What are tornadoes, and what do I need to know to stay safe

Tools to keep you safe during a tornado

As we move into the Spring storm season, the Miami Valley once again braces for the threat of of of the most feared weather phenomena on the planet, tornadoes. Tornadoes are the most destructive weather phenomena on Earth, but what causes them?

A tornado is a rapid, violent rotating column of air that usually is created during severe thunderstorms. As warm air twists and the speed grows, warm air gets drawn up through the low pressure area of the vortex. The vortex grows and when it gets strong enough, starts dropping to the ground. Typically in Ohio, tornadoes are most common in May, June and July in the late afternoon and early evening. While some tornadoes are small and don't travel a long distance, some can be as wide as one-mile and pack wind speeds of up to 300 miles per hour.


Records show that since 1950, there have been more than 200 tornadoes across the Miami Valley. Clinton County has experienced the most tornadoes in that time, with 30 in that county alone. Warren and Darke Counties are tied with 23 tornadoes from 1950 until today.

Meteorologists are always looking for severe weather threats to keep you safe. A warning system has been developed to alert you when bad weather is on the way. Meteorologists issue a watch when there is a possibility of a tornado forming or severe storm. A warning is issued when a tornado has been spotted or indicated by a radar.

While Fox 45 and ABC 22 will cut into regular programming to warn you of the severe weather potential, if you're not in front of a TV, you won't know about the warning. That's why we encourage you to sign up for our weather text and push alerts so you can get word about severe weather no matter where you are. CLICK HERE to sign up for weather alerts to your phone.


One of the most notorious tornadoes to ever hit in the Miami Valley touched down in April of 1974 in Xenia. Across the midwest, a Super Outbreak of storms hit 12 states including Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. The tornado that hit in Xenia touched down at 4:30 in the afternoon near Bellbrook and moved across Greene County.

The tornado hit Xenia High School head-on, destroying the school and dropping a bus on the stage of the auditorium where students were inside. The tornado caused devastating damage to the Windsor Park and Arrowhead neighborhoods and in all killed 32 people while injuring more than one-thousand others. The tornado was rated as an F5 on the Fujita Scale, the highest rating.


If a tornado is headed your way, where do you go to get to safety? Well, it depends on where you are when the storm is coming.


  • Go to your basement
  • If you don't have a basement, go to the center part of your home in the lowest level in a closet or bathroom
  • Stay away from windows, DO NOT open windows


  • Evacuate mobile home
  • Take shelter in a ditch or culvert if your community doesn't have a nearby shelter


  • NEVER try to outrun a tornado
  • Leave your car and take cover in nearest ditch
  • Highway overpasses are not as safe as a ditch or culvert


  • Go to the designated shelter area
  • Safest place is an interior hallway on the lowest level
  • DO NOT take shelter in an auditorium or gymnasium or an area with a long, wide, free-spanning roof

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