Tornado Facts for Kids

Tornado Facts

“What’s a tornado?” “Where do tornadoes come from?” “Is THAT a tornado?” These are just a few of the many questions we get asked by our kids. As parents, we do our best to answer. And in Oklahoma, it’s a pretty important topic.

We want our kids to be prepared in the event of a tornado or severe storm. There’s a lot of info out there. But what do they really need to know? And how do we give them info in a way they will remember? Of course, you have to decide when and how much to teach your kids. But here are a few facts we think Oklahoma kids should know about tornadoes, and some interesting information to go along with them.

1. What is a tornado?

Basic Tornado Facts Info:

A tornado is a dangerous, spinning column of air that stretches from a storm cloud to the ground.

More Details:

The biggest ones can cause winds of up to 300 miles per hour. That can throw a car across a neighborhood or drive straw into a tree trunk! Tornadoes can cause damage over a mile wide and up to about 50 miles long. There are about 1000 tornadoes reported every year in the US.

2. What do tornadoes look like?

Basic Info:

Tornadoes can be shaped like a giant funnel, or can just look like a long, skinny rope going all the way from the storm clouds to the ground.

More Details:

Tornadoes can be almost invisible. Sometimes, the only thing we see is all the dust and debris they stir up on the ground. Of course, meteorologists (scientists who study and predict the weather) can still see them on their radar.

3. What About Tornado Warnings?

What’s the difference between a watch and a warning? Kids need to know this one, and so do their parents!

  • Tornado Watch

    Tornadoes are possible in your area. This means that even though we haven’t spotted one yet, we’re having the kind of weather that makes tornadoes happen. Be ready and keep watching and listening to weather reports and news.

  • Tornado Warning

    A tornado has been spotted on the ground or detected by radar. This means it’s time to seek shelter NOW! Don’t go outside and look for one. Remember, you may not even be able to see it, but it can still be very dangerous!


4. When is Tornado Season?

There is no such thing as tornado season. Even though most of them happen during springtime in Oklahoma, they can show up any time of year. If you hear a warning, seek shelter!

5. What Does “F5” or “EF5” Mean?

Basic Info

The Fujita Scale of Tornado Intensity is what meteorologists use to measure how powerful a tornado is. It is named after the scientist who invented it. His name was Tetsuya Theodore Fujita. He was a Japanese-born meteorologist and professor at the University of Chicago. The Enhanced Fujita Scale (“EF0-EF5”) is a newer version of the same scale with slightly different wind-speeds.

More Details:

Fujita Scale:
  • F0: 40-72 mph (miles per hour) winds, causing light damage like broken tree branches or roof shingles blown off.
  • F1: 73-112 mph winds, breaking tree trunks, blowing mobile homes over.
  • F2: 113-157 mph winds, demolishing mobile homes, blowing roofs off of houses, and pulling large trees up by their roots.
  • F3: 158-206 mph winds, turning trains over, lifting up cars, and blowing walls down on houses.
  • F4: 207-260 mph winds, flattening houses, throwing cars over three football fields in the air.
  • F5: 261-318 mph winds, obliterating the strongest homes, turning cars into missiles.
The Enhanced Fujita Scale has slightly different wind speeds:
  • EF0 = 65-85mph
  • EF1 = 86-110 mph
  • EF2 = 111-135 mph
  • EF3 = 136-165 mph
  • EF4 = 166-200 mph
  • EF5 = over 200 mph

6. Are Tornadoes Dangerous?

Yes, it’s important that you know that, to some degree, ALL tornadoes are dangerous! When you hear of a watch or a warning, don’t ignore it! Talk to your parents or adult leaders and help everyone stay safe!

At Southern Safe Rooms, the safety of your family is our number one concern. We build above ground reinforced steel certified tornado shelters/safe rooms that are rated to withstand an EF5 tornado, which equals wind speeds of 250mph. Installing a Southern Safe Room can ensure peace of mind that when a tornado comes, your whole family will have a place to seek shelter.

If you don’t have your Southern Safe Room yet, call us today at (918) 584-3371. Your consultation and estimate are free!

For more kid-friendly information on tornadoes, fun learning activities and games, visit or

Tornado facts

Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

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