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What is a Tornado?

A tornado is one of nature's most violent storms. It is a violently rotating column of air in contact with the ground. Tornadoes vary greatly in size, intensity and appearance. Tornado winds can range from less than 100 mph to in excess of 200 mph with the stronger tornadoes. The time tornadoes stay on the ground can also vary from a quick touch down that does little or no damage to one that stays on the ground for several hours and destroys nearly everything in its path.


2013 Tornado Stats

Number of Tornadoes

Tornadoes by EF Scale - Fatalities & Injuries

5 1 1 0 2 86

Tornadoes by Month

0 0 6
 0  0 7


Tornado Terms to Know

Tornado Watch

Tornado Warning

Tornado Emergency

Conditions are favorable in the atmosphere for the development of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. A tornado has been sighted by a spotter or rotation has been detected on radar.

Environmental conditions are favorable for the development of a strong or violent tornado, or

radar shows indications of a strong/violent tornado as seen by a debris ball or tornadic debris signature, or

report of significant damage or that a large tornado is on the ground.

Remain alert for signs of threatening weather and make preliminary plans for action. Take immediate action to protect yourself.  Do not wait for visual confirmation of a tornado as this may take time away from seeking proper shelter! Take immediate action to protect yourself and your life.

Tornado Safety Rules

  • In homes or small buildings, go to the basement or to an interior room, interior hall, or to small rooms such as a closet or bathroom on the lowest level. Put on a helmet to protect your head from flying debris. If you do not have a helmet, use a blanket, couch cushion, pillow, mattress, or other item that will provide more protection than simply your hands.
  • In schools, nursing homes, hospitals and shopping centers, go to a pre-designated shelter area. Interior hallways on the lowest floor are usually best. Stay away from large windows or glassed areas. Also, stay away from large rooms like dining halls or gymnasiums because they usually have weakly supported roofs.
  • If you are in mobile homes or a vehicle, leave it and go to a substantial structure. If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine, gully, or culvert with your hands shielding your head. However, this may not be a good option if heavy rain is falling.
  • Stay away from windows. Do not bother opening them. Opening windows will not protect the structure but will in fact lead to more damage if hit by a tornado. Also, you will just waste time and put yourself and possibly others at greater risk. Use those valuable few seconds to find safety.

Remember, tornadoes form very quickly and may occur with little or no advanced warning. You may have only a few seconds to find shelter. When a tornado threatens, your immediate action can save your life. Take the time during Severe Weather Preparedness Week to teach your children or your co-workers about tornadoes. Show them the best shelter areas in your home or business.

Notable Spring Tornado Events

  • April 24, 2010 - Large, long track tornado began in northeast Louisiana and traveled across portions of central Mississippi. This tornado affected Yazoo City, MS as well as French Camp and Weir, among other locations. Several other strong tornadoes affected central Mississippi that day.
  • April 15, 2011 - Many tornadoes occurred this day, including those that affected Clinton, MS and Leakesville, MS.
  • April 27, 2011 -Historic tornado outbreak that not only affected Mississippi, but Alabama and Georgia. 2 EF5 tornadoes occurred in Mississippi: Smithville, MS and Neshoba/Noxubee/Kemper/Winston counties. Numerous injuries and fatalities occurred on this very active and horrific day.
  • February 10, 2013 - A day which was not primed for violent tornadoes produced a long track EF4 that began in Lamar County, tracking through the city of Hattiesburg into Perry County. is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.