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TORNADOES

What are tornadoes?

Tornadoes are very powerful, yet tiny storms that have destructive winds capable of leveling buildings and other structures. Winds in a tornado form a dark gray column of air, with the center of the tornado acting like a vacuum, picking up objects and moving them along the storm's path. Tornadoes can last from a few minutes to an hour.

What should I do when a tornado approaches?

Try to get to the lowest level of the building (unless you are in a mobile home or outdoors, in which case you should seek a sturdy and safe shelter). Go to the center of the room and hide under a sturdy piece of furniture. Stay away from windows, hold on to the leg of a table or something else stable, and protect your head and neck with your arms.

What is the Fujita scale of tornado intensity?

The Fujita scale measures the strength of a tornado based on observed damage and effects. The scale ranges from F0 (a weak tornado) through F6 (an almost inconceivable tornado, having close to no

A tornado touching down near Bennett and Watkin, Colorado, in 2006.

A tornado touching down near Bennett and Watkin, Colorado, in 2006.

How many people on average are killed by tornadoes each year in the United States?

Approximately 1,500 people are killed each year due to the destructive power of tornadoes. Many more people are injured and displaced as a result.

chance of actually occurring). About 75 percent of all tornadoes are weak (F0-F1), while only one percent are violent (F4-F5).

Where is tornado alley?

Tornadoes occur more frequently in the central United States than anywhere else in the world. Tornado Alley is an area stretching from northwest Texas, across Oklahoma (the tornado capital of the world), and through northeast Kansas. On average, over 200 tornadoes occur across Tornado Alley each year.

What is the most dangerous state to live in due to tornadoes?

Massachusetts is considered the most dangerous state to live in due to tornadoes. While Oklahoma receives far more tornadoes than Massachusetts does, the population density and risk of death or severe injury is greater in the New England state.

What were some of the most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history?

Some of the worst tornadoes in U.S. history include: the Tri State tornado, which struck Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois in 1925, killing 695 people and injuring 2,027; the 1840 Natchez tornado struck Mississippi, killing 317 people and causing injuries to another 109; and the St. Louis/East St. Louis tornado of 1896 killed 296 people and injured 1,000.

Are there tornadoes in Europe?

While 90 percent of all tornadoes occur in the United States, there are tornadoes in Europe, especially in western France. Other tornado regions of the world include eastern and western Australia, southern Brazil, Bangladesh, South Africa, and Japan.

LIGHTNING

How many times does lightning strike the Earth each year?

About 20 million bolts of lightning are generated in the atmosphere every year.

How much energy does one bolt of lightning contain?

A bolt of lighting contains enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for three months.

What different types of lightning are there?

There are four types of lightning: cloud-to-cloud, within a cloud, cloud-to-ground, and cloud-to-air. Of course, cloud-to-ground is the most dangerous form of lightning, especially in the spring and summer months, when more people are more likely to be outside.

How many people are killed in the United States by lightning?

Approximately 73 people die each year after being struck by lightning. The highest death rates are in Florida (425 killed between 1959 and 2003). The U.S. total from 1959 to 2003 is 3,696 deaths. This means that about 80 people die each year from lightning, and about 300 are injured annually.

Does lightning ever strike twice in the same place?

Lightning can and often does strike in the same place twice. Since lightning bolts head for the highest and most conductive point, that point often receives multiple strikes of lightning in the course of a storm—so stay away from something that has already been struck by lightning! Tall buildings (such as the Empire State Building) often receive numerous lightning strikes during a storm.

OTHER HAZARDS AND DISASTERS

What is acid rain?

Motor vehicles and industrial activity release tons of pollutants into the air. When mixed together, the pollutants form sulfuric and nitric acids that later fall to the ground in rain or snow. This precipitation is known as acid rain. Acid rain is responsible for damaging lakes by killing plant and animal life and for killing trees around the world. Canada has been especially hard-hit by acid rain caused by industrial activities in the United States.

Does radiation from a nuclear plant stop at the 10-mile (16 kilometer) zone?

American nuclear power plants are required to create emergency planning zones within a 10-mile (16 kilometer) radius surrounding their plants. These imaginary 10-mile lines are not walls that hold back the effects of radiation, but simply a distance determined by emergency planners. In the event of an accident, the residents of the

In 1979, the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania caused a panic when radioactive rods broke. However, no radiation was released. A far worse disaster occurred in Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986.

In 1979, the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania caused a panic when radioactive rods broke. However, no radiation was released. A far worse disaster occurred in Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986.

10-mile (16 kilometer) zone might not need to be evacuated but could be advised to remain indoors with their windows closed. Nuclear plants also establish smaller zones of two and five miles (three to eight kilometers) surrounding the plants, within which the risk of radiation exposure is much greater.

What happened at Three Mile Island?

Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, was the site of the United States' worst nuclear accident. Luckily, no radiation was released into the environment and no one was killed. In March 1979, the nuclear reactor at the Three Mile Island plant overheated, breaking the radioactive rods. Pennsylvania's governor recommended a voluntary evacuation of pregnant women and preschool children who lived within five miles (8 kilometers) of the plant. It was the unexpected self-evacuation of residents in the area that created major problems. The evacuations yielded surprising information about the lack of preparedness of communities for such an event, and have led to increased planning and preparedness for nuclear accidents and evacuations.

What is nuclear winter?

A nuclear winter is what would follow a large-scale nuclear war. Radioactive particles, dust, and smoke released into the atmosphere would create a large cloud over the planet, blocking out sunlight and reducing temperatures worldwide. Plants and animals would die due to the extremely low temperatures. An extended nuclear winter could cause the death of millions of people from starvation, cold, and other problems.

What caused the Bhopal disaster?

In December 1984, the U.S.-owned Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, leaked toxic chemicals (methyl isocyanine gas) that killed over 3,800 people. It was the worst industrial accident in history. Union Carbide paid a fine of $470 million to avoid facing criminal charges.

 
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