Fujita Tornado Intensity Scale

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Forecasters and researchers use a wind damage scale to classify tornadoes. The original Fujita scale was developed by T. Theodore Fujita and was put into use in 1973. The scale was enhanced in 2007, with rankings running from EF (Enhanced Fujita) - 0 through 5. The ratings are based on the amount and type of wind damage. The ratings are:

 

Original Fujita Scale

Category F0: Gale tornado (40-72 mph); light damage. Some damage to chimneys; break branches off trees; push over shallow-rooted trees; damage to sign boards.

Category F1: Moderate tornado (73-112 mph); moderate damage. The lower limit is the beginning of hurricane wind speed; peel surface off roofs; mobile homes pushed off foundations or overturned; moving autos pushed off the roads.

Category F2: Significant tornado (113-157 mph); considerable damage. roofs torn off frame houses; mobile homes demolished; boxcars pushed over; large trees snapped or uprooted; light-object missiles generated.

Category F3: Severe tornado (158-206 mph); Severe damage. Roofs and some walls torn off well-constructed houses; trains overturned; most trees in forest uprooted; heavy cars lifted off ground and thrown.

Category F4: Devastating tornado (207-260 mph); Devastating damage. Well-constructed houses leveled; structure with weak foundation blown off some distance; cars thrown and large missiles generated.

Category F5: Incredible tornado (261-318 mph); Incredible damage. Strong frame houses lifted off foundations and carried considerable distance to disintegrate; automobile sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100 yards; trees debarked; incredible phenomena will occur.

 

Enhanced Fujita Scale

 

Forecasters and researchers use a wind damage scale to classify tornadoes. The original Fujita scale was developed by T. Theodore Fujita and was put into use in 1973. The scale was enhanced in 2007, with rankings running from EF (Enhanced Fujita) - 0 through 5. The ratings are based on the amount and type of wind damage. The ratings are:

EF-0. Light damage Wind 65 to 85 mph.

Causes some damage to siding and shingles EF-1. Moderate damage Wind 86 to 110 mph. Considerable roof damage. Winds can uproot trees and overturn single-wide mobile homes. Flagpoles bend.

 

EF-2. Considerable damage Wind 111 to 135 mph.

Most single-wide mobile homes destroyed. Permanent homes can shift off foundation. Flagpoles collapse. Softwood trees debarked.

 

EF-3. Severe damage Wind 136 to 165 mph.

Hardwood trees debarked. All but small portions of houses destroyed.

 

EF-4. Devastating damage Wind 166 to 200 mph.

Complete destruction of well-built residences, large sections of school buildings.

 

EF-5. Incredible damage Wind above 200 mph.

Significant structural deformation of mid- and high-rise buildings.

 

It should be noted that the Enhanced F-scale is a set of wind estimates (not measurements) based on damage. It uses three-second estimated gusts estimated at the point of damage. These estimates vary with height and exposure. Forensic meteorologists use 28 damage indicators and up to 9 degrees of damage to assign estimated speeds to the wind gusts.

The Fujita scale is different from the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength in one very important way. Fujita scale numbers are assigned to tornadoes only after the fact; after the National Weather Service inspects the damage. (Related: The Saffir-Simpson scale).

Hurricane scale numbers are assigned soon after a storm becomes a hurricane. The rankings are almost always based on data gathered by hurricane hunter airplanes. This isn't possible with even the strongest tornadoes because meteorologists have no way of collecting data during a tornado, even if they had time (which they hardly ever world) to send an airplane to examine it. Crews that fly into hurricanes would never fly into tornadic thunderstorm with its concentrated violence.


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