A tornado is a violent whirlwind that usually develops in association with a severe thunderstorm. The winds in a tornado can exceed those measured in the most intense hurricanes. Wind speeds in an intense tornado are likely to rise above 200 miles per hour. These violent winds are what make tornadoes so deadly – they can uproot and snap trees, down power lines, move or pick up cars and trucks, and destroy homes. The paths of tornadoes can be very short, or they can extend for many miles. Not surprisingly, tornado ground speeds range from nearly stationary to over 50 miles per hour. Tornadoes that form over a body of water are called waterspouts.

Tornadoes in New Jersey can form in a variety of ways, and in all seasons. However, New Jersey tornadoes typically occur in the Spring and Summer months, March through August and during hurricanes. Tornadoes are a violent windstorm characterized by a twisting funnel shaped loud which are typically spawned by severe thunderstorms or hurricanes.

Tornado Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)https://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/

  • Tornado Watch – Issued to alert the public that conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. These watches are issued with information concerning the watch area and the length of time they are in effect. This does not mean that tornadoes are imminent, but you must be alert and prepared.
  • Tornado Warning – Issued by local NWS offices to warn the public that a tornado has been sighted by storm spotters or has been indicated by Doppler radar (https://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/doppler.htm)  These warnings are issued with information concerning where the tornado is presently located and what communities are in the anticipated path of the tornado. Take immediate safety (https://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/safety.html) precautions.
  • Build or identify a Safe-Room in your home.  Although safe-rooms are the preferred method of protection, people in this area should consider using their basement. Stay away from windows, seek some type of sturdy protection (heavy table or workbench), or even cover yourself with a mattress.
  • Contact your home or business insurance agent and complete an insurance check-up.
  • Know the signs of a tornado.
    • Strong persistent rotation in the cloud base.
    • Whirling dust or debris on the ground or under a cloud base.  Sometimes tornadoes do not have funnels!
    • Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can’t be seen.
    • Day or night- Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn’t fade in a few seconds like thunder.
    • Night- Small bright, blue, green to white slashes at ground level near a thunderstorm. (this is opposed to the silvery lightning up in the clouds). These flashes mean power lines are being snapped by very strong wind and may be a tornado.
    • Night- persistent lowering from the cloud base, illuminated or silhouetted by lightning, especially if it ion the ground or there is a blue-green-white power flash underneath.
  • Purchase and use a NOAA Weather Radio.

Learn how to protect yourself during a tornado.

Media Fujita Tornado Damage Scale



65-85 (mph)
Gale Tornado
Some damage to chimneys. Tree branches broken off. Shallow rooted trees uprooted.
86-110 (mph)
Moderate Tornado
Peels surface off roofs. Mobile homes overturned. Moving autos pushed off roads.
111-135 (mph)
Significant Tornado 
Considerable damage. Roofs torn off frame houses. Large trees snapped or uprooted. Light-object projectiles generated.
136-165 (mph)
Severe Tornado 
Severe damage. Roofs and some walls torn off well-constructed homes. Most trees in forests uprooted. Heavy cars lifted off ground.
166-200 (mph)
Devastating Tornado 
Well-constructed houses leveled. Structures blown off weak foundations. Cars thrown and large projectiles generated.
200+ (mph)
Incredible Tornado 
Strong frame houses lifted off foundations and disintegrated. Automobile-sized projectiles fly through the air in excess of 100 mph. Trees debarked.