Every tornado that touches down and causes damage feels equally as terrifying as the next, but at the end of the day, we know that each tornado that does touch down is rated through the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale and given a severity grading. For those of us living in Tornado Alley, we focus very little on what these ratings actually mean and spend more time looking into the actual storm that’s damaging our homes.
Today’s blog post is going to dive deeper into the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale so that, moving forward, you have an idea of how the tornadoes showing up on the TV screen are being judged and what it ultimately means to see these grade levels.
What is the Fujita Scale?
The Fujita Scale is a method of rating tornado intensity. The main factors that are considered in this process are how much damage was done to the structures of the area, the land, and human life as a whole. The scale is graded by both meteorologists and engineers after the fact. They will cover both the damage that is on the ground, as well as the aerial damage.
This scale takes into consideration so many different aspects. From testimonials of people that experienced the storm, to the swirl patterns that were made by the tornado, these professionals will look at the following:
- Weather Radar Data
- Witness Testimonials
- Damage Imagery
- Swirl Patterns
- Motion Picture of Storm
- Media Reports
All of these accounts and records take quite a bit of time to compile and at the end of the day, the information that’s found is something that will give all of us an idea of what happened and how badly it destroyed the area. This scale was adopted in 2007 and has been used ever since to provide us with a method of recording the damage that happens on a yearly basis.
A Look at the Scale
We mentioned how intense the process of collecting this information is and how many different groups and subjects need to collaborate in order for the final recording of the storm to be settled upon. At this point we’re going to dive deeper into the scale and what is considered with each level of the scale.
This is the lowest level on the scale, so you can immediately understand that with this you will see the least amount of damage. At this level, there is minimal damage to homes and it’s primarily seen in the rooftops or chimneys of a home. There are a few branches broken off of trees, but overall they’re still sturdy and standing. And there may be some slight damage to large buildings or signs, but overall, the damage done by the tornado is minimal. Winds are anywhere between 40-72 MPH.
The next level of the scale is going to take into consideration any tornado that creates moderate damage. While this is surely one of the more moderate tornadoes, it is also the lower end of hurricane wind speed. This notch of the scale will have more damage to roofs and a damage to homes with weak foundations. At this point, we will see many smaller buildings with weak foundations turned over, as well as cars that are pushed off of the roads. Winds at this level will usually range between 73-112 MPH.
This level of a tornado is not the most commonly seen tornado, but it is the worst that we see most tornadoes hit. Out of all the tornadoes that hit, 19.4% of them are at a level of F2. This is where significant damage occurs and we start to see the roofs of houses torn off completely. Many mobile homes or homes with little foundation will be demolished. We also see many trees that have completely snapped in half, fallen over or are uprooted from their soil. For taller buildings, windows and signs will see significant damage. The winds at this level are anywhere from 113-157 MPH.
The next level of the scale that we have to endure is an F3 level. This level is pretty severe damage with winds ranging from 158-206 MPH. Almost every house will see the damage when a tornado at this level strikes. Roofs and walls of houses are blown off entirely, regardless of their foundation or how well they were constructed. Beyond cars flipping over, we will also see trains and larger forms of transportations entirely overturned. Aside from cars just being overturned, this is the level in which winds are high enough to throw cars off the ground. Trees are also uprooted and thrown into the winds.
The damage that is seen at this level can only be described with one word: devastating. Only 1% of tornadoes that hit are scaled at this level, and we’re thankful it’s not more because of the high levels of damage that we see. Homes are entirely broken down and destroyed, buildings that have little to no foundation are picked up and thrown with the force of the winds, and vehicles are thrown at extreme distances creating, even more, danger and destruction to the area. The winds that we see at this level are anywhere from 207-260 MPH. The tornado itself can create anywhere from 1,300-3,000 feet when it touches the ground and, unfortunately, the storms that are of this size are known for touching down more than once, which leaves more damage and destruction to the area.
Less than .1% of tornadoes have been recorded at this level, but they have happened. When storms of this extremity hit, they are reaching winds of 261-318 MPH. Homes are being uprooted and blown away in the storm, and not just a little bit, but at considerably large distances. The winds at this stage are so strong that even tall skyscrapers and office buildings are completely destroyed and torn apart in the process of this storm. There’s nothing quite like the damage that these storms are capable of.
The unfortunate reality of all this information is that we never understand just how bad a tornado or the havoc it’s about to release is until it’s touched down. At that point, you aren’t worried about where that storm will sit on the scale, all that you want to be sure of is that your family is taken care of and safe.
Regardless of how bad the damage, something that you will always need to prioritize with tornadoes is your safety and that of your family. FamilySAFE Shelters has worked hard to create a form of safety and security that can be relied upon regardless of the extremity of the storm. We have seen these storm shelters provide protection for various individuals in Oklahoma City as well as other areas throughout Tornado Alley.
If you’re interested in having the highest form of protection in your home, contact our team and we will work with you to provide you the information that you need to make the best decision and ultimately get that additional security that you need when these types of storms need. Don’t hesitate to reach out, we’re more than ready to provide you with that extra form of care.