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.
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
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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Update: June 2012