what happens if a tornado picks you up

If you live in a tornado-prone area, you’re probably wondering what happens if a tornado picks you up.

First things first, it’s worth noting that there is a very slim chance a tornado pick you up.

If you were to find yourself in the path of a tornado, you would likely be hit by debris several times and likely die. However, if you managed to not run into debris, you would most likely hit the ground so hard and probably won’t survive the impact.

In either case, if you were to find yourself in the path of a tornado, you would most likely die.

Nature of Tornadoes

Tornadoes are formed when warm and humid air collides with cold and dry air. The colder air is denser than the warm air, pushed over it.

Warm air will rise through the cold air, and rapid changes in wind direction or speed can cause turbulent air to begin swirling into an updraft.

The funnel-shaped clouds that form tornadoes are born from the supercell thunderstorms at the center of a mesoscale convective system.

The reasons for this phenomenon are not fully understood, but downdrafts seem to play a part.

Tornado Strength and Speed

speed and strength of tornado

These tornadoes can generate winds of over 300 miles per hour, causing them to blow you around.

Being inside a tornado’s swirling updraft is like being in an unyielding blender, and you might be pulled off your feet and tossed into the air before you even realize you’re in one.

The winds are blasting, and you’re most likely to die from constant bombardment into heavy, sturdy objects than being killed by the tornado directly.

Other fatalities occur from hitting things like trees, power lines, and houses.

Note: If you survive, you are likely to be slammed onto the ground, suffering injuries from the impacts of debris.

Protecting Yourself Against a Tornado

protect against tornado

It’s not enough to know what happens if a tornado picks you up.

It’s equally crucial that you plan for the rare situations when you notice the warning signs or find yourself close to a raging tornado.

Here are some precautions you can take to stay safe:

At Work or School During a Tornado

If indoors, get under a piece of heavy furniture such as a desk or heavy table, or any sturdy piece of furniture, then hold on to it.

It’s best to avoid large spaces with high ceilings, like cafeterias, auditoriums, shopping malls, and large hallways.

Put your arms out in front of you to protect your head and neck. A basement is a good place away from the commotion caused by the tornado on the main floor.

At Home During a Tornado

If you find yourself in a mobile home during a tornado, seek shelter elsewhere, like in a sturdy building.

Try to position yourself in the center of a room. Avoid standing near walls or corners because the corners tend to collect dust and other debris during a tornado.

Always stay away from windows. As a tornado approaches your neighborhood, go to an interior room of your house on the lowest floor. If you have a storm cellar or basement, go there instead.

If you do not, go to an inner hallway or small inner room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet.

If you are lying face-down, protect your head and neck with your arms.

When in a building, get under sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table or desk. This will help protect you from falling objects and prevent you from being knocked down by a strong tornado.

In a Car During a Tornado

When you hear the tornado siren, get out of the car and seek shelter in a nearby building.

Never attempt to drive in the same direction as or against a tornado.

Tornadoes are unpredictable and can change direction quickly, and a driver trying to flee in a car or truck could be thrown from the vehicle by the tornado’s winds.

When a tornado approaches, leave your car, then lie down in a ditch or other low-lying area away from your vehicle.

Be aware of flooding or that you may be in danger of being struck by lightning as well.

Outdoors During a Tornado

If you are caught outdoors in a tornado, seek shelter in a low-lying area. If you can take cover in a substantial building, do it.

Otherwise, lie flat in a ditch or even under a sturdy table.

If you find yourself in a situation where the only way to protect your head and neck is by using your arms, go ahead and do so.

Fact: The United States is hit by about 1,000 tornadoes a year, with the most striking occurrences in Tornado Alley.

Surviving a Tornado

surviving a tornado

Now that we’ve gone through the necessary precautions, the next issue to tackle is can you survive if a tornado picks you up?

The simple answer is a resounding YES.

In rare instances, tornadoes have lifted people and objects from the ground, carried them some distance, and then set them down again without causing injury or damage.

Some studies show that human beings and animals can survive being moved up to a one-quarter mile (0.40 km) with a minor injury.

Odds of Surviving a Tornado

To pick up and move cars, tornadoes generate a significant amount of upward suction in their cores.

This upward force allows the wind to push items along with it, including cars. If a tornado is rated as a three, a four, or even a five on the Fujita scale, there is a minimal chance of your survival.

According to the National Weather Service, the average person has a 1 in 60,000 chance of dying in a tornado; in 2010, 45 tornadoes-related deaths and 699 injuries.

Accident odds vary according to factors such as the prevalence of tornadoes in your area, the severity of the tornadoes, and weather conditions.

What to Do if Tornado Picks you Up

It’s good to be prepared once you get the signs that there’s an oncoming tornado. But you might be wondering what to do if a tornado picks you up.

Well, the tornado itself will overpower you with its strength and vigor. The best thing to do is to use your hands to protect your head and neck as much as possible.

You will probably survive a few debris hits, but with your neck and head protected by your hands, there is a higher chance of avoiding death from blunt trauma.

It’s also possible that the constant bombardment may badly hit your vital organs with the stuff the tornado picked up on its path.

Note: Once it subsides and you're on the ground, seek medical care immediately, even if you don't feel injured or unwell.

Inside a Tornado

inside a tornado

1. Breathing

Researchers’ team estimates that air density at the bottom of a tornado would be 20% lower than at high altitudes.

This is equivalent to the thickness of air found at 8,000 feet above sea level.   

2. Temperature

No set temperature causes tornadoes to form.

The air temperature at the surface is not always a predictor of tornadic activity, as tornado formation is most likely related to the temperature and moisture content of the upper atmosphere.

A strong updraft carries warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico in a tornado, where temperatures are usually above 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Sound

One vortex tornadoes, or tornadoes consisting of one air column rotating center, are thought to have the eye which is an area with low wind speed close to the middle of the vortex.

Tornadoes produce several types of sounds, including a continuous rumbling or roar, accompanied by a rushing or roaring sound.

Tornadoes also have sounds similar to those made by waterfalls and jet engines.

Read Next: How Far Do Tornadoes Travel?

Final Thought

In this article, you’ve learned what happens if a tornado picks you up and the necessary safety precautions you should take to stay away from danger.

Never try to outrun a tornado since it can always increase speed or change direction.

If you follow the precautions, your chances of surviving a violent tornado are certain.