How to find a Tornado on Radar

Radar Image of Hook Echo

Radar image of a violent supercell storm with a hook echo containing a tornado.
Radar image of a violent supercell storm with a hook echo containing a tornado.

How to find a Tornado on Radar


Being able to find a tornado on radar by yourself could prove to be a lifesaver, especially if a violent storm is heading into your area. To find a tornado on radar you obviously need access to radar. For most of us, that would involve going onto the internet or phone and going to weather sites, i.e. Local news stations, weather.com, noaa.gov, or other weather radar sites.


Once you have access you should be able to check out if they are thunderstorms nearby and whether or not those could potentially have a tornado. Obviously, chances are you will be notified if there is a tornado in the area by local media and weather stations/radios before you find the possible tornado yourself.

The picture on the right is a perfect example which part of the thunderstorm the tornado is located. Instead of focusing on the big green and red blob, focus your attention on the backwards comma looking feature. If there is a tornado within a particular storm it could more than likely be in located in the comma head as indicated on the image.



Storm Myths

Many people believe that you need to experience bad weather (thunderstorms with wind, rain and hail) in order for a tornado to strike your place. If you are one of those people I am sad to say that is 100% false. Typically, a tornado in a supercell thunderstorm will be away from the heavy rain and hail. Depending on the movement of the storm, being in the heavy wind, rain and hail part of the thunderstorm may be a good thing as the tornado could be passing to your south.

On the flip side, many people would believe that since its sunny and not raining at their location a tornado could not possibly be heading to their residence. That is also 100% false. Since a tornado typically resides on the south side of a single supercell thunderstorm, away from the heavy precipitation, most of the storm could be passing just far enough to your north that you do not receive much in the way of rain, but the tornado instead, could tear your house apart. I am not here to say that is always the case, merely just saying that with these dangerous storms you must always be very cautious even if the storm altogether appears to be missing your location.

Also should be worth noting that if there is a violent storm that has a hook/comma as shown in the picture above, does not always mean there is a tornado associated with the storm. At the very least it does indicate that there is rotation associated with the storm that could produce a tornado.

Safety first

These storms are unpredictable and can change direction at any time. If your location is under a tornado warning you either need to head down to the basement/storm cellar or into an interior room or bathroom on the lowest level of the house. If possible and if time allows, take a mattress with you into the bathroom, get into the tub with the mattress over your head.

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