Watch this drone footage of a tornado


Drone footage of a tornado touching down yesterday in Hutchinson, Kansas. Read the rest

How to: Protect people from tornadoes

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a story I'd written on the socio-cultural systems that underly natural disasters — how the way we think, and build, and think about buildings affects who dies and who doesn't. If you'd like to dig into that a bit deeper, Andy Revkin recently pointed me toward several stories he's written at the Dot Earth blog, about designing safety systems, buildings, and cities in ways that allow them to better stand up to the threat of a tornado. Read the rest
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Your car is not a tornado shelter

Last Friday, a tornado near El Reno, Oklahoma killed scientist Tim Samaras, as well as his son and a colleague. The three were tracking the storm in a vehicle — storm chasing, if you will — as part of their ongoing efforts to deploy probes that could capture high-resolution video from inside a tornado. (Samaras' team was one of many practicing a type of science that can basically be described as Twister in real life.) Chasing storms was an important part of what Samaras did. National Geographic reports that tornadoes only developed in roughly two of every 10 storms Samaras tracked, and the probes were only useful in a fraction of the tornadoes they were deployed in.

Samaras' death is tragic, but he wasn't some untrained yahoo out running around on county roads in a tornado for fun. He was there to do a job; a job that would, eventually, help other people survive. That said, if a situation kills experts, you probably don't want to be that untrained person trying to navigate it on your own.

Which brings us to a key point. After a handful of people who survived the Moore tornado credited their survival to driving away from it, people in Oklahoma City apparently responded to Friday's storms by trying to do the same thing. For some, it worked. But others were killed or injured when traffic on highways in the tornado's path ground to a complete halt, clogged with cars full of people who were (either accidentally or intentionally) trying to flee the storm instead of hide from it. Read the rest

Scary up-close video of Oklahoma tornado

Matthew says: "Charles Gafford lives in Moore, Oklahoma and held his smartphone out the window of his shelter to film up-close footage of the May 20th tornado." (Via Laughing Squid) Read the rest

Who are these crazy people out chasing tornadoes?

National Geographic News has an interview with Tim Samaras — an engineer, a scientist who studies severe storm systems, and a tornado chaser. Not all chasers are professionals like this. For many people, it's a hobby often motivated by a desire to help keep other people safe. Personally, I see a lot of similarities between hobbyist tornado chasers and the HAM radio folks — in fact, there's a lot of overlap between the two communities. And, as Samaras explains, if you want to get involved, there's training you really ought to do first. Read the rest

How do tornadoes form?

Scientific American has a great video that quickly explains the basics of tornado formation — facts that also help explain why some parts of the country, including Oklahoma, are more prone to tornadoes than others. You'll also learn about worst tornado in recorded history, which killed more than 700 people.

The photo above was taken near Moore, Oklahoma yesterday. My father lives in Oklahoma City (thankfully, outside the path of this monster), and this shot comes from a friend of a friend of his, who wished to remain anonymous. Read the rest

Fire tornado

Chris Tangey took this intense image of a tornado sucking a brushfire into the sky near Alice Springs, Australia. From The Australian:

"There was no wind where we were, and yet you had this tornado," Tangey says.

For him, it sounded "like a fighter jet"; for (firefighter Ashley) Severin, it was like "standing behind a 747". "I've never seen anything like it. I just thought the ground was going to start trembling," Severin says. "The noise it was making, the speed, the red flames in the centre of it. It was like a kaleidoscope show."

"Alice dust devils pack a gullet full of flames" Read the rest

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