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Name: Amy
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: IN
Country: N/A
Date: 11/21/2005

How long to tornados usually last?

Based on the length of the touch-down paths of tornados, a tornado touch-down can last for seconds to many minutes. "How long" also depends upon whether one is referring to a single funnel with/without touching land, or the entire storm cell that can last for hours as a storm front moves often hundreds of miles.

Vince Calder

Dear Amy-

The lifetime of a tornado can be very short, like less than one minute, or it can be very long. On rare occasions tornadoes can last several hours. One of the most deadly tornados in U.S. history was the Tri-State tornado in March 1925. The tornado track was 219 miles long and the tornado lasted for 3 1/2 hours. 695 people were killed and more than 15,000 homes destroyed. Here is a link that describes that tornado.

Here are some other links that describe tornadoes and typical characeristics.

Wendell Bechtold, meteorologist
Forecaster, National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office, St. Louis, MO


Tornados can last just a few seconds (on the ground) to many hours, depending on the strength and longevity of the thunderstorm from which it forms. However, the average tornado lasts only about 10 to 30 minutes.

David R. Cook
Climate Research Section
Environmental Science Division
Argonne National Laboratory

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