At its base, a tornado can be from 100 metres to over 1 kilometre wide. The wider it is, the more destructive it can be.
The most violent tornadoes have wind speeds of more than 400 kilometres an hour. As you can imagine, such a twister can destroy everything in its path. Tornadoes can pick up cars, houses and trains and put them down in the next street — or even in the next town. One tornado picked up a school house, turned it around, and then set it down backwards.
In Russia, during one tornado, people were amazed to see money falling out of the sky. At least a thousand coins dropped from the clouds. The winds had removed the earth from a buried treasure, then picked up the coins.
Once, a man from Texas opened the door of his house, and fell 10 metres to the ground! His house had already taken off. Luckily, the man remained alive.
Most tornadoes last a few minutes, but some can last several hours. Such tornadoes are especially destructive.
Some people think that you are safe from tornadoes if you are near rivers, lakes and mountains. How wrong they are! Tornadoes can go up 3,000-metre mountains, as well as across rivers and lakes.
Tornadoes occur almost everywhere in the world, but the country that sees the strongest twisters is the United States of America. About 800 tornadoes hit the country every year.
No two twisters are exactly alike. Each tornado has its own colour, sound and shape. Each tornado is filled with surprises because nobody can ever tell where it might go or what kinds of things it might do. This is why tornadoes are the most dangerous storms.