<![CDATA[Ranker: Recent natural disasters Lists]]> http://www.ranker.com/tags/natural-disasters http://www.ranker.com/img/skin2/logo.gif Most Viewed Lists on Ranker http://www.ranker.com/tags/natural-disasters <![CDATA[Stuff You'd Save if Your House Was Burning Down]]> http://www.ranker.com/list/stuff-youd-save-if-your-house-was-burning-down/ariel-kana
The miracle of fire captivated early humans and gave them the power to cook food. But all too often, the fiery flames turn on us, destroying homes and buildings. If a fire hit your house, what would you save before making your grand escape? When flames start burning down the house, what will you reach for?

This list of stuff you'd save if your house was burning down will help you prioritize your favorite and most valuable possessions. Are selfies more important than self-help books? Do you need your beauty products more than your pills? Who do you love more: your kitten or your lover? (Until you're in the heat of the moment – pardon the pun – do you really know?)  Which fabulous outfit do you want the hot firemen to see you in? These are the big, life-changing questions you'll face amid the flames.

So what would you save if your house was burning to ashes? Vote up the stuff you'd be most likely to grab while fleeing from a house fire. With any luck, you'll live a life free of house fires, but it's much better to be prepared. 
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My Collection of Selfies
You didn't snap these hot pics for them to NOT be seen. Don't deprive the world of your best duck faces – get back in that burning house and salvage what you can from your selfie shelf. We know you've got one.

My Video Collection
Whether your collection resides on hard drives or you've still got the old school VHS tapes laying around, you've definitely got all sorts of very important recordings in your video collection. Some are sentimental recordings of your kids' birthday parties, some are (ahem) less kid-friendly. In any case, they must be saved, after all VHS tapes simply can't be replaced, and, at last check, burnt up hard drives are pretty useless.

All the Products I Need to Look Like This
What's hotter than fire? You are. But it's a process. There are necessary tools and top-secret beauty tricks that only you have. And that lipstick was just discontinued! Make sure you grab your beauty kit so you can emerge from the flames, hotter than ever.
My Personal Toys (Don't Judge)
"You saved a toy box? But you don't have any kids," the neighbors might say when you exit your burning home, "toy" box in hand. Ignore them. Save whatever "toys" you might have, and make your post-inferno life one of pleasure.
The Gifts My Sweetie Gave Me
What's more important than true love? The gifts you demand from your significant other as proof that they do, in fact, love you. Because how do you show love if not through lavish gifts? Before the house becomes ashes, make sure you save all the jewelry, heart shaped candy boxes, love letters, special mementos and giant teddy bears that serve as proof of your loving relationship.
My Fabulous Undies (You Go Girl!)
Girl's gotta look her best, even in the wake of a natural disaster, right? Right. Save the undies. You never know what kinds of hot firemen you might meet. Or perhaps there will be a hot Good Samaritan out there who stopped to help, a hot news reporter covering the event.... you just never know!

My Wine Bottle Opener (Holla!)
Look, just because your house burned down doesn't mean you won't want (need?) a nice bottle of wine to get through the trauma. Be sure you grab the corkscrew on your way through the flames, otherwise, what will you drink? Hello... priorities!

My Pill Collection
Some are legit prescriptions, others might not be exactly genuine, but all are essential to your mental stability. If you've ever needed some little yellow pills it's now, so keep them close and the green, blue, red, white, orange, and purple ones even closer.
My Furry Little Loved One
Spot and Fluffy have such short legs – how will they ever escape on their own?! They're your special little buddies and must be saved. If they're gone, your world just won't be the same. And, without them around, you'd have to find something else to post pictures of on Instagram.
My Favorite Outfits (Of Course!)
You're definitely the Carrie of your friends - the fashionista with a wardrobe that rivals that of the entire "Sex and the City" cast. Don't leave your favorite looks to smolder in the ashes of your once-majestic closet. Save at least a few outfits so you have something fabulous to wear to meetings with the insurance agent. And if your fire is big enough, there may be media outside...always have a hot outfit to go at the ready!

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<![CDATA[The Worst Sinkhole Disasters of All Time]]> http://www.ranker.com/list/worst-sinkhole-disasters-of-all-time/coy-jandreau
A sinkhole, also known as a swallow hole, shake hole, swallet, or doline, is a depression or hole caused by a collapse of the surface layer of the earth. Sinkholes can range from just one meter (swallowing up a single person walking by on the street) up to hundreds of kilometers, taking out entire cities. They can happen naturally by wind or water erosion, or artificially due to people mining and drilling in unsafe areas.

Whichever the case and whatever the cause, people notice. It's a literal force of nature and it can be terrifying. Though some are later turned into a nice vacation spot. They happen all over the world, on both continents and islands. Below are the worst sinkhole disasters of all time, ranked by users. Vote up the disaster you think was the worst, and keep an eye on the earth beneath you.

Brazilian Port Sinkhole
Not much is known about this incident in Brazil other than an ENTIRE PORT was swept away in a matter of minutes, causing untold dollars in damages and a permanent end to that Port.
Agrico Gypsum Stack
The worst sinkhole in Florida history occurred when a 15 story hole opened up right beneath an 80 million ton pile of gypsum stack. This dumped between 4 and 6 million cubic feet of toxics and waste water into the Florida aquifer... which stores 90% of Florida's drinking water.
Winter Park Sinkhole
This sinkhole opened up suddenly in Florida (another... yeesh... Florida), and became world famous, they even make t-shirts. It did however cause of $4 MILLION in damages. 
San Francisco Sinkhole
In 1996 this sinkhole opened up under a heavily populated area in San Francisco, it was caused by a heavy rainstorm that destroyed a 100 year old sewer system under the city. Fortunately there were no fatalities, but this did occur in a nice part of town completely destroying a mansion and damaging several nearby homes.
Devil's Sinkhole
Located in Rocksprings, Texas, this 40 by 60 foot sinkhole is about 400 feet deep and is the home to thousands of Mexican Free Tailed bats. Though it was initially destructive to the town, costing thousands in damages, they have made it into quite the tourist destination due the sheer quantity of bats, and the size of the sinkhole. It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to for the bats to completely empty the sinkhole when they fly out for the night.
Berezniki Sinkhole
This sinkhole in the Russian city of Berezniki is ENORMOUS and approaching its 30th birthday. It started in 1986 and has been growing every year. As of 2012, it was 340 yards wide, 430 yards long, and 780 feet deep. It's slowly consuming the entire city.

Guatemala City Sinkhole
The people of a Guatemala City had been hearing strange sounds for weeks when suddenly, in late February 2007, an almost perfect circle sinkhole opened up 300 feet of earth beneath them! That's nearly the size of the Statue of Liberty but... DOWN. Unfortunately three people were killed and over one thousand had to be evacuated.
Brazil City Block Sink Hole
In January of 2014, a sinkhole took out an area, and all of the stores and homes in it, almost the size of an entire city block in a small town North of Rio, Brazil.
An entire trading and fortress city in the Arabian peninsula was swallowed up 5,000 years ago when it's underground water system (ironically the very thing that made it such a thriving city) gave way and swallowed up the entire city. It's been compared in scope to Los Angeles just falling into the earth. The Lost City of Ubar is known as the "Atlantis of the Sands."
Hurricane Agatha Guatemala City Sinkhole
Disaster struck Guatemala City again when, less than 2 kilometers from one the sinkhole that opened up in 2007, another sinkhole swallowed an entire three story building. The ground collapsed more than 300 feet and 15 people were killed. 

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<![CDATA[The Worst Volcanic Eruptions in History]]> http://www.ranker.com/list/the-worst-volcanic-eruptions-in-history/drake-bird
From the most recent, current volcanic eruptions to those of the past, this list has them all. With volcanic death tolls reaching tragic proportions, these are not only the worst volcanic eruptions environmentally, they're also the deadliest. World disasters such as these famous natural catastrophes can affect the world on a global scale and test the preparedness and relief our governments can provide. Luckily for the human race, none of these have been supervolcanoes.

What are the worst volcanic eruptions ever? Such great disasters, despite the destruction and natural hazards that come along with them, can also bring forth examples of how big our hearts are as we as individuals provide aid alongside our countries.

Mount Tambora
The biggest volcanic eruption in human history occurred in 1815 on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, leaving 100,000 dead. There was between six months and three years of steaming and small eruptions after the initial one. Because of the 400 million ton cloud of gas the volcano created, the earth began to cool and 1816 became known as "The Year Without Summer" because of the low temperatures, which killed crops and led to mass starvation.
The volcanic island, which is between the Indonesian islands Java and Sumatra, erupted in 1883 with a force 13,000 times that of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Over 36,000 people died. The explosion holds the record for the loudest sound ever heard. The sound was hard over 3,000 miles away from its origin point. The eruption produced a 130 foot high tsunami, which destroyed villages and killed 90 percent of the total people who died in the disaster.
Mount Vesuvius
The famous Italian volcano, the only active one on the European continent, erupted in 79 AD, killing at least 16,000 people with suffocating ash and instantly decimating Pompei and Herculeneam. Excavations beginning in the 19th century have been uncovering the skeletal remains of the volcano's victims. The volcano has erupted 30 times since then and scientists predict that the next eruption will be terrible, endangering the lives of at least 600,000 Italians living within its red zone.
Mount Pelée
Mount Pelee is a volcano on Martinique, the Caribbean island which was colonized by the French. On May 2, 1902 the rivers in St. Pierre were filled with boulders and trees from the mountain and the air was contaminated with sulfur. The eruption produced a tsunami that flooded the city. One side of the volcano collapsed, releasing boiling water and mud into the sugar farms and burying people alive. The eruption is known as the deadliest in the 20th century, killing at least 29,000 people.
Nevado del Ruiz
Recorded as the second deadliest volcanic eruption in the 20th century, the Nevado del Ruiz eruption, known as the Armero tragedy of 1985, killed at least 23,000. The Nevado del Ruiz is the northernmost volcano in the Andean Volcanic Belt, located in Tolima, Colombia. The eruption produced several lahars and one reached Armero, a little town located 70,000 kilometers from the summit of the volcano. The eruption was Colombia's worst natural disaster and is estimated to have cost $1 billion.
Mount Unzen
Mount Unzen is located in a cluster of volcanoes in Japan's Shimabara Peninsula. Mount Unzen's 1792 eruption triggered an avalanche from Mount Mayuyama. The landslide created a tsunami that killed 15,000 people.
Mount Kelud
This particularly active Indonesian volcano is especially deadly because its crater lake has caused lahars, which killed 10,000 in a 1586 explosion and 5,000 in 1919. Dams and drainage tunnels have been built since then to protect nearby villages from f*ture volcanic eruptions.
In 1783 Laki, a volcano in Iceland, exploded. The 120 million tons of gas that Laki emitted during the eight-month eruption killed 20% of Iceland's population (approx. 9,350 people), due to famine. The volcanic eruption had one of the greatest global impacts in history as the sulfur out pour caused crop failures in Europe, droughts in India and famine in Japan and Egypt. Environmental historians have even conjectured that Laki's eruption could have helped spark the French Revolution, as famine was one of the key issues the people raised against the French monarchy.
Santa Maria
Before its eruption in 1902, the Santa Maria Volcano, located in Guatemala, had been dormant for 500 years. Local people around the volcano were unable to detect the volcano's activity for this reason. 6,000 were killed by the eruption itself, which released 5.5 cubic kilometers of magma. An outbreak of malaria that followed the eruption killed many more. The city of Quezaltenango is located directly under the volcano and a new lava dome complex called Santiaguito has been forming in the crater which the eruption left.

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<![CDATA[10 Amazing & Rare Natural Phenomenons]]> http://www.ranker.com/list/10-amazing-and-rare-natural-phenomenons/analise.dubner
Natural phenomena list chronicles some of the most stunning, and rare, occurrences in nature (with photos). The natural world is packed to the brim with amazing life forms and spectacular accomplishments, but there are some things that just stand out. Mostly because they are so rare and unusual.

What are some natural phenomenons that occur in nature? Some of the things on this list have yet to be fully understood, and others have been well documented throughout history... but one thing is for certain, if you witness even one of these amazing and rare occurrences in your lifetime, consider yourself lucky.

Algal bloom

Algal blooms are a natural phenomenon, the occurrence of which may be increased by nutrient pollution. Algae can multiply quickly in waterways with an overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus, particularly when the water is warm and the weather is calm. This proliferation causes "blooms" of algae that turn the water green, orange or red.

The ones that most folks take note of, of course, are the ones that turn the ocean to blood. Or, you know, "red tide", even though it has nothing to do with the tide. This is known as one of the 'harmful blooms', although not only the red and brown algea are harmful. These HABs can produce neurotoxins (which affect the nervous system) and hepatotoxins (which affect the liver). These toxins can potentially impact the health of people who come into contact with water where HABs are present in high numbers.

Even though these blooms have been around since before biblical times, there has been increased public awareness of the negative impacts of these blooms to marine resources -- such as strandings and deaths of marine mammals, birds, and sea turtles. In addition, scientists have determined that there are more toxic algal species, algal toxins, affected fisheries resources, food-web disruption, and economic losses from harmful algal blooms than ever before.
Raining Animals
Raining animals is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which animals fall from the sky. There are a few theories about how this happens, one suggests that strong winds traveling over water sometimes pick up creatures such as fish or frogs, and carry them for up to several miles. However, while people have witnessed the animals actually falling, this initial stage of where and how the animals get grabbed up in the first place has never been witnessed or scientifically tested.

In some reported cases, the animals fall to the ground intact and alive, and in some they are found frozen or shredded.
Water Spout

A water spout is technically a non-supercell tornado over water... and while it's usually weaker than its land-brother the tornado, stronger ones are possible.

Usually found in the tropics, they've been known to form over lakes as well. There are generally three types: non-tornadic, tornadic and snowspout. The first, non-tornadic (or fair weather waterspouts) are the most common and tend to live only about 20 minutes. A tornadic spout is much stronger, and basically an actual tornado over water. These, like tornados, are connected with severe thunderstorms. Finally, the snowspout (also known as a snow devil) is the rarest of the three types. Only six known pictures exist (four from Ontario, CA), and they require extremely cold temps over a body of warm water with a difference of a specific 34 degrees to form at all.
Fire Rainbow

Also called a circumhorizontal arc, a fire rainbow is an optical phenomenon formed by ice crystals in high altitude cirrus clouds. If you are very lucky and live at the right latititude, you might see one, possibly two in your entire lifetime. Cirrus clouds are those spread-out, wispy looking clouds that you see way up past the regular, fluffy ones. They are so wispy because there is very little moisture in the air at that altitude.

Despite the fact that cirrus clouds are common, fire rainbows are not. This is for the same reason that you only see a regular rainbow under certain circumstances. The light from the sun has to hit these particular ice crystals at exactly the right angle or the light will not separate (refract) into its colorful components - at least 58 degrees above the horizon. Because of the absolutely specific height of the sun you will not see a fire rainbow south or north of 55 degrees.
Aurora Borealis
Superintendant Chalmers: Good Lord, what is happening in there?
principal Skinner: The Aurora Borealis?
Superintendant Chalmers: The Aurora Borealis? At this time of year? At this time of day? In this part of the country? Localized entirely within your kitchen?
principal Skinner: Yes.
Superintendant Chalmers: May I see it?
principal Skinner: No.

An aurora is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the thermosphere. These charged particles come from the magnetosphere as well as solar winds and are directed by the Earth's magnetic field into the atmosphere.

The altitude and the density of the atmosphere determine the colors you see, when the energetic electrons are strong enough to split the air molecules into nitrogen and oxygen. Oxygen atoms tend to display in two typical colors: green and red. The red is a brownish red that is at the limit of what the human eye can see, and although the red auroral emission is often very bright, we can barely see it.

To see aurora you need clear and dark sky. During very large auroral events, the aurora may be seen throughout the US and Europe, but these events are rare. I saw the Aurora in the middle of Utah once... looked like the sky was on fire in the middle of the night.
Sailing Stones

The method by which these stones travel is still an unsolved mystery. At a place called The Racetrack Playa in Death Valley, there's a dry lake bed that is surprisingly flat, with only a 4cm height differential between the north and south ends. The high mountains surrounding the Racetrack are made mostly of dark dolomite and tower over the lake bed. When the heavy desert rains come, water pours down these mountains and onto the lake bed, forming a very shallow lake. Due to the hot temperatures of the region (because, you know, Death Valley), the water evaporates, leaving behind a layer of soft, very slick mud. There is a theory that high winds move the rocks at this time, the thin layer of mud acting as a lubricated surface. However, the fact that some stones move and others do not, or that some will simply change direction... makes the wind theory slightly suspect.

These rocks seem to only move every 2 or 3 years, and some tracks develop over 4 years. There have been research teams on the Playa since the 70s, but no one has yet to witness the stones actually moving.
Ball Lightning
Ball lightning is an unexplained atmospheric electrical phenomenon that refers to a luminous, usually spherical object (and it's not a piece o' the car) which can vary from pea-sized to several meters in diameter. It is usually associated with thunderstorms, but lasts considerably longer than the split-second flash of a lightning bolt.

Laboratory experiments have produced effects that are visually similar to reports of ball lightning, but it is presently unknown whether these are actually related to any naturally occurring phenomenon. Scientific data on natural ball lightning are scarce owing to its infrequency and unpredictability. The presumption of its existence is based on reported public sightings, and has therefore produced somewhat inconsistent findings. Because there is a real lack of data on the phenomenon, the true nature of ball lightning is still unknown.
Rogue Wave

Rogue waves (also known as freak waves, monster waves, killer waves, extreme waves, and abnormal waves) are large and dangerous surface waves that occur far out to sea. These are not tsunamis, but instead seem to form from a variety of possible causes.

There are three types of rogue waves, the "Wall of Water", the "Three Sisters" and single, giant storm waves that can collapse within moments of their formation. These waves seem to occur in deep water or where a number of physical factors converge and can cause a number of waves to join together.

Penitentes are a snow formation found only at high altitudes. They take the form of tall thin blades of hardened snow or ice closely spaced and pointing in the general direction of the sun. Penitentes can be as tall as a person.

The key climatic condition that leads to the formation of penitentes is that dew point is always below freezing. Thus, snow will sublimate, because sublimation requires a higher energy input than melting. The surface geometry of the growing penitente produces a positive feedback mechanism, and radiation is trapped by multiple reflections between the walls of the points. The hollows become almost a black body for radiation, while decreased wind leads to air saturation, increasing dew point temperature and the onset of melting. In this way peaks and walls remain, which intercept only a minimum of solar radiation and in the spaces between, ablation is enhanced, leading to a downward growth of penitentes. A mathematical model of the process has been developed, but the initial stage of penitente growth, from granular snow to the birth of a new penitente, still remains unclear.
Ice Circles

That ice circles and discs form is no mystery, but how they form is still a little up in the air. Ice circles are thin, circular slabs of ice that rotate slowly in the water. It is believed that they form in eddy currents, but some new theories involving rising methane have been brought forward in Russia.

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<![CDATA[13 Helpful Hurricane Preparedness Tips]]> http://www.ranker.com/list/13-helpful-hurricane-preparedness-tips/mary-sterling
If you're in an area that may be impacted by a hurricane, listen up: There are things you can do now to prepare. Most of the hurricane preparedness tips on this list can be done well in advance of an approaching storm. Don't wait. Do these things now, and if you do wind up taking a hit from mother nature, you'll be grateful you took action beforehand.

With Hurricane Irene making a bee line for the Atlantic Coast, millions of people could be impacted. If the storm moves up the coast to New England, millions more may find themselves unprepared for the wrath. While you can't do much about the storm itself, you can take steps now to keep yourself and your family protected.

Hurricanes pose several threats: high winds can cause devastating damage, but heavy rains and storm surges can be equally as destructive. Widespread power outages are quite common in the wake of a hurricane, so you'll need to prepare for this. In addition, if you are asked to evacuate, you'll want to have everything ready - so you can leave at a moment's notice.

If Asked to Evacuate, GO
If your state and/or local government officials ask you to voluntarily evacuate your area ahead of a storm, strongly consider doing it. Grab your "go bag" and go. If you are in a mandatory evacuation zone, you must leave. You may think it would be cool to "ride out" a hurricane by sheltering in place, but believe me, about an hour into the storm's onslaught, you'll regret your decision to stay. Just get to a safe place, hunker down, and ride the storm out in safety.
Have a Weather Radio
Those who live in storm-prone areas likely already have weather radios - but if you don't, get one. These devices are truly life-savers. You'll be able to keep track of all updated weather information in your specific area. Don't plan on relying on the TV - if you lose power, you'll be stuck in the dark, literally and figuratively.
Keep a Portable Radio Around
Most of us are wired in to the Internet and 24-hour television channels to get information, but remember: If the power goes out, these things go bye-bye. Remember portable radios? No? Well, they're handy-dandy devices that let you listen to...the radio. Local radio. Meaning, they're a way to keep in touch with the outside world if Mother Nature decides to put the whammy on your town. Keep a portable radio around and, as with all "old school" devices, be sure you have enough batteries on hand to keep it going!
Get Fuel: Gas and Propane
Yes, gas up the vehicles. Don't freak out and hoard (meaning don't bring 18 gas cans and fill them all up), but make sure that the vehicles you have are fully fueled up. Prolonged power outages can cause big problems at the pump and temporary gas shortages do happen.

If you've got a gas grill, grab a tank or two of extra propane. If the power goes out, you'll be able to cook (and use up the stuff in the freezer that may go bad quickly).
Charge Your Cell Phones
If you lose power, you won't be able to charge your cell phone when the juice runs out. Be sure that all portable devices, especially cell phones, are fully charged well ahead of the storm. FEMA also recommends that people try to limit cell phone use in storm-ravaged areas - at least initially - so your cell phone/smart phone can be extremely important, allowing you to text and use social media to communicate with others.

**Another tip: If you live in a particularly storm-prone area, consider investing in a portable cell phone charger for your car.
Grab Some Extra Cash
If a hurricane does impact your area, ATM machines may go down (they need power, like everything else). Even if your local grocery store is open immediately after the storm, they may not be able to accept debit and/or credit cards - just cash. Go ahead and visit the bank or the ATM now and withdraw some cash. No need to flip out and withdraw your savings, but have enough on hand (small bills are great) to make purchases.
Make a Family Emergency Plan
Every family should have some sort of emergency plan in place, be it for storms or any other disaster. If things get rough and a hurricane slams into your area, you may not be able to get good cell phone service. Make sure everyone in your household knows where to meet, if the worst happens. Designate an emergency contact person (preferably someone who lives out-of-town) and make sure everyone knows that person's number.

Make sure everyone in the family knows how to text message. If phone systems get overwhelmed (and they definitely do in the wake of any disaster), texting may be the only means of communicating with others.
Have a Flashlight and Batteries on Hand
Most of us do have at least one or two flashlights lying around the house. Time to dig through the kitchen drawers now. Make sure you have a working flashlight, in the event you lose power. Also, please check to make SURE you have extra batteries. Stock up!

Another tip: Candles are always a good idea. Have an ample supply. Also, make sure you have lighters and matches on hand. And please, don't leave candles burning unattended. Just keep them lit in the areas where you and your family are - not in additional, unoccupied rooms.
Make a Go Bag
What the heck is a "go bag," you ask? A "go bag," or a "grab and go bag" is basically a kit that you can put together well in advance of any storm, especially a hurricane. You'll need it if you are asked to evacuate an area in the path of a potentially dangerous storm. Your go bag should have some essential items, including:

Plenty of water (approximately one gallon for each person in your household, per day, for at least 3 days)

Non-perishable food (canned goods and a can opener, crackers, bread, chips, fruit - anything that won't spoil)

Medication (be sure to refill any prescription medications you need before the storm hits, and include any over-the-counter meds you take regularly, along with a first aid kit, if possible)

Important documents and cash in small bags. You know that lock box you keep in the office closet? The one with insurance papers, mortgage papers, etc.? Get it out and have it ready to take with you if you need to evacuate.

An emergency radio, with extra batteries

A cell phone with a charger

Plastic baggies: You should put your important documents and cash, along with your phones, in plastic bags to protect them in case they get wet

Moist towelettes: If you don't have running water handy, these little towelettes can be heavenly, allowing you to clean up after munching out on your canned goods and/or freshening up if you can't take a shower.

**Another tip: Gather some blankets and pillows if you're heading for a shelter.
Respect the Cone
Those familiar with hurricane watching know what "the cone" is, but for those who don't: It's the projected areas that NOAA forecasters think will be impacted in some way by a hurricane. Sometimes the cone is off a bit - these storms can change course rather quickly, and it's difficult to predict an exact hurricane path days in advance. Nevertheless, if you live in an area included in the cone, OR near one, respect it. Know that things can change, but be smart enough to take precautions ahead of time.

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<![CDATA[The Worst Tsunamis in History]]> http://www.ranker.com/list/the-worst-tsunamis-in-history/drake-bird
List of the worst tsunamis in history, with pictures where possible. From the most recent, current tsunamis to those of the past, this list has them all. What was the worst tsunami ever? With death tolls reaching tragic proportions, these are not only the worst tsunamis environmentally, they're also the deadliest. World disasters such as these famous natural catastrophes can affect the world on a global scale and test the preparedness and relief our governments can provide. What was the worst tsunamis in history? Such great disasters, despite the destruction and natural hazards that come along with them, can also bring forth examples of how big our hearts are as we as individuals provide aid alongside our countries. This list gives us the most major examples. Fortunately, events such as these are not always so disastrous, and can provide us with the opportunity to make plans for when these epic events occur.

If you're in shock over the size of some of these tsunamis I suggest checking out the worst earthquakes, biggest tornadoes, and most tragic volcanic eruptions in history. They'll really enlighten you on the power of mother nature.

1771 Great Yaeyama Tsunami
On April 24, 1771, the Yaeyama Great Earthquake caused the formation of the 1771 Great Yaeyama Tsunami. The tsunami hit both the Ishigaki and Miyakojima Island of Japan and killed a total of 12,000 people. Agriculture was severely damaged and the population decreased about one-third of what it was. The tsunami at Ishigaki reportedly reached a height of 262 feet.
2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami
On December 26, 2004, an earthquake released close to 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs mount of energy from beneath the Earth's surface. This unleashed a series of killer waves across the Indian Ocean that traveled as fast as a jet airliner. The 9.0 magnitude earthquake was the largest magnitude earthquake in 40 years and the tsunami it generated traveled as much as 3,000 miles to Africa. About 229,866 were found dead and one-third of the death toll were young children who were not strong enough to fight against the force of the waves.
1755 Lisbon Earthquake/Tsunami/Fire
Geologists today estimate that the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, also known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake, was close to a magnitude of 9 on the moment magnitude scale. With an epicenter in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 km of Cape St. Vincent in southern Portugal, the megathrust earthquake was one of the deadliest earthquakes in history. It was followed by fires and a tsunami that destroyed most of Lisbon in the Kingdom of Portugal. The tsunami occurred approximately 40 minutes after the earthquake and engulfed the harbour, downtown and other nearby cities. Tsunamis as tall as 66 feet also swept the coast of North Africa and struck islands across the Atlantic like Martinique and Barbados. A ten-foot tsunami also hit Cornwall on the southern English coast and Galway on the west coast of Ireland. A total of 100,000 were reported dead from the disaster.
1908 Messina Earthquake/Tsunami
An earthquake of 7.1 hit Messina, a city in the island of Sicily, on December 28, 1908. The earthquake shook for 30 to 40 seconds and moments after, a tsunami of 40 feet high formed and struck the nearby coasts. At the time, the buildings there were not made earthquake resistent and 93% of the structures in Messina were destroyed. Entire families were buried under heavy roofing and debris and were still being discovered and pulled out days later. Other families, were not so lucky and the natural catastrophe numbered about 123,000 dead.
1707 Hoei Earthquake
The 1707 Hoei earthquake is the only earthquake to have ruptured all segments of the Nankai megathrust simultaneously and is the second largest earthquake to have ever hit Japan besides the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. The estimated magnitude of the quake was 8.6. The consequent tsunami ran along the southwestern coast of Kochi and ran up to an average of 25 feet to 32 feet in some places. The total dead were estimated to be 30,000.
1883 Eruption of Krakatoa
It's not only earthquakes that can caused monstrous tsunamis; volcanic eruptions do the same as well. On August 27, 1883, four huge eruptions from the Krakatoa volcano in Indonesia took place, resulting in four different tsunamis over 100 feet tall. There were absolutely no survivors at the island of Sebesi, the nearest island to the volcano and bodies were found floating in the ocean for weeks after the event. The total death total was around 36,000.
1826 Japanese Earthquake
27000 Dead
1868 Arica Earthquake/Tsunami
The estimated 8.5 to 9.0 magnitude earthquake near Arica (then part of Peru, now part of Chile) in 1868 nearly destroyed all of Arica and its surrounding cities. The tsunami it produced almost completely destroyed the port city of Pisco. It also caused some damage in Hawaii, New Zealand and Japan. About 25,674 casualties were reported.
1792 Mount Unzen
The 1792 eruption of Mount Unzen in western Kyushu, Japan is the most deadliest volcanic eruption ever in Japan. It caused a megatsunami that reached up to 330 feet and killed 15,030 people.
1896 Meiji-Sanriku Earthquake
The 1896 Meiji-Sanriku earthquake hit Japan on a day when the country was celebrating both the return of soldiers from the Sinto Japanese War and a Shinto holiday. The 7.2 magnitude earthquake that took place was small but the tsunami that struck the coast of Sanriku 35 minutes later was much greater. Waves as high as 125 feet were measured and nearly 9,000 homes were destroyed. 22,070 were reported dead and an unusually high count of victims with fractured skulls and broken or missing limbs. Hawaii also suffered some destruction from the tsunami as waves of 30 feet were measured there.

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<![CDATA[The Worst Wildfires in US History]]> http://www.ranker.com/list/the-worst-wildfires-in-us-history/drake-bird
Wiping out millions of acres of land and killing hundreds, the worst wildfires in US history are some of the worst natural disasters to hit the country ever. Though not all were caused by natural means, with some set by arsonists or created by abandoned campfires, each devastated large areas of land, wiped out buildings and caused fatalities.

Though modern times have seen large fires, especially in California and Texas in the past few years, the worst fires ever seen in the United States took place over 100 years ago. The deadliest, the 1871 Peshtigo Fire, claimed 2,500 lives while the largest was the Great Fire of 1910, burning three million acres of land.

As shown in these incidents of tragedy, wildfires are very dangerous and can claim lives just like the worst tornadoes ever. Fortunately, as the old slogan states, forest fires can be prevented. What are the worst wildfires in history? Take a look here and you'll find out for yourself.

Check out more lists like Worst Earthquakes of all TimeMost Devastating Global Famines and Droughts, Most Shocking Tornadoes


1871 Peshtigo Fire
Killing as many of 2,500 people, the 1871 Peshtigo Fire is believed to be the deadliest fire in United States history. The fire took place on October 8, 1871, in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, burning 1.2 million acres of land.
Murphy Complex Fire
Spreading through the states of Idaho and Nevada, the Murphy Complex Fire burned an estimated 653,000 acres of land in 2007. The same area was subject to another fire, which spread into Mexico, in June 2011.
Great Fire of 1910
Believed to be the largest fire in U.S. history, the Great Fire of 1910 burned over two days from August 21 and August 21, 1910, in the states of Washington, Idaho and Montana. An estimated three million acres of land were burned by the blaze and 87 people were killed.
Summer 2008 California Wildfires
Burning land in Northern and Central California, the Summer 2008 California Wildfires included over 2,780 individual fires that occurred between May 22 and August 29, 2008. Killing 23 people and destroying over 1.15 million acres of land, the fires were believed to be caused by a combination of lightning and heat.
2004 Taylor Complex Fire
The Taylor Complex Fire was part of a record-breaking 2004 fire season in Alaska that burned a combined 6.6 million acres. This fire accounted for 1.3 million acres alone, making it the single largest wildfire in the United States during the period of 1997 to 2007.
1825 Miramichi Fire
Mainly affecting New Brunswick, Canada, the Great Miramichi Fire took place in October 1825 and wiped out roughly 20% of New Brunswick's forests as well as affected the state of Maine. Three million acres of land were burned and an estimated 160 people perished in the fire, which was believed to have been caused by heat.
The Great Michigan Fire
Also called the Thumb Fire, The Great Michigan Fire was actually a series of fires in the state that claimed an estimated 200 lives in 1871. The fires started on October 8, 1871, the same time as the Great Chicago Fire and the Peshtigo Fire, and went on to wipe out one million acres of land.
1865 Silverton Fire
Wiping out roughly one million acres of timber, the 1865 Silverton Fire was the worst to hit the state of Oregon. Few details of the incident are known, including the exact dates and number of fatalities.
Yellowstone Fires of 1988
Caused from a number of smaller fires that burned out of control, the Yellowstone Fires of 1988 shut down the national part completely for several months and destroyed 793,880 acres or roughly 36% of the park. Over 9,000 firefighters attempted to control the blaze but the effort was a losing one with the fire allowed to burn out. It eventually was ended by a snowstorm that hit the area.
Wallow Fire
Burning from May 29, 2011, to July 8, 2011, the Walloe Fire was named after the Bear Wallow Wilderness, where the blaze in Arizona and New Mexico started. Over 538,000 acres of land, 72 buildings and 16 people perished as a result of the fire, which was believed to have been started by an abandoned campfire.

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<![CDATA[The Worst Earthquakes in History]]> http://www.ranker.com/list/the-worst-earthquakes-in-history/drake-bird
From the most recent earthquakes to those of the past, this list of the worst earthquakes in history has them all. With death tolls reaching tragic proportions, these are not only the worst earthquakes environmentally, sadly, they're also the deadliest.

The deadliest earthquake on record hit the Chinese province of Shaanxi back in 1556. The 8.0-magnitude tremor killed an estimated 830,000 people, 60% of the population, and wiped out a 520-mile wide area. Just like the worst earthquakes of the 20th century, this quake occurred with no warning and was followed by a series of aftershocks that served as a chilling reminder of the tragic nature of the disaster.

Unfortunately, this quake was not the first or the last to strike in the area or claim thousands of lives. Over three million people have been killed from earthquakes throughout the years and many more from the resulting tsunamis that followed.  

What are the most tragic earthquakes in history? Take a look here and decide for yourself.

Check out more lists like Most Explosive Volanic Eruptions in History, Survival Tips, Worst Global Sink Hole Catastrophies 


1138 Aleppo earthquake
230,000 dead on October 11, 1138
856 Damghan earthquake
200,000 dead on December 22, 856
1920 Haiyuan earthquake
235,502 dead on December 16, 1920
2004 Indonesian earthquake
230,210+ dead on December 26, 2004
2010 Haiti earthquake
222,570 dead on January 12, 2010
526 Antioch earthquake
250,000 dead on May 21, 525
1556 Shaanxi Earthquake
820,000-830,000 dead on January 23, 1556
1976 Tangshan earthquake
242,419–779,000 dead on July 28, 1976
1923 Great Kanto earthquake
142,000 dead on September 1, 1923
893 Ardabil earthquake
150,000 dead on March 22, 893

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<![CDATA[The World's 6 Known Supervolcanoes]]> http://www.ranker.com/list/the-world_s-6-known-supervolcanoes/analise.dubner
List of all supervolcano locations in the world. Supervolcano is a word that sounds pretty silly. It's not just a regular volcano, it's SUPER. Just SUPER! But these calderas live up to the "super" in their name. A supervolcano can rain superheated rocks and debris down over great distances. An eruption of that magnitude would fill the atmosphere with ash, sulfuric acid, sulfur dioxide and could potentially cause (and actually has, in the ancient past) a new Ice Age. Volcanic eruptions are categorized by the VEI (Volcanic Explosivity Index) and the scale goes from 0-8 with 0 being non-explosive and 8 being a supervolcanic eruption. In other words, as life-eliminating as you can get. You might think of these kinds of volcanos as existing only in prehistoric times, but you would be wrong. If you've ever asked yourself, 'Self? Are there any supervolcanoes that threaten life in modern times?', the answer would be six. There are SIX known, active Supervolcanos in the world today. Six. And if you want more volcano lists check out the worst volcanic eruptions and death by volcano lists.

Aira Caldera
One of the most recently troubling calderas in the world is the 150-square-mile Aira caldera in southern Japan, on the edge of which sits the city of Kagoshima. 22,000 years ago 14 cubic miles of material burped out of the ground and formed the Aira caldera, which is now largely Kagoshima Bay. That is equal to about 50 Mount St. Helens eruptions. The Sakura-jima volcano, which forms part of the Aira caldera, has been active on and off for the past century and still causes earthquakes today, indicating that the caldera itself is far from sleeping.
Lake Toba
The 1,080-square-mile Toba caldera in North Sumatra, Indonesia is the only supervolcano in existence that can be described as Yellowstone's "big" sister. About 74,000 years ago, Toba erupted and ejected several thousand times more material than erupted from Mount St. Helens in 1980. Some researchers think that Toba's ancient super eruption and the global cold spell it triggered might explain a mystery in the human genome. Our genes suggest we all come from a few thousand people just tens of thousands of years ago, instead of from a much older, bigger lineage — as the fossil evidence testifies. Both could be true if only a few small groups of humans survived the cold years following the Toba eruption.
Taupo Caldera
New Zealand's Taupo caldera has been filled by water, creating what many describe as one of the world's most beautiful landscapes, but the lake itself was created by a massive eruption 26,500 years ago. The caldera — the collapsed and subsided basin left after the huge eruption — became today's lake. But Taupo is not dead. The 485-square-mile caldera let loose again in the year A.D. 181, with estimates of ash and magma reaching as high as 22 cubic miles. Today, there are plenty of signs of current volcanic activity in the form of hot springs and venting.
The Long Valley Caldera
Second only to Yellowstone in North America is the Long Valley caldera, in east-central California. The 200-square-mile caldera is just south of Mono Lake, near the Nevada state line. The biggest eruption from Long Valley was 760,000 years ago, which unleashed 2,000 to 3,000 times as much lava and ash as Mount St. Helens, after which the caldera floor dropped about a MILE, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Some of the ash reached as far east as Nebraska. What worries geologists today was a swarm of strong earthquakes in 1980 and the 10-inch rise of about 100 square miles of caldera floor. Then, in the early 1990s, large amounts of carbon dioxide gas from magma below began seeping up through the ground and killing trees in the Mammoth Mountain part of the caldera. When these sorts of signs are present, it could mean trouble is centuries, decades, or even YEARS away, say volcanologists.
Valles Caldera
The 175-square-mile Valles caldera forms a large pock in the middle of northern New Mexico, west of Santa Fe. It last exploded 1.2 million and 1.6 million years ago, piling up 150 cubic miles of rock and blasting ash as far away as Iowa. As with other calderas, there are still signs of heat below: hot springs are still active around Valles. Geologists suspect the cause of Valles caldera has something to do with how the western United States' portion of the North American tectonic plate is being pulled apart.
The Yellowstone Caldera
Unbeknownst to most, Yellowstone National Park sits on a subterranean chamber of molten rock and gasses so vast that it is arguably one of the largest active volcanoes in the world. A magma chamber not far below the surface fuels all the volcanic attractions that Yellowstone is famous for. The last major eruption at Yellowstone, some 640,000 years ago, ejected 8,000 times the ash and lava of Mount St. Helens. It is alive and well today, and is the scientific basis for the hilarious volcanic explosion seen in the movie 2012 that blew up Woody Harrelson and, somehow, NOT John Cusack.

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<![CDATA[10 Things To Know About Tornadoes]]> http://www.ranker.com/list/10-things-to-know-about-tornadoes/analise.dubner
Many of us have seen the kind of insane power a tornado can wield on TV, and a few of us have even lived through one of these twisters. These storms possess an almost god-like presence in the media and our minds - dramatic, deafening columns that descend from the sky and obliterate everything in their path. But what are the essentials you need to know about tornadoes?

We still don't know as much about these killer storms as we'd like, but what we've learned in the past 60 years has brought us a lot closer to hopefully, one day, being able to detect them in time to save more lives. This is a list that tries to break down the facts and data we have learned about tornadoes. Most of the info was sourced by Wikipedia and countless weather sites, storm chasers, and news sites.

Read through the list below to get educated about tornadoes and check out this list of the worst tornadoes in history to see the damage these scary storms can do.

Tornado Alley
There is no specific line to draw around the so-called Tornado Alley in the US. It's a term for a fairly large, general area. Ninety percent of tornadoes hit this region of the US because cold, dry air from Canada and the Rocky Mountains meets warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and hot, dry air from the Sonoran Desert, which causes atmospheric instability, heavy precipitation, and many intense thunderstorms.The core of Tornado Alley consists of northern Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. But, it can also include the area reaching from central Texas to the Canadian prairies and from eastern Colorado to western Pennsylvania.

The term "Tornado Alley" was first used in 1952 by US Air Force meteorologists Major Ernest J. Fawbush and Captain Robert C. Miller as the title of a research project to study severe weather in parts of Texas and Oklahoma.
What to Do
In a Home: The most basic rule inside any structure during a tornado is to avoid windows. An exploding window can injure or kill you.The safest place in the home is the interior part of a basement. If there is no basement, go to an inside room, without windows, on the lowest floor. This could be a center hallway, bathroom, or closet. For added protection, get under something sturdy such as a heavy table or workbench. If possible, cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag, or mattress, and protect your head with anything available - even your hands. Avoid taking shelter where there are heavy objects, such as pianos or refrigerators, on the area of floor that is directly above you. They could fall though the floor if the tornado strikes your house. A bathtub or shower with a fixed glass wall is something to avoid.

When you chose a place in which to take shelter, make sure the objects around you do not have the potential to impale, cut, or crush you when loosened from their moorings.

In a Mobile Home: Mobile homes can turn over and tear apart during strong winds. Even mobile homes with a tie-down system cannot withstand the force of tornado winds. Plan ahead. If you have the opportunity, go to a nearby building, preferably one with a basement. If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine, or culvert and shield your head with your hands. Preferably with something to hold on to.

If you live in a tornado-prone area, encourage your mobile home community to build a tornado shelter.

On the Road or Outdoors: The worst place to be during a tornado is in a car. Cars, buses, and trucks are easily tossed by tornado winds. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car, even if it's still a mile away. If you see a tornado, stop your vehicle and get out. Do not get under your vehicle. If you cannot seek shelter in a suitable building, find a low-lying area like a ditch. Stay away from trees as they, like cars, easily become deadly projectiles. Lie down flat and try and protect your head.

Public Buildings like Malls or other Long-Span Structures: Shopping malls, theaters, or gymnasiums, are especially dangerous because the roof structure is usually supported solely by the outside walls. These kinds of buildings cannot withstand the enormous pressure that tornadoes deliver. They simply collapse. If you are in a long-span building during a tornado and have no time to evacuate, stay away from windows. Get to the lowest level of the building - the basement or parking structure if possible - and away from any windows. If there is no time to get to a tornado shelter or to a lower level, try to get get up against something that will support or deflect falling debris. Wherever you are, look up to see what might fall on you.  Get under counters or under theater seats. Remember to protect your head.
Myths About Tornadoes
Tornadoes only occur in North America. False.
The majority of tornadoes do occur in the United States. However, tornadoes have been observed on every continent except Antarctica.

Tornadoes don't occur near rivers, valleys, mountains, or other terrain features. False.
No terrain feature can prevent the occurrence of a tornado. They have been observed on terrain as high as 12,000 feet (3,700 m) above sea level, and have been known to pass up a 3,000 foot (910 m) ridge unaffected.

Lakes and rivers are insignificant obstacles to tornadoes. False.
Violent tornadoes have formed over rivers and lakes and have crossed over them after forming elsewhere.

Tornadoes are attracted to mobile homes and/or trailer parks. False.
The idea that mobile homes attract tornadoes has been around for decades. It seems true at first from looking at tornado fatality statistics: from 2000 to 2008, 539 people were killed by tornadoes in the US, with more than half (282) of those deaths in mobile homes. However, it is highly unlikely that single-story structures such as mobile homes can have a substantial effect on tornado development or evolution. The truth is that more people are killed in trailer parks because mobile homes are less able to withstand high winds than permanent structures. In reality they can be shredded by even weak tornadoes. 

Large cities are safe from tornadoes. False.
More than 100 tornadoes have struck downtown areas of large cities in recorded history. Many cities have been struck twice or more, and a few - including Lubbock, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri; Topeka, Kansas; and London, England - have been struck by violent tornadoes. Tornadoes may seem rare in downtown areas because downtown areas cover such a small geographical area. However, this myth has a small basis in truth. Research has been done in a few metropolitan areas suggesting that the urban heat island effect may discourage the formation of weak tornadoes in city centers. This would not apply to strong tornadoes, however.

Tornados can't form in winter. False.
Because they almost always require warm weather to form, tornadoes are uncommon in winter in the mid-latitudes. However, they can form, and tornadoes have even been known to travel over snow-covered surfaces.

Opening windows reduces tornado damage. Absolutely False.
One of the oldest pieces of tornado folklore is the idea that tornadoes do most of their damage due to the lower atmospheric pressure at the center of a tornado, which causes the house to explode outward. The theory is that opening windows helps to equalize the pressure. The source of this myth is from the 'exploded' appearance of some destroyed structures after violent tornadoes. However, in even the most violent tornadoes, there is only a pressure drop of about 10%, which is about 1.4 pounds per square inch. Not only can this difference be equalized in most structures in approximately three seconds, but if a significant pressure differential manages to form, the windows would break first, equalizing the pressure. Opening windows in advance of a tornado wastes time that could be spent seeking shelter. Also, being near windows is very dangerous during a severe weather event, possibly exposing people to flying glass.

You can use highway overpasses as shelter.Usually False.
Because of a few documented cases where people survived under an overpass, the belief has developed that they are safer than structures to shelter in. It turns out that those very-publicized cases were anomalies and, in fact, have led to several deaths because people have left the shelter of their homes to hide under overpasses. Meteorologists, however, insist that overpasses are insufficient shelter from tornado winds and debris, and may be the worst place to be during a violent tornado. The embankment under an overpass is higher than the surrounding terrain, and the wind speed increases with height. Additionally, the overpass design may create a "wind-tunnel" effect under the span, further increasing the wind speed. Many overpasses are completely exposed underneath and most lack hanging girders or a crawlspace-like area to provide sufficient protection from debris, which can travel at high speeds even in weak tornadoes. People stopping underneath overpasses block the flow of traffic, putting others in danger.

You can escape a tornado in a vehicle. Not really a good idea.
Often, people try to avoid or outrun a tornado in a vehicle. In theory, cars can travel faster than the average tornado, and so it is better to avoid the tornado altogether than take shelter in its path. Unlike homes (except in the most violent of tornadoes) cars can be heavily damaged by even weak tornadoes, and in violent tornadoes they can be thrown large distances, even into buildings. High-profile vehicles such as buses and tractor trailers are even more vulnerable to high winds. Some tornadoes actually move faster than cars. Far-away, highly visible tornadoes, however, can be successfully fled from at right angles (90 degrees) from its direction of apparent movement.
Odd Behaviors
Tornado Debris
Tornados are known for the insane things their wind speeds can do. They can wrap a truck around a tree, drive a feather into a telephone pole, or transport a cancelled check 150 miles away. In some cases, tornado-borne debris scours out the ground! One of two EF5 tornadoes in 2011 scoured the ground to a depth of 2 feet!

Tornadoes appear to skip houses
Tornadoes vary in intensity as they move along the ground, sometimes significantly. If a tornado was causing damage, then weakened to the point where it could cause no damage, followed by a re-intensification, it would appear as if it "skipped" a section of its path. Occasionally with very violent tornadoes, a small suction vortex will completely destroy a structure next to another building which appears almost unscathed and apparently "skipped." The presence of multiple vortices, highly volatile tornadic satellites which orbit the parent tornado at high speeds, are responsible for causing enormous damage right next an area that takes none.

Bigger doesn't always mean stronger
Most folks just assume that small, skinny tornadoes are weaker than the scary, large, wedge-shaped tornadoes. While it is true that there is an observable trend of bigger funnels causing worse damage, it is not known if this is due to an actual tendency of tornado dynamics or an ability for the tornado to affect a larger area. Some small, rope-like tornadoes, traditionally thought of as weak, have been among the strongest in history and since 1950, more than 100 super-violent tornadoes had a maximum width of 300 feet. Also, tornadoes typically change shape during the course of their lifespan, further complicating any attempt to classify how dangerous a particular size might be.

Appearing to reach the ground
A tornado doesn't have to look like it's touching the ground to cause damage. It's mistakenly thought that if the funnel of a tornado does not reach the ground, then the tornado cannot cause substantial damage. However, the circular, violent surface winds, not the funnel itself, are what both define the tornado and cause the tornado's damage. The sign of a debris cloud will tell a spotter if the tornado is causing damage, not whether it's touching the ground or not. Plus, some tornadoes can be shrouded in rain and might not even be visible at all.

The Tornado's Path
In the past, it has been assumed that tornadoes moved almost exclusively in a northeasterly direction. Although the majority of tornadoes move northeast, this is normally due to the motion of the storm, and tornadoes can actually arrive from any direction. Additionally, tornadoes can shift without notice due to storm motion changes or effects on the tornado itself from factors such as its rear flank downdraft. Never assume that you know what direction the storm is going.
Tornado Characteristics
Most tornados take the traditional form of a funnel that descends from a Wall Cloud. However, a tornado can sometimes be shrouded by its storm, making it essentially invisible to the eye and therefore very dangerous. 

Dust Swirls
Sometimes a relatively weak landspout may only be visible as a swirl of dust. Even if the funnel causing the disturbance does not reach the ground, if the wind speeds reach more than 40 mph, it is considered a tornado.

A wedge can be so wide that it appears to be a block of dark clouds, wider than the distance from the cloud base to the ground. Sometimes you can't tell the difference between a low-hanging cloud and a wedge tornado from a distance. Many, but not all, major tornadoes are wedges.

In the dissipating stage, a funnel can resemble a narrow tube or rope, and will often curl or twist into complex shapes. These tornadoes are said to be "roping out," or becoming a "rope tornado." When they rope out, the length of their funnel increases, which forces the winds within the funnel to weaken due to conservation of angular momentum.

In the US, tornadoes are generally around 500 feet across on average and travel on the ground for 5 miles. Weak tornadoes, however, or strong yet dissipating tornadoes, can be very narrow, sometimes only a few feet across. One tornado was reported to have a damage path only 7 feet long while on the other side of the spectrum, wedge tornadoes can have a damage path a mile or more wide. 

Some tornadoes, like the Tri-State Tornado in 1925, travel long distances. Tornadoes like that one, which can go for more than 100 miles are usually composed of a family of tornadoes which have formed in quick succession. The lifespan of a tornado depends on the severity of the atmospheric instability. They can last from 10 minutes to over an hour.

Depending on the environment they travel through, a tornado can be several colors. Those that form in dry places with little loose soil can be nearly invisible, marked only by swirling debris at the base of the funnel. Condensation funnels that pick up little or no debris can be gray to white. While traveling over a body of water, tornadoes can turn very white or even blue. Slow-moving funnels, which ingest a considerable amount of debris and dirt, are usually darker, taking on the color of debris. Tornadoes in the Great Plains can turn red because of the reddish tint of the soil, and tornadoes in mountainous areas can travel over snow-covered ground, turning white.

Tornadoes normally rotate cyclonically (counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern). While large storms always rotate cyclonically due to the Coriolis effect, smaller tornados are not necessarily ruled by the Coriolis effect. Approximately 1 percent of tornadoes rotate in an anticyclonic direction in the northern hemisphere and, typically, systems as weak as landspouts and gustnadoes can rotate anticyclonically. 

Various types of sounds have been reported from witnesses, generally some variation of a whooshing roar. Popularly reported sounds include a freight train, rushing rapids or waterfall, a nearby jet engine, or combinations of these. Funnel clouds and small tornadoes are reported as whistling, whining, humming, or as the buzzing of innumerable bees or electricity, whereas larger tornadoes are reported as a continuous, deep rumbling, or an irregular sound of "noise." Since you can usually only hear a tornado when it is dangerously close, sound is not reliable warning of a tornado. 
The 10 Deadliest Tornadoes in World History
1. Daulatpur-Saturia - April 26, 1989 - 1,300 Dead
Likely the deadliest tornado in recorded world history, this storm destroyed everything but a few trees.

2. Tri-State Tornado - March 18, 1925 - 747 Dead
Unlike most historical long-track tornadoes, this was likely a single tornado, not a tornado family. It partially or completely destroyed more than ten towns. Its path length of 219 miles is a world record.

3. Manikganj, Singair and Nawabganj Bangladesh - May 13, 1996 - 700 Dead
The village of Balurchar was completely destroyed, with eight other villages almost totally leveled.

4. Grand Harbour at Valletta Malta - Sept 23, 1551 - 681 Dead
This waterspout destroyed a shipping armada, then moved ashore, causing severe damage.

5. Dhaka Bangladesh -  April 14, 1969 - 660 Dead
This colossal tornado not only killed 660 people, but severely injured hundreds more villagers.
6. Magura and Narail Districts Bangladesh - April 4, 1964 - 500 Dead
Wiped seven villages off the map. The death toll may have been as high as 1,400, but official records conflict. There were no survivors from the village of Bhabanipur, where around 400 people lived.
7. Madaripur and Shibchar Bangladesh - April 1, 1977 - 500 Dead
All the buildings and trees in Madaripur and Shibchar were destroyed.
8. Tupelo Gainsville Tornado - April 5-6, 1936 - 454 Dead
The second deadliest tornado in US history, this was an outbreak of 17 tornados.
9. Ivanovo Tornado Outbreak - June 9, 1984 - 400 Dead
A series of violent supercell thunderstorms that travelled at speeds greater than 50 mph. Local newspapers reported that massive hailstones, some weighing over 2 pounds, fell over the affected areas.
10. Deep South Tornado Outbreak - March 21-22, 1932 - 330 Dead
An outbreak that contained up 36 tornados and reached as far north as Illinois.
The Enhanced Fujita Scale
The Enhanced Fujita scale (EF scale) rates the strength of tornadoes in the United States and Canada based on the damage they cause. Introduced in 1971 by Tetsuya Theodore Fujita, it was adopted by the United States on February 1, 2007, followed by Canada on April 18, 2013. It is comprised of six categories from zero to five representing increasing degrees of damage. The scale remains a damage scale and is only a proxy for actual wind speeds.
How Do They Form?
There are a clear set of steps that lead to a tornado:

First, even before the thunderstorm (or supercell) develops, winds will change direction and increase in speed at high altitudes. This creates an invisible, horizontal spinning effect in the lower atmosphere.

Then, rising air inside the thunderstorm’s updraft tilts this newly spinning air from horizontal to vertical.

Next, A 2 to 6 mile wide rotation is contained inside the storm - this is where the most violent tornadoes form. After that, the cloud at the central base of the storm begins to take in cool, moist air from the downdraft which converges with the warm air in the updraft, causing a rotating wall cloud. This rapidly descending air is known as the rear flank downdraft (or RFD). This RFD also focuses the developing tornado's base, causing it to siphon air from a smaller and smaller area on the ground. The updraft intensifies and creates an area of low pressure at the surface which pulls the focused mesocyclone down, in the form of a visible funnel.

Finally, as the funnel descends, the RFD also reaches the ground, creating a gust front that can cause severe damage a good distance from the tornado. Usually, the funnel cloud begins causing damage on the ground within a few minutes of the RFD reaching the ground. At that point it is not a funnel cloud and is officially a tornado.
The Different Types
Supercell tornadoes are the ones most of us are familiar with. They are more likely to remain in contact with the ground for long periods of time (an hour or more) than other tornadoes, and are more likely to be violent, with winds exceeding 200 mph.

Landspout tornadoes are usually weaker than supercells and are not associated with a wall cloud or mesocyclone. They may be observed beneath cumulonimbus or towering cumulus clouds and are the land equivalent of a waterspout. They often form along the leading edge of rain-cooled downdraft air emanating from a thunderstorm, known as a “gust front.”

Gustnados are weak and usually short-lived. They form along the gust front of a thunderstorm, appearing as a temporary dust whirl or debris cloud. There may be no apparent connection to or circulation in the cloud aloft. These appear similar to dust devils.

A waterspout is a tornado over water. A few form from supercell thunderstorms, but many form from weak thunderstorms or rapidly growing cumulus clouds. They form over warm tropical ocean waters, although their funnels are made of freshwater droplets condensed from water vapor due to condensation - not saltwater from the ocean. Waterspouts usually dissipate upon reaching land.

Dust Devils form during dry, hot, clear days on the desert or over dry land. Generally forming in the hot sun during the late morning or early afternoon hours, these mostly harmless whirlwinds are triggered by light desert breezes that create a swirling plume of dust with speeds rarely over 70 mph. They are not associated with a thunderstorm and are usually weaker than the weakest tornado.Typically, the life cycle of a dust devil is a few minutes or less

Firewhirls are formed from the intense heat created by a major forest fire or volcanic eruption.  A tornado-like rotating column of smoke and/or fire occurs when the fire updraft concentrates some initial weak eddy in the wind. Winds associated with firewhirls have been estimated at over 100 mph. They are sometimes called fire tornadoes, fire devils, or even firenadoes.
Detecting Them
Before the 50s, the only way to detect a tornado was by someone seeing it and going "hey, that looks dangerous!" However, with the invention of weather radar, areas near a local office could get advance warning of severe weather. The first public tornado warnings were issued in 1950 and by 1953 it was confirmed that hook echoes are associated with tornadoes. By recognizing these radar signatures, meteorologists could detect thunderstorms probably producing tornadoes from dozens of miles away.

Today, most developed countries have a network of weather radars, which remains the main method of reading the signs of developing tornadoes. In the US and a few other countries, Doppler weather radar stations are used. These stations measure velocity and radial direction of the winds in a storm, and they can spot signs of rotation in storms from more than a hundred miles away. Strong mesocyclones show up as adjacent areas of yellow and blue (on other radars, bright red and bright green), and usually indicate an imminent or occurring tornado.

In the mid-70s, the US National Weather Service increased its efforts to train storm spotters to spot key features of storms which indicate severe hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes, as well as damage itself and flash flooding. The program was called Skywarn, and the spotters were local sheriff's deputies, state troopers, firefighters, ambulance drivers, amateur radio operators, civil defense spotters, storm chasers, and ordinary citizens. Spotters are usually trained by the NWS and can activate public warning systems such as sirens and the Emergency Alert System, and forward the report to the NWS. The spotter's ability to see what radar cannot is especially important as distance from the radar site increases, because the radar beam becomes progressively higher in altitude further away from the radar, chiefly due to curvature of Earth, and the beam also spreads out.

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