Naming hurricanes seems appropriate because we get to know them before they strike. Tornadoes, on the other hand, quickly come and go, with as little as a few minutes warning.

Both storms are destructive. Hurricanes are born over warm ocean water, while this country's worst tornadoes form over land in an area known as Tornado Alley. Hurricanes require warm humid air, while tornadoes require a collision of dry air with warm, humid air. Let's take a closer look:

  Hurricane Tornado
Size 300-500 miles across 1/2 mile wide path
Wind 74-160 mph 200-300 mph
Life 2-10 days 1/2 hour
Damage Widespread Localized
Develop Over warm water overhead
Forward Speed 10-25 mph 35-40 mph
Paths Vary SW to NE

Learning Objective: Students will better understand the similarities and differences between hurricanes and tornadoes.

Challenge: Using a map of the United States, plot the scale size of a tropical storm or hurricane (300- 500 miles in diameter) and the length of the longest recorded continuous tornado (293 miles).


  • Scale map of the United States
  • colored pencils
  • construction paper
  • scissors


  1. Acquire a map of the United States. Determine the scale.
  2. On the map, identify the area known as Tornado Alley. Shade this area using a colored pencil.
  3. With construction paper, design a hurricane to scale. Cut out with scissors. Name your hurricane.
  4. Somewhere in tornado alley, draw a line, from southwest to northeast, representing a tornado path of approximately 293 miles.
  5. It is easy to see how widespread damage would result from a hurricane, and how localized damage would be from a tornado.

Extension Activity: Tornadoes have been reported in each of the 50 United States. Research how many states have been directly impacted by hurricanes.

Research how many hurricanes, on average, the United States receives each year. How many tornadoes? Over the course of one year, which does more damage in dollars? Deaths?

Images reprinted courtesy of USA Today.