Tornadoes Part 2

Half Funnel - Half Dirt

All images and text © copyright Gene Moore.

This is an example of a tornado with condensation that never made it to the ground, so the ground lifted up to the funnel. Tornadoes like this are capable of damage when far above the ground and are more typical in the western states and high plains where the air is drier. Very hot summer days can reduce the relative humidity in the lower layer of the atmosphere making cloud bases high. This too will cause problems for the tornado's condensation funnel to reach the ground.

Chase crews from the University of Oklahoma were able to set up directly south of this tornado and take Doppler data to measure the wind speed in the funnel. Our photography position was further northeast. We did not try to get closer anticipating the funnel would move northeast. On this occasion that did not happen, but we still got a good view of the tornado.
  Hodges tornado

Forming Tornados May Look Different

Forming tornado in Kansas   Forming Nebraska tornado

Shown here are two different examples of forming tornadoes. Both funnels are just beginning to stir up dust on the ground. The one with the orange Kansas sunset is the more typical snake or narrow funnel. The other tornado was in far northwest Nebraska and started as a bulbous white knob in the clouds. The images shows the first dirt swirls beginning in the field to my northwest. Both of these funnels continued to form into substantial tornados, each persisting on the ground for a long time. Other tornadoes may form as large clouds of condensation swirling around and they don't have the classic funnel appearance. There are too many examples to show here, but remember developing tornadoes can look very different. What's important is the rapid rotation at the cloud base, then on the ground. This quite often happens before the condensation funnel reaches the ground.

A Couple Of Classic Tornadoes

This is an example of a classic tornado that was producing a wind speed of 204 M.P.H. as measured by photogrammetric analysis of the debris in the funnel. The actual damage on the ground was only rated at F-2 with little in the path of the vortex but power poles and fences. Unfortunately, early in the life of the forming tornado a man drove into "a dust cloud" and was blow out of his vehicle resulting in serious injuries. As the tornado became better established it was obvious to all within many miles to get out of the way.

The Seymour tornado, as it is known, was quite loud producing a roar at two miles away. This tornado was well documented by chase teams from the University of Oklahoma and NSSL during the Red River Valley outbreak of April 10, 1979. Two nearby cities, Vernon and Wichita Falls suffered facilities and extensive property damage that day.

Seymour , TX tornado


Canadian TX tornado 1986

Pictured here is a classic funnel on the open prairie over the northeast TX panhandle. It was one of only two supercell thunderstorms in west Texas that day. This storm day divided chasers as some went south to Childress and other went north to Canadian. The Canadian, Texas storm was the tornado producer.

This tornado was the third of five occurring that afternoon to the southwest, west and north of Canadian. The only problem chasers had that day was with the haze which limited contrast and clarity thus hurting photography. Very little damage was caused by the open county tornadoes. Fortunately this monster dissipated before reaching the city of Canadian.


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