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March 16, 2012

Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:32 AM * 100 comments

I’d thought about doing a piece on tornadoes later this spring, but the events just this afternoon in Michigan reminded me that it’s not too early.

What is a tornado? It’s a rotating column of air that touches both a) the cloud base, and b) the ground.

In the United States:

  • Most tornadoes occur between 1500 and 2100 (3:00pm to 9:00pm) local time, but a tornado can happen at any hour of the day or night.
  • Most tornadoes move from southwest to northeast, but tornadoes can move in any direction.
  • Most tornadoes have a forward speed between 20 and 30 mph, but some tornadoes can move over 70mph, while others are nearly stationary.
  • Most tornadoes happen in spring-to-summer, but tornadoes can happen on any day in any season.
  • Most tornadoes are only yards wide, and last for a few minutes, but tornadoes can be over a mile wide, and remain on the ground for an hour or more.
  • Most tornadoes have visible funnel clouds, but some do not.
  • Tornadoes have been reported in every state in the Union. Last year, Massachusetts had some extraordinarily damaging tornadoes.
  • Tornadoes can occur over deserts, swamps, fields, forests, cities — any kind of terrain.

Even my little town of Colebrook had a tornado last year. It was a tiny EF0, but it went up Bridge Street not a hundred yards from my house, and it uprooted trees.

The “EF” in EF0 stands for the Enhanced Fujita Scale, a scale for classifying tornadoes based on their wind speed, derived from damage assessment. The original Fujita Scale ran from F0, hurricane speed, up to F12, Mach 1. In practice, however, nothing was ever rated above an F5, because at F5 the determinant was complete destruction. The revised version, the Enhanced Fujita Scale, only goes to EF5.

When a tornado shows up, you may have only minutes to seconds to decide what to do. That’s why I advise thinking through some scenarios in advance and making preparations before a tornado arrives.

Make a plan. Practice the plan. Stay alert to the situation. That advice is very similar to what you’re going to do to prepare for any emergency.


  1. Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms to occur.
  2. Severe Thunderstorm Warning: A severe thunderstorm is in progress in your area.
  3. Tornado Watch: Conditions are favorable for tornado formation.
  4. Tornado Warning: A tornado has been spotted on the ground or with weather radar in your area.

All the watches and warnings in the world won’t help if you don’t hear them. Get a nice weather radio with battery backup, tone alert, and SAME technology. (SAME is Specific Area Message Encoding. That allows you to select exactly which warnings, for exactly which areas, you’ll receive. Tone alert means it only turns on when the specific warning you want comes across.) I really like the Midland WR-300 (costs ninety bucks new from the manufacturer, but you can find ‘em for half that by looking around on-line). Other manufacturers make similar devices. (In my opinion, however, it’s Midland, then all the others.) If you don’t have one, go get one now.

While you’re waiting for your weather radio to be delivered, designate a place in your house where you’ll go in case of a tornado. Select a spot that’s underground, if possible (basement), away from windows, in the smallest room possible. Basement bathrooms and closets are good. Store your bicycle or motorcycle helmets there. Under a heavy table, with a sleeping bag to pull on top of you to protect from debris is good. Folks used to recommend sheltering in the southwest corner of a basement, but, really, no corner is safer than any other, and debris tends to collect in corners. Instead, get as close to the center of the building as you can. If you do shelter under a heavy table, grab ahold of one leg so that if it gets blown around you’ll stay under it. Protect your head and neck with your other hand.

If you have the time, and money, and you own the building, you might consider building a safe room.

When selecting your shelter spot, keep in mind the possibility of flooding. Tornadoes are often (but not always) accompanied by heavy rain.

If you’re on the upper floor of a high-rise you may not have time to get to the basement. Go to an interior hallway (away from windows). If you’re in a trailer, go to the nearest sturdy building and shelter in the basement away from windows.

Put together a 72-hour kit in case you have to shelter in place. (That’s enough food and water to hold out for three days. A Flu Pre-pack is almost identical.) At the same time, put together a Go Bag (jump kit; bug-out bag), in case you have to leave in a hurry.

Plan with your family where you’ll meet up afterward if you’re scattered when disaster strikes. Pick a spot in your house, a spot in your neighborhood if your house is gone, and a spot at some distant location in case your neighborhood is gone, for a rallying point. Have a designated out-of-state contact person who can receive and relay messages, and carry that person’s phone number with you.

Now the storm is upon you.

Tornadoes can blow up suddenly. Perhaps there wasn’t a broadcast warning. Things to look for:

  • Greenish sky (this is caused by hail high in the air). Many (but not all) tornadoes are accompanied by odd sky colors.
  • Hail. Many (but not all) tornadoes are accompanied large/heavy hail.
  • Lightning (which presents dangers of its own). Many (but not all) tornadoes are accompanied by frequent and close lightning.
  • Wall cloud, particularly if you see rotation.
  • A funnel. Many (but not all) tornadoes have visible funnels. The funnel may be obscured by rain; the wind may not yet have picked up enough debris to show the funnel; condensation may not be forming in the funnel.
  • A moving debris field may, or may not, be visible.
  • A loud roaring sound. This is often compared to a freight train. But be aware that the sound depends on the environment, that other things besides tornadoes can cause a roaring sound, and some tornadoes are silent.
  • Tornadoes often form along the leading or trailing edges of severe thunderstorms. They can also form in hurricanes.

Don’t bother to open your windows. Low pressure isn’t what causes structural damage. High winds and flying debris cause the damage. If you have heavy shutters, closing them can help keep high winds and flying debris outside. Otherwise, flying debris will open your windows for you. Try to stay clear of windows: Shards of glass can cut you.

Go to your safe area with your radio, your flashlight, and a map (so you can follow the weather broadcast announcements of exactly where the storm is). Wait it out.

If you’re away from home, and there’s a tornado, stay out of areas with wide-span roofs (e.g. shopping malls, gymnasiums, cafeterias). If you’re in a car, depending on how far away the tornado is, the local geography (and how familiar with the local roads you are), and the traffic situation, don’t try to outrun the tornado, or drive at right-angles to its path (they can move pretty darned fast, and their paths can be erratic, assuming you can even figure out what the path is…). Instead, stop and get into the nearest sturdy building. If no sturdy buildings are available, get away from your car, find a low point in the ground, lie in it, and cover your head and neck. (Same thing if you’re in a mobile home and there’s no sturdy building handy. Get well away, find a low spot, and make yourself one with the ground.)

The amount of energy in a tornado is titanic. There is no sure safety.

Flying debris is the main danger during a tornado. Afterward, the main danger is fire. If you heat or cook with gas, know where the master shut off is located. If shutting it off requires a special wrench, get one of those wrenches. Know how to shut off electricity in your house at the fuse box or breaker box. You’ll want sturdy shoes/boots. Stepping on broken glass and nails afterward causes half of the casualties in a tornado.

Stay safe. Assess the damage. Render what aid you can to others.

More info:

Index to Medical Posts


Comments on Tornado :
#2 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 01:39 AM:

Thank you, Jim. We had too close a call just recently - we live only a couple of miles from the tornado touchdowns in Indiana.

There was an issue here with the schools - we had tornado warnings several times during just the time when the schools were letting out, and nobody seemed to have planned for that contingency. Some schools kept the children until the weather alerts had cleared, others tried to get them off their hands as quickly as possible. At my elder son's school, there was a warning siren going when school was supposed to let out. They kept the children in until it cut off, then hustled them out like it was a Marine landing, only to have the siren start up again halfway through, which caused complete confusion. Some children went back in, some ran for their buses or parents' cars. In a couple of cases the parent ran in while the child ran out. If a tornado had actually hit the school just then (an all too real possibility at the time) it would have been a disaster of unnecessary proportions.

Lesson - things like tornado drills need to include contingencies for when the emergency happens in the middle of release, or at the beginning of the day for that matter, and the parents need to know what they are.

#3 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 02:13 AM:

It's a good idea to make sure the school your kids go to(and the place you work) have a plan, and that everyone knows what the plan is.

The information I have is that for tornadoes in school situations you should shelter in place: School buses and parents' cars are unsafe places to be during tornadoes.

So are cafeterias and gymnasiums.

The best bet is small interior rooms and corridors away from windows.

Our good friends at NOAA have Tornado Preparedness Tips for School Administrators off their main FAQ page.

#4 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 03:18 AM:

Tornadoes happen in the UK too.

A BBC Report

That piece, from 2003, gave a figure of 33 tornadoes reported each year, with maybe 50 per year happening. The Netherlands gets 35 per year, which makes it possibly the worst country in the world, allowing for land area. Keep building the polders, guys.

Europe as a whole has around 700.

Meanwhile, the RAF names some of its aircraft after winds: Hurricane, Typhoon, Whirlwind, and Tornado come to mind.

#5 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 06:40 AM:

Add to the list of places to stay out of: supermarkets, big-box stores, or any other corrugated-steel building. They fall over like a house of cards. If you can't make it out in time, try getting into the freezer.

If your car has a sunroof, go inside the nearest supermarket.

#6 ::: Marina Muilwijk ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 07:06 AM:

Before anyone cancels their plans for a Dutch holiday: tornadoes here are never of the "the whole neighbourhood is gone" variety. At most, the old shed at the back of the garden collapses. You don't want to be outside in one, but the average house is quite safe enough.

I never even realised the Netherlands has so many tornadoes; and I live here. It's an interesting thing to know, though.

#7 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 07:10 AM:

TexAnne @ 5... If you can't make it out in time, try getting into the freezer.

That worked for Henry Jones Jr when he found himself quite close to an atomic-bomb test site.

#8 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 08:42 AM:

Jim: Thanks, this is extremely valuable. Might I ask if, at some point, you could (if you haven't already) do one of these about hurricane preparedness?

#9 ::: Twila Price ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 09:11 AM:

I live very near Dexter, and it was quite a jolt seeing the video on here. We were called by a friend who's a weather-spotter to warn us that a funnel cloud had been sighted one road over from our house, and we headed straight for the downstairs (we're in a trilevel, so it's not a true basement, but it's below ground level) and the kids and I camped out under a table until we heard the warning was over. It was kind of funny, as everyone was on their phone, or laptop, keeping abreast of the news as it came.

I am just glad that the Dexter tornado didn't involve any loss of life. So far, no one has claimed any serious injuries either.

#10 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 09:13 AM:

Tornados are the most freakish of the destructive weathers to me (well, other than flash floods).

There was a tornado in a community near us in west Tennessee. One of the iconic pictures to me was a before and after; before, there's a standard small brick ranch house; after, there's a vacant lot.

#11 ::: Susie ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 09:22 AM:

Many thanks, Jim. The Dexter tornado is local news (if not quite hyper-local; I live about 7.5 miles away) for me. Saw the marble-sized hail with my own eyes (*after* emerging from the windowless interior first-floor room in the building I was visiting during the storm). WUOM radio did a great job of updating where the storm was headed and urging people to take it seriously. Our local "newspaper" has more about one of the worst-hit areas. The best news is, as far as I can tell, no serious injuries or deaths there.

#12 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 09:29 AM:

OK, here's a related pic:

The picture I remember is of this same house, but from near the bottom of the driveway; the slight hill hides the brick walls in that picture.

#13 ::: Susie ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 09:35 AM:

Twila @9, glad you and your kids are safe!

Some foolhardy people watching the tornado from a nearby park instead of taking cover have posted this video of it.

#14 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 09:39 AM:

I live in a second floor garden* apartment; in case of tornado, my plan is to go huddle at the base of my stairs. The building has no actual basement, so that's as low as I could get. Or would a closet be better? A closet would be more protection from flying glass and debris, but on the second floor, not the first.

*no actual garden; it means that each unit has its own exit to outside

#15 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 10:00 AM:

SamChevre, the freakish thing to me about tornadoes is how extremely localized they usually are. One side of a street -- or one half of a small town -- will be reduced to rubble, with undamaged houses on the other side.

It occurred to me when reading the part about weather radios (ours was lost in a move; we really do need to replace it) that there must be phone apps that will alert you when there's a severe weather warning for your area; does anyone have one to recommend?

#16 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 10:26 AM:

Greenish sky (this is caused by hail high in the air).

Yellow is not good either, and causes the native Wisconsinites and Minnesotans to FREAK THE HELL OUT. While both signs can occur anywhere in theory, it is far more usual in my experience to see weird color changing skies in places that are less oppressively humid than Central Pennsylvania. I suspect this is partly because quite often storms in Central PA have the storm clouds start at less than 200 feet in the air. It's not unusual for a large storm to have cloud cover so low that you can't see the mountains... and by "mountain" I mean "hills less than 500 feet tall".

Hail. Many, but not all, tornadoes are accompanied large/heavy hail.

I can't recall a single Central PA tornado accompanied by hail (including at least 1 less than 10 miles from my house). I can recall at least 5+ instances of hail in the marbles to golf ball range. Sample size is limited, but I definitely would not consider hail a warning sign.

Lightning (which presents dangers of its own). Many (but not all) tornadoes are accompanied by frequent and close lightning.

Can't count instances of frequent and close lightning... can count instances of tornadoes. More important perhaps, frequent and close lightning with widespread high wind causes power outages. This is why I make sure we have flashlights, headlamps, AND candles available.

Wall cloud, particularly if you see rotation.

This takes practice to spot. Many of the things the family Midwesterners identify as "wall cloud" I identify as "low cloud ceiling".

A funnel. (Many, but not all, tornadoes have visible funnels. The funnel may be obscured by rain; the wind may not yet have picked up enough debris to show the funnel.)

I am pleased and overjoyed to note that I have never yet seen a funnel and I hope to keep it this way.

A moving debris field may, or may not, be visible.

Also something I am very thankful to have never seen.

A loud roaring sound. This is often compared to a freight train. But be aware that the sound depends on the environment, that other things besides tornadoes can cause a roaring sound, and some tornadoes are silent,.

I'd tend to class this as a more generalized high winds trait. It is common for Madison WI to get wind gusts in excess of 40mph. This is strong enough to thrust a 180lb woman on a 35lb bike more than 2 feet to one side or another on a road, or to completely stop my forward progress. (or put me at speeds well in excess of 20mph, but the odds of getting it as a tailwind are pretty low)

If the winds are high enough to throw me around on my bike, they will often sound like a freight train when you are sitting inside. Depending on where you are in relation to buildings, they may also sound like a freight train when outside.

As high winds go, 40mph gusts are small beer, and functioning hurricanes will have much greater windspeeds. It is possible to function outside in winds that high, but for practical reasons, I do not recommend going out in such wind. Flying debris is still a risk.

Tornadoes often form along the leading or trailing edges of severe thunderstorms. They can also form in hurricanes.

The rule of thumb my dad taught me is "if it's raining heavily, you're probably ok". Thus far, seems quite true.

However, heavy rains also lead to flash flooding :P.

#17 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 10:30 AM:

Lorax @15: Many local TV stations offer to send alerts to cellphones, you can usually set it up from their websites.

I think Midland makes a portable weather radio too...

#18 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 10:43 AM:

Mary Aileen #14:

I'd choose under the stairs on the first floor, wearing a helmet and covered with a mattress. The destructive horizontal winds in a tornado decrease with altitude.

Fragano Ledgister #8

We had quite a bit of discussion about hurricane readiness last year when Irene was threatening New York City. E.g. Hurricane Irene info and updates; Hurricane Lantern

#19 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 10:53 AM:

James (18): Thanks. I can't get under my stairs (that's part of the downstairs apartment; my neighbors have a closet there), but it sounds as if huddling at the bottom of the stairs is my best bet. I think I have room to stash a helmet there; I will do so.

#20 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 11:41 AM:

Susie #13:

I note that for portions of that video there's no visible funnel, but the moving debris field on the ground shows that there's sure-enough a tornado.

Torrilin #16:

There's no one certain sign that a tornado is imminent (though a visible funnel cloud is pretty close to definitive). But if I were under a severe thunderstorm watch or warning, and I got just one of those signs, I'd probably go read a book in the basement for a while.

#21 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 12:09 PM:

TexAnne #5:

The day of the Jarrell tornado* there were also other tornadoes including one at Anderson Mill**, where any number of people's lives were saved by taking shelter in the cooler of the supermarket. (Not a day I care to remember very clearly; the sky was green in Central Austin, and I was walking home from campus when it started to rain. Very heavily. We spent the next hour or so in the back hall just on general principles.)

* May 27,1997, F5
** About 12-13 miles NW of Central Austin

#22 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 12:32 PM:

Last year we happened to be driving thru a section of rural Arkansas which had been hit by a tornado the day before. I got some pictures of the devastation (the linked photo and the next half-dozen or so; the remainder of that set is shots of the floodwaters along I-40).

#23 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 01:19 PM:

Lori @17, it's been so long since I watched TV that I hadn't even thought of that option. Thanks.

#24 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 02:28 PM:

Of all my cousins, (most of whom live in tornado prone areas, like Iowa, Texas, and to a lesser extent, North Carolina) the nearest miss any of us have had was the recent Lanaki HI waterspout. My cousin's house is in this aftermath video. Their house is really not good for tornadoes, since it's small and mostly windows, though I suppose the bathroom is as good as any room there.

#25 ::: Janice in GA ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 03:53 PM:

There was home security camera footage of a recent tornado that I found pretty compelling:
Home Security Camera Tornado Footage

Multiple cameras, multiple angles Scary how quickly it goes through, and how fast the damage happens.

#26 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 04:35 PM:

Haven't quite got the $$ together for an in-ground shelter or real safe room, but I did prepare a closet by putting everything in it on a storage unit on wheels. I can easily pull it out when I need to use it as a shelter. I've got LED closet lights and a stash of water in there; I'll have to think about a few other things to add!

Last year I was at work here in the University of Oklahoma Library when we had a tornado warning. We have shelter areas on the lower two levels, and many people come here with their pets because the other shelters won't allow them. Pets are certainly something you'll need to think about too.

#27 ::: Kelley Wegeng ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 04:38 PM:

Taking your advice seriously up there led my partner and I to look for a Midland WR-300 online. Just in case anyone is daunted by the cost I want to report that they are just over half the expected cost you cite above at right now, $48. Ours will arrive on Tuesday.

#28 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 05:10 PM:

The US has tornado alley, but tornados happen on all continents.

In re that video at 13, was the funnel discontinuous, or was part of it blocked by dust or somesuch?

I loved the bit with the calm voice saying "It's coming at us." There didn't seem to be any implication of action.

#29 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 09:28 PM:

By "supermarket cooler" do you mean the shelves with glass doors in the frozen foods section, or some sort of actual cold-storage room in the back?

#30 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 09:38 PM:

@29 Newer supermarkets (particularly in middle-class or upscale areas in parts of the country where grocery stores sell wine, beer and malt beverages) frequently have what I would describe as a walk in cold-room in the liquor section where one can buy package liquor cold. The ones I've seen usually have glass doors on the outside facing the store through which one can pull cartons, and also a door to get inside the space either to load the racks or to select for purchase a larger quantity of product than is on the shelf. Sort of a refrigerated cave with walls of beer cases, which would maybe be a less bad place to be in the event of a roof collapse than out in the open part of the store.

#31 ::: Susie ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2012, 11:35 PM:

Nancy @28: I'm afraid I have no idea about the funnel's continuity or lack thereof. The video was taken in a park I've been to, but not by anyone I know. reports that the tornado was on the ground for 30 minutes. The more I read about this storm, the more amazed I am at the absence of serious human injury or death.

#32 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2012, 01:02 AM:

In May 1999, Oklahoma City was hit with a series of tornadoes; the death toll was 48 before they were done. My brother was working in the area at the time; one of his workplaces was scraped clean, nothing left of it but the concrete pad.

The next day, my sister-in-law got a call, the gist of which was, "We can't find Doug!"

After what she described as a heart-stopping moment, she tartly informed them that Doug was sitting at the kitchen table eating cold cereal, and to update their contact lists, because he'd quit that job two weeks before.

What Lisa felt in that phone call couldn't have been fun, but part of me has to wonder what that contacter was feeling before they found out Doug was fine. Please keep your contact lists current. It'll save both sides of the conversation a load of un-fun.

#33 ::: Susie ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2012, 10:13 AM:

Map of the Dexter tornado's path and some pics from the National Weather Service, via a librarian friend.

#34 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2012, 10:35 AM:

#29, #30--Ever see a walk-in cooler in a restaurant? It's basically a refrigerated room. Most supermarkets have these; they're used as holding spaces for refrigerated or frozen goods that come in, until they can be placed on the sales floor. The requirements of the refrigeration system mean that this is an reinforced, enclosed space independent of the building's main roof. These freezers/coolers are in the back of the store, in the section marked Employees Only. A good, well-trained store manager has probably been told to get people into these for shelter.

Don't try and use the glass-fronted ones. First of all, even tempered glass will break in the right conditions, and tornado debris probably counts. Secondly, these are not secured to the floor. This would be a bad thing if the building was hit by a tornado.

For further information on why big-box stores and similar structures are dangerous in tornadoes, check out this Wikipedia article on what is called "tilt-up" or "tilt-wall" construction, especially the section on the risks involved. This section mentions the Joplin tornado and big-box structures affected by that storm.

Any large space with a wide-span roof is dangerous in a storm; some are riskier that others.

Where I grew up in Missouri (and when I was growing up) most houses had basements, including new construction. More and more, houses only have foundations or are slab-built, and here in Tennessee (for some reason, here in Nashville, basements are more often built of block than poured concrete) new construction almost never includes a basement. I get that lack of frost issues make them less essential here and farther south, but the frequency of tornado weather around here makes a basement seem like a really good idea.

#35 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2012, 05:46 PM:

If I had to take shelter in a large store I'd definitely look for an enclosed are with its own ceiling and no glass doors or windows. While tornados are rare in Oregon, high winds aren't; we typically get several storms per year in northwestern Oregon with winds gusting to 80 mph, and storms over 100 mph every few years. I've seen a newly-built supermarket the day after a 105 mph storm: the roof had been peeled back nearly the full length of the store, and the building was a writeoff.

#36 ::: Naomi Kritzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2012, 11:44 AM:

Thanks for the link to that weather radio -- I've known for a while that we should get one, but the ones I'd seen in the past would go off for every single weather alert. I don't need to be woken at 3 a.m. for a severe thunderstorm watch.

I would add to this post that there's absolutely nothing wrong with looking at the weather and going to the basement even if the NWS hasn't declared an actual tornado warning. If the winds are freaking you out and you're wondering, if a dead branch came off the neighbor's tree, would this storm send it right through the patio door? -- it doesn't have to be a tornado to be worth sheltering from.

#37 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2012, 09:36 PM:

Another useful bit of information:

Make sure you know what your municipality will sound the severe weather sirens for. I've lived in places where they will sound for the following:
- Tornado warning only
- Severe thunderstorm warning with tornado watch
- Severe thunderstorm warning only

There may be others. Make sure you know which one your area uses. If you live near a state/county line, make sure you know which alert they use on the other side of the line.

I live one county over from my parents. They only get sirens for a tornado warning. I get them for a tornado watch during a severe thunderstorm warning*. When I was a kid, we got sirens that sounded for a severe thunderstorm warning, with no tornado activity. This got quite confusing when the siren went off one day as church was letting out. We had parishioners from just across the state line, who were used to the sirens only going off for tornado warnings.

*I'm about equidistant from 3 sirens in the same township. Quite sufficient to wake me from a dead sleep and send me stumbling to the basement to check for more weather details there.

#38 ::: Laura Runkle ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2012, 10:49 PM:

Twila Price @ 9: You, too, can become a trained Storm Spotter. The training is straightforward and informative. Most regions still have ongoing training through early April. Some regions accept online training, although then you miss out on your local NOAA meteorologist's commentary on the past year, dumb, smart, tragic, or excellent things that happened, and what may happen in the coming year. As radio amateurs, my husband and I, along with our eldest, got storm spotter training. Our youngest was seven at the time, and nervous about storms, and so also got training. Training needs to happen every couple years or so to stay on the list for the local NOAA office.

Fidelio @ 34. An F0/F1 went skipping through our neighborhood when I was eleven. The sirens didn't sound, but we were in the basement hallway, because any storm that could wake us all up at 2:00 am was worth the basement hallway on general principles. Only minor damage to the roof, but fully grown maple and ironwood trees less than 40 feet from our house were uprooted, and stripped of their bark in a spiral pattern. Nobody killed. Nobody hurt. Many shaken. And when my husband and I moved to the town we live in now, one of my unshakable house criteria was "must have a basement or other suitable safe place for strong storms." Since moving? The only times I've been really close to a rotating wall cloud have been while driving. Most uncomfortable.

#39 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2012, 10:49 AM:

We had a tornado warning here about 6PM yesterday. Managed to harness/leash all 5 dogs and got them, the humans, and 2 of the 4 cats to the basement in less than 5 minutes.

There was no damage to my neighborhood -- there was a river in the backyard last night, the first time I've ever seen that much moving water there. All the mulch we had down on the bare spots washed away.

We also had hail here -- enough to form small drifts in several places. If you laid your hands on the inside walls of our house you could feel the vibration from the hail hitting the roof.

We did get a lovely rainbow afterwards.

I did note a couple of holes in the emergency plans: I forgot to bring a radio down with me -- I'm moving one of the extras from upstairs down to the basement today, and a flashlight in the bedroom is not helpful when you're dashing for the basement in daytime. I'll get some extra flashlights and put them in the basement as well.

#40 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2012, 12:54 PM:

Lori's @39 reminds me that a major hole in any emergency response in my household is guinea pig management. The boys, and two of the girls aren't a real issue; they each have their own house and it's mostly a matter of going around, scooping them up, and chucking them into some container.

The girls in the Big House are more of an issue because, if they're not all in the hidey-place to start with, gathering them up tends to be A Project.

That, and I haven't really come up with a satisfactory "container" solution that isn't impossibly bulky and/or provides a way to segregate inter-hostile or inter-fertile individuals.

#41 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2012, 03:05 PM:

About a year and a half ago, there was a small tornado that skipped across Brooklyn and Queens. Notably, it touched down in Park Slope, Brooklyn, dragging across Prospect Park and pulling down a lot of trees, and touched down again near Queens College.

Now, my brother at the time lived in Park Slope and teaches at Queens College. One of his students commented "the gods must be upset with you, Dr Baker."

#42 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2012, 07:42 PM:

Jacque -- would pillowcases work?

That used to be my default method of removal for the cats if I didn't have a carrier in reach when the siren went off.

If it will, you could keep a sufficient number by the guinea pig corral...and at one pig per case would keep them separated?

#43 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2012, 11:46 AM:

Lori: That...might just work. I'd thought of pillowcases before, but it never crossed my mind to allocate one per pig. I'd already discovered the trick of using lingerie bags to confine the boys when they have to be in the carrier with a girl.

Huh. That's brilliant. Maybe find a collapsable crate to live next to the door, to carry the collection of bagged pigs. Thank you!

#44 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2012, 12:59 PM:


One of the controversies in Tornado Science is apparently whether tornadoes can skip. One side holds that they can... the other holds that since a tornado is, by definition, a rotating column of air that extends from the cloud base to the ground, if that column of air loses contact with the ground, the next time it contacts the ground it's a new tornado.

#45 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2012, 01:23 PM:

That sounds like a question of "What defines a tornado?" rather than "Does skipping happen?", Jim.

Rather like, "Am I the same person I was seven years ago, before all my cells replaced themselves and I learned some stuff?" For some purposes I am, and for some purposes I'm not -- but most folks would fall on the side of saying that in some essential sense I am the same person. Saying I'm not creates (under most circumstances) needless complications.

#46 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2012, 01:57 PM:

Yet others claim that the tornado never really left the ground, it just cycled from a More Destructive to a Less Destructive phase and back.

I'm not competent to say who's right on that score.

Another controversy is whether, when several simultaneous rotating columns of air descend from one cloudbase to the ground, it is one tornado with multiple funnels, or several tornadoes.

#47 ::: greening ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2012, 04:38 PM:

#42: Indeed, a method known even in the Rev. Dodgson's day:

Here one of the guinea-pigs cheered, and was immediately suppressed by the officers of the court. (As that is rather a hard word, I will just explain to you how it was done. They had a large canvass bag, which tied up at the mouth with strings: into this they slipped the guinea-pig, head first, and then sat upon it.)

"I'm glad I've seen that done," thought Alice. "I've so often read in the newspapers, at the end of trials,'There was some attempt at applause, which was immediately suppressed by the officers of the court,' and I never understood what it meant till now."

#48 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2012, 12:12 PM:

I have one guinea pig for whom even being put in a bag is not an effective suppressant. And sitting on him seems pointless, as he crawls underneath me at every opportunity. :-)

#49 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2012, 09:46 AM:

Jacque -- You're welcome! I've seen too many stories of people who died trying to get family and pets out of their burning homes.

Really glad you think it's a good solution. What I know about guinea pigs would fit on the head of a pin!

#50 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2012, 11:37 AM:

You might want to practice it once, just to see how it goes.

(At least in the case of burning buildings, oftentimes if you aren't out in ninety seconds you aren't getting out.)

#51 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 11:10 AM:

Jim Macdonald @50: You might want to practice it once, just to see how it goes. (At least in the case of burning buildings, oftentimes if you aren't out in ninety seconds you aren't getting out.)

Yup, exactly. I'm thinking of this more of a case of societal-level disaster-prep (flood, wildfire, Martian invasion, etc.). I don't know what the hell I'd do in the case of fire (and I've seen too many close to hand to have any illusions that "it couldn't happen to me.") To get out in 90 seconds, I'd be doing well to grab two of my kids—and that's just them-and-me, out the door; no fancy containers.

#52 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2012, 11:05 AM:

Iowa is having a state-wide tornado drill tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. local time.

Meanwhile, in other news, then National Weather Service is rolling out a new set of tornado and thunderstorm warnings.

Rather than the current system (described in the original post) of watches and warnings, where an EF-1 and an EF-5 have the same announcement, the National Weather Service is testing a new system in Kansas, Illinois, and Missouri, with two tiers of warnings for thunderstorms and three for tornadoes, based on severity.

The top tier will apparently include words like "catastrophic," "devastating," and "unsurvivable."

It's long been a goal of mine to avoid unsurvivable situations. Only the first couple of minutes are fun.

#54 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2012, 12:48 PM:

At least 3 possible tornadoes near Okla. City

At least three possible tornadoes were reported west and north of the city, though no injuries were immediately reported, said Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management official Michelann Ooten. The National Weather Service, which is working to confirm the tornadoes, said the storms damaged some homes.

This from 23 minutes ago, and things only expected to get worse today.

I hope all our friends in the area have their important files backed up off-site?

#56 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2012, 10:10 PM:

There was some local chuckling over the Breezy Point tornado once it was confirmed that no one had died.

#57 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:51 AM:

Tornado in Mississippi. Widespread damage, some injuries, no known fatalities.

Any season, any day, any time, any terrain. You know how we say "keep watching the skies"? Well, do it.

#58 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 11:55 AM:

Snow, tornado threat mix in spring weather tango

A storm brought biting cold, high winds and the possibility of several inches of snow to parts of Colorado, forcing the cancellation of about 465 flights at Denver's airport. While the Southeast and parts of the Northeast basked in sunny warmth, residents of the Central Plains braced for the possibility of severe storms, including tornadoes.

Central Oklahoma and parts of north central Texas were under moderate threat of severe thunderstorms, including the possibility of tornadoes, through Tuesday night.

Any state, any season, any time, any terrain....

#59 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 12:38 PM:

Jim, do you mean I can't trust golden age science fiction for scientific information?

There was that story (Eric Frank Russell?) about an alien invasion base in the mid-west which was destroyed by a completely unexpected tornado... but the aliens probably would have had their own tornadoes.

#60 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 02:17 PM:

Whether the aliens knew about tornadoes would depend on the atmosphere on their home world.

The story (it was Eric Frank Russell, as I recall, and probably in Six Worlds Yonder) had the aliens considering the tornadoes to be mythical giants from earth folklore.

#61 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2013, 09:54 PM:

I recall Kelly Freas comments describing the illustration he'd done for the Eric Frank Russell story — the alien invaders had come from a world with almost no axial tilt, and very simple atmospheric dynamics. Post-invasion, they'd set up their headquarters at the center of North America — in Tornado Alley. Freas comments on the expression of the alien soldier lashed by the winds and wondering how mere air could be so punishing.

#62 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2013, 11:28 PM:

Officials: Multiple fatalities, 100 injuries in severe Texas storm

This thing is a mile wide, and is on the ground right now. Take care, folks.

Tornado watch until 0100 CDT (0200 EDT).

#63 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2013, 11:55 PM:

Good gods. That's horrible. Bright blessings for all there to remain safe AIBTOW.

#64 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2013, 12:01 PM:


Don't recognize the acronym.

#65 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2013, 12:05 PM:

"An it be their own will"?

#66 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2013, 12:10 PM:

Information on aid for the Cleburne tornado victims is up in Jim's diffractions. People who don't care to go with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army for whatever reason can always donate to the Humane Society of North Texas, which is heading to Cleburne to help assist with pets in the area.

This tornado strikes a bit closer to home for me than some. My high school's football team (the Denison High Yellowjackets) used to play Cleburne's football team (also, confusingly, the Yellowjackets) -- I wasn't that much of a football fan, but I was in the marching band, and that meant I was at all the games, both home and away.

#67 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2013, 12:29 PM:


For iPhones: NOAA Weather Radio App: NOAA Weather Radio Currently on sale for $1.99

For Android: NOAA Weather Radio NOAA Weather Radio Currently $0.99

Still no substitute for a dedicated weather radio. I recommend Midland radios. (Shop around for best prices.)

Tornado App from American Red Cross:

iPhone: Tornado App from American Red Cross Free download

Android: Tornado App from American Red Cross Free download.

Tornado Spy+ for iPhone: Tornado Spy+ Crowd-sourced tornado watch. (They're boasting that they beat the NOAA Weather Radio report of the 5/10/10 Oklahoma City tornado by twenty minutes.)

#68 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2013, 12:31 PM:

Jim, Lila has it right. I put that in there as a matter of formally observing my oath not to do magic for people without their permission.

I say "bright blessings" directly TO people without the formal tag because I figure it's understood as an offering of good wishes; in the third person it feels more like magic, so I put that in.

#69 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2013, 12:48 PM:

Thanks, Xopher, Lila.

In this, as in all things in life, planning/preparation in advance and keeping a high situational awareness is what I'd recommend.

Meanwhile, the first named tropical storm of the season is in the Pacific.

We know that global warming/catastrophic climate change is real, that more heat in the atmosphere = more energy in the atmosphere, and that energy has to go somewhere.

#70 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2013, 12:52 PM:

People who don't understand conservation of energy don't know that. That's part of why they don't believe in climate change.

#71 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2013, 02:07 PM:

A couple more iPhone apps:

Tornado Chasers (includes USA, Canada, and UK). $0.99

Nixie Free. Local alerts from local agencies.

#72 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2013, 05:41 PM:
Areas of metropolitan Oklahoma City appeared to be in shreds Monday afternoon after a massive tornado moved through the region. "The houses are destroyed. ... Completely leveled," a helicopter pilot for CNN affiliate KFOR said. A school was apparently among the structures leveled by the twister.

Tornado levels homes, a school, in Oklahoma City suburb

Okay, guys, everyone in the Fluorosphere: If you don't have one order your weather radio and (if you have a smartphone) weather app(s). Right now. Check your go bags and update/revise/practice your emergency plans.

This year looks like it's going to be intense. (And Atlantic hurricane season starts in about two weeks.)

#73 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2013, 06:25 PM:

Briarwood Elementary.
The twister was a mile wide.

#74 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2013, 06:47 PM:

NWS says it, like yesterday's, was an EF-4. Winds up to 200 MPH.

#75 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2013, 07:18 PM:

EF-4 is "Devastating." As P J says, three-second wind-speeds of 168-200 mph.

With an EF-4 you can expect destruction of townhouses, apartment buildings, and motels of four stories or less.

(Note that for a manufactured single-wide, the expected result of "Completely destroyed; debris blown away" happens at wind speeds of 120 (upper bound 140, lower bound 100). That's an EF-2.)

#76 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2013, 07:40 PM:

Jim, the fun is explaining to people in California that you can't build structures that can take winds like that. Not unless you want to live in a bank vault.

My mother and I went down to Lubbock for an embroidery show at the Texas Tech museum. We also wandered through some of the other exhibits, including the one from their engineering research center that was testing construction methods for tornado-resistant structures. Nothing like seeing two-by lumber that's been shot through concrete walls.

#77 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2013, 08:29 PM:

Briarwood elementary - everyone is okay
Plaza Towers elementary - everyone from 4th grade up is okay, but the lower grades were in the worst-hit section, and at least 24 of the kids are dead; they're doing recovery now instead of rescue.

This one was on almost the exact same track as the one that went through Moore in 1999.

#78 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2013, 09:17 PM:

Message from Janet Brennan Croft, via Facebook:

I seem to be limited to Internet-via-phone right now. Norman is okay, but the main hospital in Moore was hit, so I'm hearing a lot of ambulances going back and forth on the major road south of my house.

I think she's the only regular in the affected area.

#79 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2013, 12:17 PM:

Tornado story overheard by my partner on his way home from Chicago. He wasn't driving thru the part of OK that got hit, but another customer at a truck stop was telling the cashier about getting a phone call from a friend in the OKC area. Said friend works at a store along the I-35 feeder road; she went to lunch, came back... and all that was left of her workplace was a slab and some debris. Talk about timing! I hope the rest of her co-workers got out okay.

#80 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2013, 12:55 PM:

I expect we'll hear more of those stories of unexpected lucky avoidance of storms.

(There's one from the Hurricane of '38: A gent had ordered a barometer by mail; when it arrived it was broken--no matter how much he turned the adjustment screw the needle wouldn't get off the bottom peg. He took it to the post office to send it back, and when he got home his house was gone....)

Go-bags in your house, in your car, and at the office. Make 'em, inventory 'em regularly, and keep an eye on the world.

#81 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2013, 01:11 PM:

The National Weather Service is expecting more super-cell activity from the same storm system this afternoon in north-central Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, and northern Arkansas and Louisiana. Stay safe, everyone.

#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2013, 01:58 PM:

This post explains some of the stuff that's going on with tornadoes as weather.

I watched the video where the tornado 'roped out' - it was going along and just vanished.

#83 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2013, 05:09 PM:

Growing up in Nebraska for our family meant "caves", always some distance from the house in case of debris scatter.

The people who survived the tornado but died in their shelters - no one could tell where they were buried and they couldn't get out? Has it been that many days? Our caves always had emergency water (in WWII-surplus 5-gallon cans) and food (it was the coolest place to store canned goods).

When my folks moved by the Platte River they buried a watertight box in case of bad storms. After the next one with high water, the thing was floating about a yard above grade.

#84 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2013, 05:59 PM:

I know that municipalities have databases of which homes have shelters, so they know to look for them.

I don't know how many died in shelters, or why. Blocked air supply? Flooding? I'm sure that'll be investigated.

#85 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2013, 09:16 PM:

It's official: The Oklahoma tornado was an EF-5.

#86 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2013, 11:34 PM:

#77 PJ

NPR had a segment on today about a Mercy Hospital in Joplin, Missouri, being built/rebuilt to tornado resistance, with glass tested to survive intact getting slammed by 15 pound hunks of lumber hitting it at high speed, with a multilayer roof including concrete and plastic below the concrete. The speaker estimate the cost of tornado hardening the building would be ten million out of a cost of $350 million for the hospital.


We talked earlier about Oklahoma's junior senator, Republican Tom Coburn (R), announcing last night that he will only support federal disaster relief -- for his own constituents -- if it's financed by comparable spending cuts elsewhere...

Republican Sen. James Inhofe, like Coburn, has opposed emergency aid in the recent past, including voting against a relief package for victims of Hurricane Sandy. This morning, however, the conservative senator said that was "totally different."


... if the Senator from Oklahoma is so concerned about federal spending, perhaps he should look in his own state for solutions. Oklahoma gets $1.48 for every $1.00 they send to Washington. They're in the top ten. Gee a nearly 50% return on your tax dollars isn't bad.

Oklahoma is number FIVE for oil output. My guess is that some of that $40 Billion that Inhofe gave to the oil companies could come in real handy right now.

The day Senator Inhofe drops dead the world will be rid of one of the viler and extremely harmful hypocrites on the planet.

The news reported that the school most of the dead children were in, did not have a shelter in it because of economizing... in a state which makes itself attractive to corporations to relocate facilities to by "income redistribution" at the federal level and by low in-state tax rates--again, effected apparently by a combination of forced subsidies from "blue states" and low taxes by skimping on things like shelters in schools....

(It was Inhofe whose name I got confused a few years back with a different senator--it was Inhofe I was condemning and meant to cast aspersion upon...)

#87 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2013, 11:22 PM:

Some years back the Discovery Channel had a series of docudramas ("Perfect Disaster") on various extreme weather emergencies. Episode 1 was called "Super Tornado" and dealt with a hypothetical EF-5 hitting Dallas, Texas.

Interested folks can, I'm sure, find the film.

Spoiler: Gur Rzretrapl Znantre thl jub yrnirf uvf cbfg jura ur'f arrqrq gurer zbfg vf znxvat n Irel Onq Qrpvfvba. Bqqf ner, erny jbeyq, ur jba'g svaq uvf jvsr; ur'f nyfb evfxvat uvf bja uvtuyl-genvarq naq va na rzretrapl arneyl-vaqvfcrafnoyr-ng-uvf-cbfg yvsr. Ur'f evfxvat gubhfnaqf gb fnir ... gjb? Onq pubvpr. Cerfhznoyl ur gehfgf uvf jvsr gb unaqyr fvghngvbaf. Fur qbrfa'g arrq uvz gb or gurer orvat nyy znayl va crefba. V xabj jul gurl qvq vg qenzngvpnyyl, ohg V'z fnlvat, sbyxf, qb abg qb yvxrjvfr.

#88 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2013, 08:19 PM:

Raw video footage of the first ten minutes of the Moore, OK, tornado.

Note that the stormchasers are calling it an EF-5 before those ten minutes are over.

#89 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2013, 08:54 PM:

Re #89: Was I the only one yelling GET OUT OF THERE RIGHT NOW YOU FUCKING MORONS while watching that video?

Rule 1 of emergencies: Don't add to the pile of bodies!

#90 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2013, 09:04 PM:

I believe the stormchasers in that particular video are professionals, rather than gormless amateurs -- they're maintaining a position parallel to the storm's track and relaying pertinent observations to their home base, and they do hit the "time to get out of here" button at the end.

There's a fine line, sometimes, between doing something completely stupid and doing something inherently dangerous in as safe a manner as possible, but these guys appear to be on the "as safe as possible, considering" side of it.

#91 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2013, 10:33 PM:

I guess my problem is that I don't see what they're doing as worth risking your life for.

I may also have been influenced by the NPR story earlier this year about stormchasers getting in the way of emergency responders, which sort of soured me on the whole stormchasing enterprise.

#92 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2013, 01:07 PM:

Observational data on a phenomenon for which we still have only very rough predictive ability is, I think, valuable -- even if gathering it is a job suited only to serious adrenaline junkies. For that matter, warnings about areas in a tornado's immediate path are going to come from people on the ground with eyes on the storm.

Amateur idiots with cell phone cameras are one thing; professionals doing a dangerous job are quite another.

And lord knows, people risk their lives every day for even stupider things.

#93 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2013, 04:52 PM:

I note that around 6:03 and following, there are bright round flashes, but I couldn't catch what the speaker was saying about them. What would those have been -- lightning, or electrical nodes getting destroyed?

#94 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2013, 07:04 PM:

One of our local (Ontario, Canada ) regular weather reporters was in OK with some group of storm chasers. I got the impression that there's real science coming out of those observations. He also talked about they going into emergency reporting mode, passing info to responders and helping define the boundaries. I'm sure he said they had continuously been in contact with the emergency coordination center.

#95 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2013, 07:46 PM:

More power to them, then. They are obviously very different from what jumps to mind when I hear the phrase "Storm Chasers". Mea culpa.

#96 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2013, 08:28 PM:

My all time favorite Guindon cartoon: Several unshaved guys wearing plaid coats and carrying shotguns, with a handful of toy house trailers on the ground. Caption: Tornado Hunters.

#97 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2013, 09:59 PM:

Dave H., #94: That sounds to me like transformers blowing. This YouTube clip from the 1998 tornado that trashed downtown Nashville shows the same kind of thing, and it's clearly identified by the news guys as exploding transformers.

I was working on the 15th floor of an office building at the time, and we had a clear line of sight down to the main NES building. Watching those transformers blow was quite an experience, as was the "piece of glitter" I saw quite high in the sky, and then figured out that it was an entire plate-glass window from some office building.

Somewhere around then, we all simultaneously realized that standing there watching a tornado coming right at us was really, really dumb, and there was a mass migration to the stairwell. :-)

#98 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2013, 09:36 AM:

Three storm chasers were killed in Friday's tornadoes in Oklahoma.

These weren't thrill seekers. These were experienced men collecting data.

Tornadoes are nasty.

#100 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2013, 09:18 PM:

Midwest tornadoes, winds slam towns and trucks; 5 killed in Illinois

(CNN) -- Severe weather erupted throughout the Midwest on Sunday afternoon, with tornadoes tearing through several cities and a storm forcing fans to evacuate the stands during an NFL game.

"It was complete destruction," said Anthony Khoury, who lives in Washington, Illinois. "There are people in the streets crying."

At least five people died in Illinois as a result of the severe storms, officials said.

Any state in the Union, any time of day, any day of the week, any month of the year. Keep a weather eye.

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