What's the difference between a hurricane and a tornado?
I'm Storm Shield Meteorologist Jason Meyers.
They're both a testament to Mother Nature's fury.
They both spin counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere.
And they both cause loss of life and property every year.
But they're far from the same thing.
For one, they form in very different ways.
Hurricanes form in warm ocean waters.
Moisture evaporates, rises, and begins to circulate.
As the storm grows, winds continue to speed up, and eventually, an eye forms around the middle.
Tornadoes, on the other hand, spawn from thunderstorms.
Rotation in different layers of the atmosphere within a thunderstorm create a funnel cloud that eventually reaches the ground.
Neither one of these processes are necessarily superior than the other, so this is a wash.
BUT - something we can compare: size.
Hurricanes can be hundreds of miles in diameter.
The biggest tornado ever recorded had a damage path of a little more than two and a half miles, but most are only three to four hundred yards.
In fact, tornadoes have been known to spawn INSIDE a hurricane!
Advantage - hurricane.
Now to round 2 - what about wind speed?
Hurricanes may be bigger, but tornadoes still pack a punch for their size.
Hurricane force winds range from 74 mph for a weak storm all the way up to 157 mph or more for a catastrophic category five.
A weak tornado starts out with winds around 40 mph, but an EF5 tornado has winds anywhere between 261 to 318 mph, much stronger than the strongest hurricane force winds.
Point goes to tornadoes - tie ball game.
Next round - what does more damage?
Tornadoes do all their damage using those extremely strong rotating winds.
Hurricanes, however, come with a triple threat.
They use strong winds, heavy rains, and storm surge - bringing huge waves crashing on shore, causing more flooding.
But even so, tornado and hurricane activity vary from year to year, but study after study has shown that on average, they are both equally damaging and deadly.
This one's a draw.
On to round 4 - who lasts longer?
Hurricanes last from a few hours to a few weeks, and the average falls somewhere in between.
Tornadoes are on the ground anywhere between a few seconds to maybe a few hours for a particularly strong storm, but the average is somewhere between two and fifteen minutes.
Hurricanes go the distance.
And this plays into warning time.
Since hurricanes take so long to form and do a lot of traveling before reaching land, people usually have plenty of notice to take cover or evacuate.
Watches are typically issued two days ahead of time, and warnings are usually issued 36 hours before anything happens.
Tornadoes are completely different.
Watches are sometimes issued an hour or two ahead of time, and the average warning time for a tornado warning is 13 minutes - just enough time to get to a safe place.
Tornadoes are definitely scarier for this reason.
And now we've ended up with a tie, and it's settled.
Neither of these storms are to be messed with.
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