornado, and instead, we simply rely on predicting them and giving residents enough time to seek cover or evacuate.

Can Tornadoes Go Up Hills?

Tornadoes can go up and down hills freely without losing power, in fact, they often intensify when doing so and become more concentrated.

As mentioned earlier, tornadoes cause more damage when traveling uphill than they do downhill, meaning living on a mountainside is not going to offer protection from a tornado.

Most tornadoes in the United States happen east of the Rocky Mountains and in the Great Plains.

Whilst it’s true many tornadoes form on flat land, they are also capable of forming in valleys and on hillsides and can quite easily travel up hills.

They can even form on the top of hills, although this is less likely than a tornado forming on flat land.

Final Thoughts

So, can tornadoes go down hills? Yes, they certainly can. Tornadoes are quite literally some of the strongest forces of nature that this planet has to offer, and they certainly can’t be stopped by a hill.

Whilst it’s true that tornadoes do favor higher elevations, they are more than capable of traveling down hills or mountain ranges.

Tornadoes are rarely seen in areas where there are a lot of hills, but when they do appear they can travel up and down hills freely.

Nothing gets in the way of a raging tornado on its path. They can skip and hop over valleys, hills, and even lakes.

The truth is, no type of terrain or landscape can offer any protection from a tornado, and we currently don’t have any technology that can stop a tornado and prevent one.

Instead, we rely on predicting tornadoes and issuing as much time as possible for residents nearby to seek shelter.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you’ve learned something new today about why and how tornadoes can travel down hills.

Feel free to stick around to learn more about tornadoes and the other types of extreme weather phenomena that we discuss here.

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