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Tornado Safety


A tornado is defined as "a mobile, destructive vortex of violently rotating winds having the appearance of a funnel-shaped cloud and advancing beneath a large storm system." Tornadoes can vary from just 50 yards to 1 mile in width. Most tornadoes in the US are small and weak (EF-0 or EF-1), but rare EF-5 tornadoes pack winds in excess of 200 mph!

Tornadoes in Tennessee

Tornadoes in Tennessee*
Year Total
2000 27
2001 14
2002 30
2003 45
2004 16
2005 22
2006 26
2007 10
2008 42
2009 57
2010 36
2011 80
*Source: National Weather Service

There have been 13 major tornadoes in the Nashville/Davidson County area since 1974 and 10 tornadoes since 1994, and that includes three tornadoes in 1998 that caused major damage in several parts of the city.  (Source: Metro Nashville Office of Emergency Management)

In addition to these storms, on February 5, 2008, a series of storms damaged property southwest of Nashville and then passed through Davidson County.  The storm did not generate any tornadoes in Davidson county, but a short time after passing through this county, the same storm did spawn tornadoes northeast of town.  One of these tornados was nearly 3/4 of a mile wide with a 12-mile track; it killed 14 people in Macon County.

In 2011, the National Weather Service confirmed 80 tornadoes in Tennessee.  

Since 1950 there have been more than 300 tornado deaths in Tennessee.

Be prepared - Tornado Season is March through May.

The most likely time for tornadoes to appear in Tennessee is March through May, but when conditions are right, tornadoes can appear at any time of the year.  Take steps now to be prepared if a tornado strikes.  Learn about the Vanderbilt Severe Weather Warning System, and the Vanderbilt Emergency Guide for Tornadoes, so that you can develop your personal severe weather plan for actions you will take in the event of a tornado emergency.

  • Know where you plan to go if the sirens sound.
  • Practice a "tornado drill" at least once a year.
  • Use the buddy system to check in after an incident to keep others from worrying and have a pre-determined place to meet after an incident occurs.
  • Make your friends and family aware of the potential for tornadoes in the area.
  • Get informed about upcoming severe weather and stay alert for severe weather Watches and Warnings:

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