The link between hurricanes and potential tornadoes

By Holly Yan, CNN

(CNN) -- As if one dangerous cyclone wasn't enough, Hurricane Michael now threatens to unleash tornadoes during its rampage across the Southeast.

Michael could spawn tornadoes from Florida to South Carolina, the National Hurricane Center said.

Most hurricanes are good at producing tornadoes because they cause a lot of vertical shear -- or differences in wind direction and speed at different heights.

But hurricanes that came from the Gulf of Mexico -- like Michael did -- often cause more tornadoes than hurricanes that come from the Atlantic Ocean, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.

He said some hurricanes can produce more than 100 tornadoes in the first two days after landfall.

"Tornadoes account for about 3-4% fatalities in hurricane landfalls," Miller said.

The deadliest tornado caused by a hurricane came in 1964, when Hurricane Hilda spawned a tornado that killed 22 people.

And people living far away from the center of a hurricane aren't immune. They're actually more at risk.

Most tornadoes spawned by tropical cyclones (like hurricanes) strike about 50 to 200 miles from the hurricane's center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

The only good news: Tornadoes caused by hurricanes "are generally smaller, weaker, and shorter-lived than traditional tornadoes you see across Tornado Alley," the wide stretch of the Midwest and southern Plains that frequently gets pummeled by twisters.

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