how fast are the winds of a tornado

How fast are the winds of a tornado? Tornadoes are fascinating and terrifying in equal measure because they can be destructive.

The winds at the center of these whirling vortices can be extremely powerful, tearing apart buildings, uprooting trees, and hurling debris at high rates of speed.

But, how fast are winds in a tornado to cause some serious harm?

Extreme tornadoes have produced wind speeds of up to 300 miles per hour, making them the fastest moving winds ever recorded on Earth. 

Learning More about Tornadoes and Wind Speed

learning more about tornadoes and wind speed

Speaking of natural disasters, tornadoes are probably among the worst of them.

They can cause serious devastation mainly due to the updrafts within a wind shear and thunderstorm.

Similarly, a quick change in wind speed and direction with altitude also plays a role here. 

The interaction is enough to spin the air at a speed that produces a funnel cloud, which gradually turns into a full-blown tornado.

The speed of the winds is at the very core of how destructive a tornado can be.

The moment these strong winds hit a populated area, all you are left with is large-scale destruction and severe casualties.  

More about the Winds of a Tornado

more about the winds of a tornado

It is true that the wind of a tornado can be as powerful as 300mph, but how fast do winds need to be for a tornado?

Well, even 40-72mph is counted as a tornado, though it would not be as devastating as a tornado with a higher wind speed.

Tornadoes are categorized according to their damage and predicted wind speeds using the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale.

The scale goes from EF0 (the weakest tornado possible) to EF5 (the strongest possible tornado)

How is Tornado Wind Speed Measured?

Tornado wind speeds are not directly measured, and this is a crucial consideration.

Instead, they are approximated after the fact based on the harm seen.

Yet, researchers are always studying tornadoes and their wind speeds to learn more about their dynamics, consequences, and causes.

how is tornado wind speed measured

Tornado wind speed forecasting is an extremely difficult endeavor.

Meteorologists use various instruments to investigate thunderstorms and detect tornadoes, such as:

  • Ocular observations
  • Doppler radar
  • … and other instruments

Warnings are issued when a tornado has been sighted or strongly suggested by radar, while watches are issued when circumstances are conducive for tornado formation.

Fact: Your chances of surviving a tornado are greatly increased if you know the weather forecast, have a plan in place in case of an emergency, and know where to take shelter. 

How fast are the Winds of a Tornado?

To get a better idea about the winds of a tornado, you need to pay attention to the enhanced Fujita scale.

speed of winds in a tornado

Here is a breakdown of the Enhanced Fujita scale, the predicted wind speeds that correlate to each category, and the normal damage that is seen as a result: 


On the Enhanced Fujita scale, an EF0 tornado has wind speeds between 40 and 72 miles per hour, making it the weakest possible rating.

Tornadoes with an EF0 rating are not as strong as EF1 or EF2 but pose a risk to life and property.

The common outcomes of an EF0 tornado include:

  • Broken tree limbs
  • Uprooted shallow-rooted trees
  • Moderate damage to roofs and siding

The situation can change quickly and produce more serious damage than initially thought during any tornado occurrence, including EF0 tornadoes.

Therefore, it is important to take precautions and seek shelter. 


tornadoes with ef1 ratings

Tornadoes with EF1 ratings have wind speeds between 73 and 112 mph and can produce modest damage at best. 

It may include:

  • Broken glass
  • Severely damaged roofs
  • Uprooted trees

Mobile homes are especially vulnerable to tornado damage because they can be uprooted from their bases or flipped over.

When an EF1 tornado is approaching, it is critical to take shelter immediately. 


Tornadoes rated as EF2 can do a lot of damage since their winds reach 113mph to 157 mph.

Large trees can be snapped or uprooted totally, roofs can be ripped clean off of buildings, and entire neighborhoods can be uprooted in an EF2 storm.

Cars and other vehicles could be picked up and hurled around by the strong gusts.

Even more vulnerable are mobile houses, which the force of an EF2 tornado can completely destroy.


tornadoes with ef3 ratings

Tornadoes with EF3 intensity have the potential to cause substantial damage since their winds are between 158 mph and 206 mph.

Even well-built homes can lose a full floor, and large structures can sustain such extensive damage that they become unsafe.

An EF3 tornado has the force to flip trains and throw heavy automobiles a long distance.

Tornadoes can cause extensive damage, and it can take a long time and a lot of money to repair the damage they create.

Therefore, it is critical for people living in areas prone to EF3 tornadoes to pay attention to warnings and take the necessary precautions to safeguard their lives and property. 


Tornadoes with EF4 ratings can cause extensive destruction since their winds reach 207 mph to 260 mph.

Even well-constructed homes can be reduced to rubble by the force of these storms.

Tornadoes can be so powerful that even reinforced concrete buildings sustain some damage.

Because of how far vehicles may be hurled, they provide a serious danger to both people and property.

Large, heavy things can also become airborne and become lethal projectiles.

Those in areas at risk for EF4 tornadoes must monitor the weather, heed warnings, and take precautions to protect themselves and their communities from the storms’ devastating potential. 


tornadoes with ef5 ratings

When the wind speed is above 260mph and even hitting 300+ mark, you are talking about EF5 tornadoes.

These tornadoes are the deadliest possessing power to cause unimaginable destruction.

Do not be surprised if you see an EF5 tornado washing away entire buildings, leaving behind nothing but basements.    

These tornadoes can be equally destructive for reinforced-concrete structures as well as high-rise buildings. 

Fact: An unusual calm or quiet weather is sometimes indicative of a tornado in the making.   

Are There Warning Signs for Tornadoes?

are there warning signs for tornadoes

Those thunderstorms turning into tornadoes can be intense and those fast-spinning columns of air can definitely cause serious damage as they make contact with the ground.

You do not have much time to decide how to handle the situation since tornadoes sometimes develop and become strong in a matter of minutes.

Thanks to advanced technologies, there are certain ways to foretell any possibility of having a tornado.

Also, you can consider certain warning signs to better prepare yourself before a tornado strikes. 

Severe Thunderstorms

Tornadoes are most commonly seen in strong thunderstorms, particularly supercell thunderstorms.

It all begins with a revolving updraft, called a mesocyclone.

It is at the very center of these intense storms and marks the development of a full-blown tornado.

It also suggests that whenever there is a warning for a severe thunderstorm, you should never rule out the possibility of witnessing a tornado.

Fact: Be prepared to witness a tornado whenever you see the cloud base rotating.    

Tornado Watches and Warnings

tornado watches and warnings

When circumstances are right for tornadoes to form, the NWS will issue a tornado watch, typically several hours before any tornadoes actually become noticeable.

It is crucial to have supplies on hand and keep an eye on the weather when a tornado watch is in effect. 

Dark Greenish Skies

A dark, greenish sky may be an indicator of a violent thunderstorm producing heavy hail.

That change of color is the result of light scattering from within the storm by hailstones. Tornadoes may occur under such conditions in the sky. 

Wall Clouds

wall clouds

A wall cloud is a revolving, low-lying cloud that forms near the storm’s center.

It is highly likely that a tornado will develop in such regions.

Be on the lookout for a tornado if you notice a wall cloud, especially if it is whirling or dropping in altitude

Funnel Clouds

When a revolving column of air begins to condense into a visible funnel shape, this leads to the formation of a funnel cloud.

There is a chance of a tornado developing if a funnel cloud is seen and appears to be moving downward.

Fact: Even if a funnel cloud has not yet touched down, people should take shelter from it, as it can cause serious consequences. 

Strong Inflow of Winds

strong inflow of winds

Tornadoes cannot form or keep their strength without a substantial influx of air.

A tornado may be developing if you see a rapid increase in wind speed or notice trees and debris being dragged into a storm. 


How fast are the winds of a tornado? Tornadoes give you a glimpse into nature’s fury.

That raw strength of tornadoes makes them fascinating but it also makes them scary.

Those swirling vortices do not take a lot of time to cause widespread destruction, especially with wind speeds exceeding 300mph.

The only way to limit the amount of damage is to keep updated about any impending dangers and take precautions in a timely manner.