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Home > Thunderstorms > What would airports do in the event of an approaching tornado?
What would airports do in the event of an approaching tornado?
Weather - Thunderstorms
Thursday, 13 March 2008 10:37

Dear Capt Lim,

What would airports do in the event of an approaching tornado?  Do tornadoes affect aviation in the same way that micro-bursts do?  I would like some answers to these questions if you have them.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Evan Popchock

Hi Evan,

Airports would declare their runways closed in the event of an approaching tornado. This is because the winds from the violent rotating column of air descending from a thunderstorm would exceed the landing limitations of any airplanes. All planes arriving would be advised to divert to another suitable airport.

Tornadoes are usually brief and lasting only for a few minutes. When they have passed, the runways may be reopened provided no damage has been done to the landing facilities. However, they can sometime last for more than an hour and travel several miles and causing great destruction along the way.

Most tornadoes are spawned from the super-cell thunderstorms. It is these which create the persistent rotating updraft and form the strong vertical wind shear. Wind shear is the change in wind speed and direction with height. They are also found amongst the micro-bursts.

Tornadoes are classified from "weak" to "violent" (scale EF = "0" to "5") causing moderate to incredible damages to lives and properties. Even in the weakest scale of "0", its wind speed of 65 to 85 mph is far too strong if they were cross-winds for any commercial planes to land. So it is definitely as violent as any micro-bursts!

You can see some videos about the destructive forces of the tornadoes below. If that is not enough, there are more resources in Tornado FAQ here.

Inside the Tornadoes
Tornado Destruction

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