How are Tornadoes Rated and How to Protect Your Home Against Them?

A tornado is a column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground. Its invisible winds rotate violently, eventually accumulating dust, debris, and water until it appears as the frightening “twister” like the one in The Wizard of Oz.   

Tornadoes crop up throughout the world, with the United States experiencing about 1,200 each year. Tornado Alley is a nickname given to an area of relatively high tornado occurrences in the center of the country, but the term might be misleading. 

According to The National Severe Storms Laboratory, the tornado threat in the United States shifts from the Southeast in the cooler months of the year, toward the southern and central Plains in May and June, and the northern Plains and Midwest during early summer. Tornadoes have been reported in all fifty states, so it is important to know how you should protect your home in the event one may happen.

Do weather experts use a scale to measure tornadoes?

In 2007, the National Weather Service implemented the Enhanced Fujita Scale to rate tornadoes more accurately and consistently. The EF Tornado Scale, as it is commonly known, takes into account twenty-eight “damage indicators” that include 23 types of buildings and five other objects such as towers, trees, and poles. 

Since it is almost impossible to measure the wind speed inside a tornado, experts examine the damage it caused. They can then estimate the wind speed and intensity of a storm after reviewing the information concerning their impact. The Enhanced Fujita replaced the original tornado rating scale devised by research scientist Dr. Ted Fujita in 1971.

What are the different levels of tornadoes?

The EF Tornado Scale was developed by a team of meteorologists and engineers who convened at Texas Tech University. Since 2007, the EF Scale has been used exclusively for tornado measurement:

  •     EF-0: Wind speeds of 65 to 85 mph causing light damage such as roof, gutter, and siding issues. Broken tree branches and uprooting of shallow-rooted trees is possible.
  •     EF-1: Wind speeds of 86 to 110 mph. Moderate damage that includes stripped roofs, overturned mobile homes, and broken windows.
  •     EF-2: Wind speeds of 111 to 135 mph. Considerable damage with roofs torn off sturdy houses, shifted foundations, mobile homes destroyed, and cars lifted off the ground.
  •     EF-3: Wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph. Severe damage-causing well-constructed houses to be destroyed. Also, severe damage to large buildings, trains overturned, heavy vehicles lifted and thrown, and structures with weak foundations blown away some distance.
  •     EF-4: Wind speeds of 166 to 200 mph. Devastating damage as many houses are leveled completely. Vehicles are tossed around, and small missiles are generated.
  •    EF-5: Wind speeds over 200 mph. Incredible damage as houses are leveled off foundations and swept away. Automobile-sized missiles could fly through the air for over 100 yards, and high-rise buildings could have significant structural distortion.

How to protect your home against tornadoes

While your home might usually be your safe place, when a tornado touches down, it can become perilous. You need to be prepared to ensure the safety of your family and your assets.

These tips could put the odds of withstanding a tornado in your favor:

  •     Secure potential outdoor hazards: Outdoor furniture, chairs, planters, and children’s toys will be thrown around during high winds. Store them securely or remove them entirely.
  •     Fortify your roof: You can reinforce the strength of your roof by hiring a professional to install hurricane straps or clips. The straps are attached to the roof trusses or rafters and to the studs of a load-bearing wall to create a stable connection.
  •     Protect windows and doors: Storm shutters—either permanent or temporary—provide excellent protection for windows. Add metal stiffeners to your garage doors for extra support. And impact-resistant windows are less likely to shatter when struck by a flying object.
  •     Secure furniture and appliances: Use furniture anchors to attach dressers and bookcases to the wall. Childproof latches keep cabinet doors from flying open and spilling their fragile contents onto the floor.  Metal strapping or flexible cable will secure large appliances and your water heater.
  •    Set up a safe room: Families should have a designated place in which to retreat during a tornado that all members are aware of and have practiced going to. It should be in the basement and away from all windows. Stock the room with water, flashlights, batteries, a first-aid kit, and a supply of non-perishable food.

Talk to a professional for reliable homeowners insurance advice

With any luck, you will never experience the destruction that a tornado can cause, but being prepared if one does touch down near you could save your property and your life. Contact NSI Insurance Group and talk to one of our experts about protecting your property with homeowners insurance. Fill out our contact form, call us at 305-556-1488, or send us a message at

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