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What Happens if a Tornado Picks You Up?

What Happens if a Tornado Picks You Up?

What would you do if a tornado picked you up? This is a question that many people ask, and for good reason. Tornadoes are some of the most dangerous weather phenomena in the world. They can cause extensive damage to property and even result in fatalities. In this article, we will answer some common questions about tornado safety. We will also provide tips on how to protect yourself if a tornado picks you up.

How Tornadoes Are Formed?

Tornadoes are one of the most destructive natural disasters that can occur. They typically form from thunderstorms, and can cause massive damage to infrastructure and homes. But what exactly is a tornado?

A tornado is a cone-shaped column of air that is born from a thunderstorm and extends all to the ground. Tornadoes can occur anywhere in the world, although they are most common in North America. The United States sees an average of 1200 tornadoes each year, with around 100 of those being classified as “large” or “violent”.

How Tornadoes Are Formed?

When warm, humid air rises into the atmosphere and collides with cooler, drier air, tornadoes develop. This collision causes instability in the atmosphere, which leads to the warm air to begin rotating. As the heated air continues to rise, it becomes more and more powerful until a tornado is produced.

Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year, but in the US, they are most common in the spring and summer months. This is because that’s when thunderstorms are most likely to form.

However, not all tornadoes are created the same way, and in general you may group them into two categories: supercell and non-supercell categories.

The most destructive tornadoes are supercell tornadoes, which account for the vast majority of all twisters in the United States. They tend to be larger, last longer, and have considerably greater wind speeds than non-supercell tornadoes.

Non-supercell tornadoes are usually shorter lived and not as destructive. They can still cause damage though, so it’s important to be aware of them. [1], [2], [3]

How Strong and Fast Are Tornadoes?

Tornadoes can vary in strength, but the most powerful ones are classified as “EF-5” on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. These tornadoes can have wind speeds of more than 300 mph, and can cause incredible damage to homes and infrastructure. They are labeled as ‘violent’, along with the tornadoes of the EF-4 category.

The other end of the spectrum has ‘weak‘ tornadoes, which are classified as EF-0 or EF-1, for these, wind speeds ranging from 65 to 110 miles per hour are typical. These tornadoes are much less destructive, and typically only cause damage to trees and small structures.

In the middle of the graph lie ‘strong’ tornadoes, which are classified by EF-2 and EF-3 categories. These have speeds of between 111-165 miles per hour, and can cause damage to homes and large structures.

Weak tornadoes can inflict minor damage, like broken windows and downed trees. However sometimes they can even peel roof surfaces off, and hurl heavy objects through the air.

Strong tornadoes can level homes, and often leave behind a path of destruction that can be several miles long. They can also create “windrows” – piles of debris that are pushed ahead of the tornado as it moves.

Violent tornadoes can cause complete destruction, leveling entire neighborhoods and leaving behind nothing but rubble. These are the most dangerous type of tornado, and can kill people even if they are inside a sturdy building. [4], [5]

How Long Do Tornadoes Last For?

Tornadoes can last for a few minutes, or they can go on for over an hour. The average tornado lasts for around ten minutes.

How Long Do Tornadoes Last For?

The longest-lived tornado on record happened in the United States in 1925, and it lasted for over three hours. This tornado traveled 219 miles across the states of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. During that time, it killed 680 people and injured 2027. It caused around $17 billion in damage (in 2018 dollars), making it the costliest natural disaster in US history. [3], [6]

How Do Tornadoes Stop?

The exact causes as to why tornadoes die is unknown. Most of the time, it’s thought that they simply run out of energy and dissipate. This can happen if the tornado moves over an area with less moisture, or if it moves into an area with cooler air.

Some researches show that tornadoes may stop when the thunderstorm that spawned them dissipates. However, sometimes thunderstorms can outlive the tornado.

Tornadoes can also stop abruptly, without any warning. This is most likely to happen with weak tornadoes, but it can happen with strong ones as well.

When a tornado stops, the damage it leaves behind can be devastating. Homes and buildings are often destroyed, and trees are uprooted. Cars are thrown through the air, and power lines are downed. People can be killed or injured by flying debris, or by being caught in collapsed buildings. [9]

What to Do If You Have Been Picked Up by a Tornado

It is rare for a tornado to actually pick someone up, but it does happen on occasion. If you find yourself in the path of a tornado, the best thing to do is to take shelter immediately.

If you are inside a building, go to the lowest level and get into a small room, such as a closet or bathroom. Get away from windows and put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.

If you are outdoors, try to find a ditch or culvert to take shelter in. If you can’t find anything like that, lie flat on the ground in an open area away from trees or other large objects that could fall on you.

It’s also important to cover your head and neck with your hands, a blanket, or anything else you can find. This will help protect you from flying debris.

Try to stay calm and wait for the tornado to pass. It might seem like it’s taking forever, but it will eventually end. Once it’s over, assess the damage and see if anyone needs medical attention.

If you get caught inside a vehicle during a tornado, then get out and hide immediately. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car, as that is extremely dangerous and rarely works. [7]

Odds of Surviving Being Picked by a Tornado

While it is possible to survive being inside a tornado, it is very rare. There is a lot of debris within a tornado, and due to wind speed being so high, tornadoes are like giant windy blenders.

Odds of Surviving Being Picked by a Tornado

You may suffer blunt force trauma from being hit by debris, or you may be cut by flying glass or metal. Air density within the vortex is also low, so you may have trouble breathing.

Even if you manage to survive through all this, once the tornado stops, you may fall from a great height and sustain injuries from the fall.

In short, the odds of surviving being picked up by a tornado are very low. It’s best to take shelter and wait it out.

The odds of surviving a tornado are much higher if you take preventive measures before it hits. So seek shelter if you hear a tornado getting closer. Of course the best way is to be ready for the disaster to strike beforehand. Let’s see how to prepare for tornadoes! [7], [8]

Protecting Against the Tornado Danger

We have already covered the procedures in case a tornado catches you by a surprise, be it indoors or outdoors. Now we will go over the measures that will ensure your safety before the tornado even appears.

Have an emergency plan ready

The essential step in being prepared for a tornado is to have an emergency plan all prepared. This should include having a designated safe room in your home that is reinforced and can protect you from flying debris. If you live in a mobile home, it is important to have a plan to evacuate to a more sturdy structure as quickly as possible. You should also have a list of emergency contacts and supplies ready so that you can grab them quickly if needed.

It would be useful to get a local shelter map from your city or county office so you know where the nearest ones are to your home. If you are caught outside during a tornado, try to get into a sturdy building if possible.

While you’re busy preparing your family for a tornado, don’t forget about your pets. Make sure they have a safe place to go, too. If you have time, bring them inside the house or garage with you. If not, put them in a strong kennel or crate in an interior room away from windows.

Know the basics

While tornadoes can be destructive, there are steps you can take to stay safe if one forms near you. The important step is to understand how tornadoes form, and what conditions are favorable for their formation. By knowing this information, you can better prepare yourself and your family for when a tornado may strike.

Be up to date with the local news

Tornadoes can form quickly, and often with little warning. That’s why it’s essential to stay up to date with the latest weather forecast in your area. It is vital to be able to know when a tornado is coming. If you live in an area where tornadoes are common, make sure you have a way to receive alerts, whether that’s through a weather radio or other alert system. A good choice would be to install a weather app on your phone.

Prepare an emergency kit

Once you know how to stay up to date on the latest weather conditions, it’s time to start preparing an emergency kit. This kit should have everything you and your family need to survive for at least 72 hours. Some of the items you should include are:

Prepare an emergency kit

  • Water
  • Food
  • First aid supplies
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Clothing and blankets
  • A way to charge your devices

By having this emergency kit ready, you can rest assured knowing that you will be prepared if a tornado does strike.

Clean your garden

Tornadoes are most likely to occur in the spring, so it’s important to get your garden ready. Clean up any debris that could be blown around by high winds, and trim back any trees or bushes that could damage your home if they fell.

It is also a wise idea to take indoors any outdoor furniture or decorations that could be picked up and carried away by a tornado.

Avoid power lines

If you see a power line that has been downed by a tornado, stay well away from it. Do not try to move the power line, as it could still live and electrocute you. If the power line is blocking your path, find another way around it.

In general, it is best to avoid any areas that have been damaged by a tornado until they have been cleared by authorities. There could be hidden dangers in these areas, such as downed power lines or gas leaks. [3], [10]


Can you outrun a tornado?

In general, it is not advisable to try to outrun a tornado as they can change direction quickly and have been known to reach speeds of up to 70 mph. It is better to take shelter as soon as possible.

What would happen if you were sucked in a tornado?

The answer to this question largely depends on the strength of the tornado and what it is made up of. If you were to be sucked into a large, powerful tornado made up of debris, your chances of survival would be slim. However, if you were to be picked up by a smaller, weaker tornado made mostly of air, you would likely survive with some injuries. There have been some cases where people have been picked up by tornadoes and deposited safely elsewhere but this is rare and should not be counted on.

In either case, it is important to remember that tornadoes are very unpredictable and can change direction quickly. This means that even if you are not in the direct path of a tornado, you could still be sucked in if it changes course.

Has anyone survived the inside of a tornado?

While there are no concrete statistics, it is estimated that only a handful people survive being sucked into a tornado. Most die from being crushed by debris or from severe injuries sustained while being thrown around inside the tornado.

Useful Video: What If You Got Sucked Into a Tornado?


What would happen if a tornado picked you up? It may seem like science fiction, but this actually happens occasionally. If you get sucked inside however, you are in great danger of being hit with flying debris which can damage your vitals. There is a high chance of you being thrown outside from the great heights. As you can see the odds of surviving inside a tornado are low. But it’s still important to be as prepared as possible in case one does come your way. If you find yourself near a tornado, remember to take cover immediately and stay away from windows. But the best course of action would be to avoid the unnecessary danger altogether.

If you live in an area that is prone to tornadoes, make sure you have a plan and evacuation route worked out ahead of time. It is also important to monitor weather forecasts during the tornado season as well. Stay safe!


  1. https://www.foxweather.com/learn/average-number-tornadoes-every-state
  2. https://wxresearch.org/what-happens-if-a-tornado-picks-you-up/
  3. https://germaniainsurance.com/blogs/post/germania-insurance-blog/2021/05/21/tornado-preparedness-how-to-get-ready-for-tornado-season-in-texas
  4. https://www.weather.gov/mkx/taw-tornado_classification_safety
  5. https://www.britannica.com/science/tornado/Tornado-intensity
  6. https://wmo.asu.edu/content/tornado-longest-lastinggreatest-distance-traveled-single-tornado
  7. https://wxresearch.org/what-happens-if-a-tornado-picks-you-up/
  8. https://www.weather.gov/safety/tornado-survivors
  9. https://www.tornadoxtreme.com/how-does-a-tornado-stop/
  10. https://www.ready.gov/tornadoes