What Are Stovepipe Tornadoes And How Dangerous Are They?

All tornadoes are certainly very threatening. But stovepipe tornadoes are capable of causing a tremendous amount of damage.

What Are Stovepipe Tornadoes And How Dangerous Are They?

One of the most devastating variants of the tornado is a stovepipe tornado. They are easily recognized by their funnel cloud appearance and incredibly long width. But what makes these ravenous tornadoes so different? And how much of a threat do they really pose?

Keep reading as I break down everything you need to know about this lesser-known stovepipe tornado variant.

How Dangerous Are Stovepipe Tornadoes?

Because their paths are far wider than other types of tornadoes and they are long-lived and very intense, stovepipe tornadoes cause a tremendous amount of damage in their path. They are also especially dangerous to areas that are densely populated.

Similar to a wedge tornado, the winds within a stovepipe tornado can be very violent. They cover a large surface area because of how wide the base and center of the tornado actually are.

In fact, stovepipe and wedge tornadoes are commonly referred to as “killer tornadoes” due to their violence and low visibility. So if you think one is heading in your direction, it’s essential to protect yourself against the tremendous amount of damage their winds can cause.

What Are Stovepipe Tornadoes?

Stovepipe tornadoes are different from cone, rope, rain wrapped, or wedge tornadoes. This is because they almost always have the same thickness at the bottom of the thunderstorm which carries through the entire tornado.

This is slightly different from cone tornadoes for example which are thin at the base and then become wider the higher up you go. Stovepipe tornadoes will simply carry the exact same amount of width throughout. This is why they are a lot more fierce and powerful than some of their counterparts.

This gives these tornadoes the stove-pipe appearance they are known for. And while they don’t quite have the massive amount of width that wedges do, they are still incredibly wide and noticeable when close by.

In its final stages, the tornado contorts into a worm-like form where it will gradually become thinner before eventually dying out.

Are Stovepipe And Cone Tornadoes The Same?

While they are incredibly similar and occur in many of the same areas across the United States. The major difference between stovepipe tornadoes and cone tornadoes is that stovepipe tornadoes carry the same width from the base. Whereas cone tornadoes are much thinner to start off with.

The stovepipe tornado on the other hand maintains the same width level from top to bottom. This gives you some perspective on how big and dangerous these natural occurrences really are.

Because of these shared similarities, many people will class stovepipe tornadoes as a sub-class of the cone tornado. Despite there being a clear difference in their appearance.

Outside of this one major difference, however, both these tornadoes are largely the same. And both have a base connected to the thunderstorm they are associated with.

Are Stovepipe Tornadoes The Most Dangerous Kind Of Tornado?

Are Stovepipe Tornadoes The Most Dangerous Kind Of Tornado?

While the width and scale of a stovepipe tornado definitely make it a serious threat. Wedge tornadoes are much more destructive and devastating due to their sheer size.

Wedge tornadoes are classed as major tornadoes. Meaning that they have the rating of EF-3 or higher on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Some of the worst tornadoes in history have been wedge tornadoes.

The reason for their destruction is because of just how big and all-encompassing these tornadoes can be. Unlike a stovepipe tornado that maintains the same width throughout. Wedge tornadoes start off fairly wide at their base before growing and becoming even wider the higher up they go.

These types of tornadoes can even be so wide that they take the appearance of a block of black clouds, wider than the distance from the cloud base to the ground.

Meteorologists even suggest that most wedge tornadoes are at least half a mile wide or more. Giving them a tremendous damage path and often having fiercer and stronger winds than stovepipe tornadoes which are already extremely dangerous in their own right.

How To Prepare For A Stovepipe Tornado?

Just like with any oncoming tornado, it’s crucially important to make plans and prepare yourself and your property for any potential damage.

This is especially important for stovepipe tornadoes since they are capable of leaving a tremendous amount of damage and destruction in their wake. Here are some of the most important tips to keep in mind when preparing for a stovepipe tornado.

Keep Checking Weather Services

The National Weather Service provides local weather broadcasts from over 1,000 worldwide transmitters. They provide accurate and up-date information on any developing tornadoes or any that could potentially be on the horizon.

Even if you know a tornado is coming, it’s important to constantly check these types of weather services. They will be able to notify you what kind of tornado is forming and how strong it is. Giving you a good idea of how much you will need to prepare and when.

Create A Tornado Emergency Plan

A tornado emergency plan includes access to a safe shelter for yourself, family members, and anyone else who is nearby needing somewhere safe to stay until the tornado dies down.

For many houses, this will be the basement or an inside room without windows on the lowest floor, such as a basement, closet, or central hallway.

It is always advised to avoid staying in any rooms that contain windows to be as safe as possible. For added protection try getting under something sturdy such as a workbench or large table.

While stovepipe tornadoes are destructive, no one can know the exact strength of a tornado before it touches down. So it’s always worth taking as much cover as possible for your own safety.

Stock Up On Resources

Because they are stronger tornadoes and are usually very large and intense. Stovepipe tornadoes can last a lot longer than smaller ones and can sometimes surround an area for a few hours before moving on.

This is why it’s so important to have essential resources to keep you, your family, and your friends safe and comfortable for as long as it takes.

Some of the most important things to remember include water, non-perishable food, and medication. Along with a first-aid or an emergency kit in case there are any injuries.

If possible, it is also never a bad idea to keep fresh batteries to use on a radio or battery-operated TV. So you can get continuous updates on the state of the tornado and how long it is projected to last.

If you have a phonebook or a list of telephone numbers, it can also be worth keeping this safe so that you can get into contact with others while hiding.

Reinforce Property

Getting yourself and your loved ones to a safe area is most important if you think that a stovepipe tornado is coming. But it can also be worthwhile reinforcing and preparing your property to help resist high winds and reduce damage.

Some great examples of these kinds of reinforcements include installing wind-resistant roof structures, bracing the garage doors, adding extra protection to windows using hurricane shutters, and bracing all external doors to make them stronger. Also see ‘Installing Hurricane Straps in Your Home‘.

Also, make sure to store any important documents or information around the house in a secure box and keep them in the safe shelter.


The stovepipe tornado is a version of the cone tornado which maintains the same amount of width throughout its formation. This makes it incredibly dangerous and a threatening sight for anyone to behold.

If you think one of these dangerous tornadoes is coming, it’s crucial to make sensible and responsible preparations to mitigate the amount of damage these tornadoes can cause. Always make sure you have a safe shelter to hide in since these larger tornadoes can often last quite a while.

Andrew Capper