What is a tornado? A tornado is a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. Because wind is invisible, it is hard to see a tornado unless it forms a condensation funnel made up of water droplets, dust and debris. Tornadoes are the most violent of all atmospheric storms.
These monsters are not necessarily stronger than funnels or other shaped tornadoes, but they do cover much more ground. This particular tornado was hanging out the west side of a supercell thunderstorm in the Texas Panhandle.
The vehicle in the foreground is an NSSL chase vehicle doing its job long before books and movies told about chasing storms. Occasionally, there was big reward like on this day. Shortly after this photo was taken this tornado tore through a small Texas town.
Residents saw it coming and were under ground, or in a safe shelter. This was the first in a series of tornadoes to strike the Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma that day.
Huge funnels like this one that are a mile wide are sometimes unrecognizable at close range as a tornado. They lack the classic narrow funnel appearance, but tend to appear as a boiling Types of tornados of fog approaching from out of nowhere, since they favor a position close to the rain wall.
Generally the rain stops and the tornado makes a rapid appearance. These storms are the ones that are generally blamed for "striking without warning" since some people try to observe the tornado before taking shelter.
Funnels of Types of tornados character are more common in the southeastern quarter of the nation where moisture from the Gulf of Mexico is thick and cloud bases are low. That said, this one was in the Texas Panhandle and they can form anywhere in the plains when conditions are ripe.
The width of this particular beast varies depending on whose damage survey one believes. Original damage surveys measured over a mile wide at some places, but newer versions put it at less than half that size.
When it crossed the Interstate at I the appearance from one mile away filled one half the drivers side window all the windshield and part of their passenger window. Now the amazing part, two men on motorcycles were lying in the shallow depression between lanes as it passed over.
They saw it coming and dumped their bikes to lie flat in the grassy low spot. It worked and both were unhurt. Odds are they will remember that day for a long time.
Most tornadoes are photographed as they move in from the west with the sunlight filtering in behind them. Those tornadoes are generally black to dark grey. Regardless of the color the damage is the same.
This tornado was hanging out of the back of the storm in northern Iowa. The white cloud at the base of the funnel is water being rotated into a white froth. Tornadoes that that occur in the sunlight can be dangerous to those thinking the storm is over.
This tornado was probably not easy to see from straight north or in the rain. The photography from that angle was very low contrast. This contorted tube type tornado did tree damage in the forested area to our north. The funnel appears to not be on the ground, but it was for quite a while.
As part of a TV crew in we photographed this tornado from 2 miles south.
There was no lightning or rain where we were doing our taping, a perfect setup we thought. Lightning came down from the anvil of the storm and struck the powers lines, traveled down the pole and across the barb wire fence. Four of us found ourselves on the ground after a bright arc came out of my hand and struck my friend who was standing behind me.
All of us survived, but we were sore for a couple of days. The video was shown on a TV station in Oklahoma City. After the news a technician recorded another story over the tape.There are two main types of tornado, based on the nature of the underlying storm from which the tornado arises.
The most common, and typically the most dangerous, are the "supercell tornadoes", which form out of a supercell thunderstorm when a vertically rotating column of air forms in the updraft below the thunderstorm. Various types of tornadoes include the multiple vortex tornado, landspout and waterspout.
Waterspouts are characterized by a spiraling funnel-shaped wind current, connecting to a large cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud. Tornadoes are violent: they can completely destroy well-made structures, uproot trees and hurl objects through the air like deadly missiles.
Although severe tornadoes are most common in the Plains States, they can happen anywhere. Tornado Alley is a nickname invented by the media for a broad area of relatively high tornado occurrence in the central U.S. Various Tornado Alley maps look different because tornado occurrence can be measured many ways: by all tornadoes, tornado county-segments, strong and violent tornadoes only, and databases with different time periods.
This page contains descriptions and photographs of multiple types of tornadoes. Tornadoes are violent: they can completely destroy well-made structures, uproot trees and hurl objects through the air like deadly missiles.
Although severe tornadoes are most common in the Plains States, they can happen anywhere.