Top Ten Tornado Facts

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This tornado was one of many spawned during a massive outbreak stretching from eastern Colorado to Oklahoma on May 23-24 in 2011.
Sean Waugh | NOAA | NSSL

There is nothing that scares us more than the shrieking winds and powerful force of a tornado. It’s one of nature’s ways of reminding us of its awesome power.

Tornadoes form when warm, moist air gets trapped under a layer of cold, drier air, creating an unstable situation. The instability grows when the warm layer underneath gets pushed up into the atmosphere either by heating up near the ground or an influx of cold air.

When the warm, moist air rises it cools and forms large clouds and thunderstorms. If conditions are just right, that rapidly rising air will start to spin and can exceed over 250mph. The spinning causes the signature funnel-spout-shaped cloud, and at the moment it touches land, the swirling air mass officially becomes a tornado.

Here are ten facts about tornadoes we seem to ask ourselves again and again as these destructive funnel clouds strike...

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