Since tornadoes and hurricanes are so similar, it’s sometimes hard to understand the difference between them, especially for someone new to this natural phenomenon. In this article, we’ll compare the wind speeds of tornadoes with that of hurricanes.

Hurricane wind speeds are much faster than those of a tornado. To be classified as a hurricane, a storm system needs to have wind speeds that are a minimum of 64 knots (74 mph or 119 km/h). On the other hand, tornadoes produce wind speeds of a minimum of 34 knots (40 mph).

Before we talk about this any further, let’s understand how tornadoes and hurricanes form.

How Do Tornadoes Form?

When the air becomes extremely unstable, and wind shear occurs, which is when gusts at various heights blow in varying directions or at varying rates, the conditions are suitable for the development of tornadoes.

Warm, moist air rises within the massive thundercloud, while chilly air descends with rain or hail. All of these circumstances may cause swirling, rolling wind patterns within the cloud. Although it begins horizontally, this rotating column of air may readily become vertical and fall from the cloud. It becomes a tornado when it strikes the earth, posing a serious threat to everything in its path.

Some tornadoes have some of the fastest winds ever recorded inside the rotating column. The rotating vortex of air can occasionally lift off the ground before re-entering it at a different location along its course.

How Do Hurricanes Form?

Powerful weather phenomena called hurricanes use heat from tropical oceans to unleash their wrath. These powerful storms frequently start as tropical waves, which are low-pressure systems that sweep over wet tropical regions and may intensify shower and thunderstorm action. These waves frequently occur above the ocean.

Warm ocean air rises into the storm as it travels over the tropics in a westward direction, creating a region of low pressure beneath it. More air rushes in as a result of this. When the air rises and cools, clouds and thunderstorms are created. Water vapor cools and creates droplets high inside the clouds, producing much more heat to fuel the storm.

74 mph is the threshold at which a storm is considered a hurricane. The phrases “hurricane” and “tropical cyclone” describe the same type of storm: a revolving, structured system of clouds and thunderstorms with restricted, low-level circulation that develops over tropical or subtropical oceans.

Roaring winds from a single hurricane may provide around half the energy of the whole world’s electrical-producing capacity. At the same time, the development of clouds and rain resulting from the same storm may unleash an astounding 400 times that amount of energy.

Hurricane Vs. Tornado Wind Speed Comparison

Tornadoes entail the spinning flow of air, just like hurricanes do. However, a hurricane is more than simply an enormous tornado. A hurricane is just a storm, or more accurately, a storm system, which frequently consists of many thunderstorms. On the opposite end, a tornado may be thought of as a single storm component.

Tornadoes are only found on land, in contrast to hurricanes. While tornadoes are created by a wind vortex created by the warm, high-pressure wind of a solitary thunderstorm above land, hurricanes are enormous, whirling formations of several thunderstorms.

Tornadoes are considerably much smaller than hurricanes. The ordinary tornado is frequently considerably smaller than the biggest ones, which have a diameter of around 2 miles (3.2 km). On the other hand, the average hurricane has a diameter of roughly 300 miles (482 km).

A thunderstorm should have winds of at least 64 knots (74 mph or 119 km/h) to be classified as a hurricane. A minimum of 34 knots of wind are generated by tornadoes (40 mph). Both hurricanes and tornadoes are renowned for their potential for danger and devastation. 

Tornadoes are generally tiny and transient, yet they have the power to destroy everything in their way. Due to their magnitude, capacity to traverse whole regions, and potential to linger over several days, hurricanes are capable of delivering even more extensive damage by combining powerful winds and heavy rains.

How to Prepare for Tornadoes and Hurricanes

Let us now discuss some of the ways you can prepare for tornadoes or hurricanes.

Get Ready

Being prepared with the following equipment is the best way to be secure during a tornado:

  • A battery-operated Television, audio, or internet-enabled gadget to access the most recent urgent weather reports and fresh batteries
  • An offsite backup for tornadoes that includes access to secure refuge for you, your family, persons with special needs, and your pets
  • A first-aid kit (including water, non-perishable food, and medication)
  • A collection of crucial documentation

Make sure your kids understand what a tornado is, what tornado alerts and warnings are, where they reside (counties or parishes often issue warnings), and what qualifies a place as a safe shelter, whether it be at home or school.

Keep an Eye on the Weather

Be alert to any changes in the local weather if you want to keep yourself and your loved ones safe during a tornado. If you know that thunderstorms are imminent, keep an eye on local radio and TV stations and an NOAA weather radio station. A tornado warning may not be available when some tornadoes strike quickly. The following weather indicators may indicate the approach of a tornado:

  • A gloomy or emerald sky
  • A big, black cloud
  • Massive hail
  • A booming noise, like a freight train

Take cover as soon as you become aware of any of these situations, and keep an eye on your local radio and TV stations, an NOAA weather radio station, or the web.

Learn Where to Seek Refuge

Most injuries and fatalities during a tornado are caused by crashing and flying debris. No area is fully safe during a tornado, yet certain places are safer than others. Visit the basement or an area within the building with no windows on the ground floor.


There is no doubt that hurricanes’ wind speeds are faster than tornado wind speeds. Nonetheless, both can be extremely dangerous and disastrous. It’s important to be well-prepared in either case.