Tornado season can have its moments. The fact is, I live in Des Moines, Iowa, so I am right along Tornado Alley. I actually look forward to this time every year. First off, I love summer, and it is a bonus that this time is when tornadoes happen. When I was a kid, I would go storm-chasing with my grandpa. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri. I remember we were out driving, and holy crap, we saw one up ahead.

This was the very first tornado I had ever witnessed in person, so I was kind of scared. I remember saying to my grandpa, “Don’t go any closer to it; we are going to die!” He reassured me that we wouldn’t, but we did get super close, and the adrenaline was insane. All of a sudden, it went dark. I’m serious. It was like it was sunny out, then it just turned to nighttime. 

Of Course, Leave It to the Professionals in the Movies

We were driving slowly, so I could see everyone’s reaction. People were freaking out. They were all on their phones, going crazy. They, of course, were probably on their way home or out shopping. Meanwhile, my grandpa and I are casually hawking this tornado down. After that moment, when we got back to the house, I learned that I was going to love storms from then on out. 

It was a good traumatization, if you will. Yes, I was traumatized because I was a kid. That’s why I know every detail about it, but boy, it sure made me love storms. It’s like a fetish that I have now to go outside and just watch the storm from start to finish. Every time I go to Kansas City to visit, I always ask when we will ever do it again. 

Now, at 21 years of age (and, yes, still a kid), I go outside every time there is a storm and just watch it. Yeah, I know you’re not supposed to do that.  But, hey. Sometimes, I even look at the forecast and try to follow a tornado. Obviously, do not try and do that yourself because it isn’t safe. (A-hem.) You could risk your life, but if you’re an adrenaline junkie like me, I guess you should do it as safely and cautiously as you can.

What is Tornado Alley?

Tornado Alley’ is a wide, loosely defined location in the central part of the United States. It is where tornadoes are most frequent. The time span in which they occur is from April to June, but tornados don’t always respect that period. The states in the Tornado Alley include Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.

If you live in any of the states located in Tornado Alley, you are well aware that you get tornadoes often. Summer is approaching, so tornadoes will be up in the air before you know it. If you are like me, then you will probably be going out looking for them!

What to Do in Case a Tornado Is Close?

If you see or hear that a tornado is coming towards you, take shelter immediately. If you have a basement, go down there. No basement? If you do not have a basement, go to a room that has no windows. If not, probably go to the bathroom and just lie down. Go into your closet or the center hallway and sit/lie down.

If you are driving in a car and there is a tornado ahead, don’t be like my grandpa. Don’t try to outrun a tornado in your car. If you can’t do that, get out of your car and lie down in a low area like a ditch or a gully with your hands over your head. Do not panic, because that will only make it worse. Just stay positive and squeeze tight. If you live through it, you’ll have quite a story to tell your grandkids.

Some Interesting Facts About Tornadoes

Formation and Wind Speeds

Tornadoes typically form from severe thunderstorms when warm, moist air meets cold, dry air, creating instability in the atmosphere. They often develop in a type of cloud called a supercell.  

Tornado wind speeds can range from 65 mph for weaker tornadoes to over 200 mph for the most intense ones. The Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF-Scale) categorizes tornadoes based on their wind speeds and damage.

Shapes, Duration, and Seasonality

Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, from thin ropes to large-shaped funnels. Some tornadoes are short and narrow, while others can be long and wide, causing significant damage.

The duration depends on how powerful the storm is. For instance, an E-5 tornado could last several minutes. An E-4 or E-5 could last anywhere up to 30 minutes or even longer. In the United States, tornadoes are most frequent in the spring and early summer months, but they can occur at any time of the year.

Safety and Warning Signs

The safest place to be during a tornado is in a sturdy, well-built structure, preferably in a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor. If caught outdoors, seek shelter in a low-lying area and protect your head. Tornadoes may be preceded by dark, greenish clouds, large hail, or a loud roar similar to a freight train. However, not all tornadoes exhibit these signs, so it’s important to heed weather warnings. Occasionally, multiple tornadoes can occur quickly and over a large area, leading to tornado outbreaks. These events can cause widespread devastation and loss of life.

Forecasting and Research

Meteorologists use advanced radar and Technology Satellites to monitor cloud conditions and issue tornado warnings. Ongoing research helps improve tornado prediction and understanding of tornado formation.

When the Siren Sounds for Me

In the Des Moines area, when a tornado is on the ground, either visually confirmed or indicated by radar, tornado sirens always sound. Unfortunately, in my opinion, these sirens are used way too often during a storm system. Even when the tornado sighting is miles away. I think that’s a bad idea. I suppose they do that, so there’s no blame on officialdom if the worst happens. But, someday, they’ll get wise to ‘the boy who cried ‘wolf’ effect.’ They do, in my opinion, need a second “imminent” siren sound so a person living here knows when the real shit is hitting the fan and it’s close, baby. But not yet. In the meantime, I’ll be outside, scanning the sky.


  • Jake Dow

    Jake is a young man with a lot of life experience for his age. He is an aspiring writer and an avid sports fan.