-- Robert Greenough's
3rd grade class at James Monroe Elementary School (Bermuda Dunes,
CA) wanted to know about naming tornadoes. It seems that during
a discussion about Hurricane Floyd, they wondered why it was that
hurricanes are named, but tornadoes are not.
Do you know why tornadoes aren't named? -- 10/12/99
answered their question, I contacted the class and asked them
to brainstorm possible answers. The students responded.... "Thank
you for returning our email. We brainstormed some ideas as to
why they name hurricanes and not tornadoes. We came up with 10,
but we chose six of those that could be possible answers. These
1. A hurricane is more dangerous.
2. Hurricanes from in the sea.
3. Hurricanes are bigger.
4. Hurricanes are stronger.
5. Tornadoes happen more frequently.
6. Hurricanes last longer."
Not a bad list! Actually, the list is pretty comprehensive.
And now......the answer!!!!!
The students were just about exactly right with #5 and #6. Tornadoes are very short-lived. Most last 10 -15 minutes and they are gone. There are also a lot of them (around 1000 a year in the U.S. alone). To try and name them would be almost impossible. Think about the list of names we'd have to have.
Hurricanes happen much less frequently and they last longer. Also, there may sometimes be two or more hurricanes happening at the same time. So, name recognition is important to let people know which storm the TV weather people are talking about.
But, some tornadoes have actually been named. This occurs "after the fact" when a tornado (or an outbreak of tornadoes) causes significant damage or loss of life. In these cases, tornadoes or tornado outbreaks become known for their date of occurrence, place of occurrence, or some other key attribute of the event.
For example, on April 3-4, 1974 an outbreak of nearly 150 tornadoes swept across the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys (and other places nearby). This outbreak became known as "The Super-Outbreak" of tornadoes because at that time (or to this date), it was the greatest number of reported tornadoes in a 24-hour period. During that outbreak, a major tornado struck Xenia, OH. It became known as the "Xenia Tornado". There are also the famous "Palm Sunday" outbreak of 1965, and the "Tri-State Tornado" of March 18, 1925 (that raced across parts of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana for a nearly 200 mile path).
Thank goodness there are relatively few of these significant events compared to the total number of tornadoes that occur each year.
photo courtesy of NSSL
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