(WFXR) — In honor of “Severe Weather Awareness Week,” WFXR’s Chief Meteorologist John Carroll takes a look at the most intense and violent of all storms in the U.S. — tornadoes — and how you and your loved ones can stay safe if you’re in their path.

Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air — that drop from the bottom of a thunderstorm — and can generate wind speeds that may exceed 200 mph.

These potentially deadly twisters leave behind quite a wake of damage in their path that can result in the complete destruction of large, sturdy structures and even loss of life.

A tornado is not to be taken lightly, so when you hear that there is a tornado warning for your area, you need to take cover immediately.

Virginia sees about 11 twisters each year, most of which happen between April and September as part of “Tornado Season.”

When there is the potential for tornadoes to develop in your area, you may be given ample warning by the National Weather Service or the Storm Prediction Center that the potential for danger exists.

Often times a Tornado Watch is issued, which is an early indication that conditions are ripe for these aggressive storms to form. This is the time to prepare.

When a Tornado Warning is issued, that is the time to get in your safe shelter.

Tornadoes are very destructive and they leave behind a debris field that meteorologists use to study these dangerous storms.

For instance, if debris is generally pushed over in the same direction, it was likely the result of straight-line winds. If the debris is distributed in a circular fashion, it means that a tornado came through, picked up the debris, and tossed the remnants around your neighborhood.

Tornadoes are ranked or classified by what is called the Fujita Scale, recently updated to be referred to as the Enhanced Fujita Scale. The ratings are broken down by the wind gust speeds and the type of damage associated with those wind gusts.

However, you and your family can be prepared and ready for “Tornado Season”.

This short video showcases what you may want to have on hand in case you are impacted by a tornadic storm.

Please be careful, get a plan in place, practice the plan, and always stay informed of pending danger. It is the best way to stay safe.