Oh, BTW...don't think that the combine "flew" -- it mostly rolled it
like a not-so-round bowling ball. Still I guesstimated based on weight
and surface area center-of-gravity it took well over 200 mph winds to
tip it and get it going initially. It wasn't possible because of the
debris field left in town from all the destroyed houses, trees, etc., to
see a damage track it left except for a good gouge in the asphalt in the
dealer drive from whence it left, but out of town through the fields it
was pretty clear damage track that traced its progress...
I've heard many descriptions of close encounters. Two that stuck in my mind
were "It looked like God was hungry and was sucking everything in sight up
through a straw" and "When the funnel tip passed over things, they would
whoosh straight up like they were on an invisible elevator."
All things considered, a tornado is basically a natural vacuum cleaner.
Light items probably go straight up like rockets and cars and combines
probably bounce around inside the funnel stratified by weight until their
equilibrium is disturbed (a collision with more debris enter the base) and
the item falls out.
I've seen footage taken by a news chopper looking straight down into the
funnels of several small tornados. Very dark and lots of lightning in the
larger funnels. I had always assumed that the funnels didn't have a top,
even though that kind of makes no sense, only because very few people had
ever seen a tornado from above.
When you see tornado tracks from the air, the curleycue marks left on the
ground where the funnel tip scours the earth look like God was doodling on
scrap paper. I'm not sure of the total "lift capacity" of an F5 twister,
but I know that an F2 class storm lifted a car with two people in it over 9
stories and then dropped it, killed the passengers inside. There will
probably be some good metrics on tornado lift since more and more "test
devices" are getting sucked up and carried along, revealing more about the
insides of tornadoes than we ever knew before:
I did manage to find the video of a look inside the funnel:
I also found a lot more sites with good daylight photos.
The above photo shows how close people are getting to the funnel with
cameras in very good light. I don't think this funnel had begun sucking up
Here's another broad daylight encounter:
The problem with tornado photos is that to see detail in the debris cloud
you have to frame the shot so that you can't see the funnel anymore. Most
people keep the focus on the funnel and not on the debris. Also, if you are
close enough to the debris cloud to get good pictures, you're close enough
to get hammered to death by a whirling cow, truck or water tank. Who
hasn't seen a clip that shows white-knuckled twister chasers screaming "IT'S
FOLLOWING US!!!!?" when a twister they have been chasing turns the tables
and starts chasing THEM.
Not really. There is reduced pressure, true, but afaik there still are
not really definitive measurements of the actual minimum pressures to be
expected in the core vortex. There are eyewitness accounts from folks
said they watched their aneroid barometers during an event that claim as
much as 5" Hg drop, but all the vortex models and what data have been
collected are significantly less than that (more on the order of 100
mbar for F5-scale vortices).
The bulk of the damage and the tendency to move things is the bulk wind
velocity air pressure force. The legend that the pressure drop
"explodes" houses is just that; in reality, roofs tend to come off and
the damage looks like it's from the inside out because of the lift force
from the Bernoulli principle--lower pressure generated by higher
velocity owing to shape differential. It's the same thing as airplane
wing lift force.
Yes, there are lots of photos in daylight; I've seen a number myself.
Thing is, there aren't many that actually show the movie scenario of
that kind of stuff rotating around in the middle simply because even in
daylight by the time you have that much stuff in the air there's so much
dirt and small debris the visibility is occluded. Eventually, one of
the watch/chaser instrumented packages or vehicles will indeed get some
footage but I'm not holding my breath on seeing the bus and the cow
circling one another as in the movie.
Yes, there are seemingly incredible events; a sheriff's officer in his
car was killed while trying to serve as early warning by a second EF-5
spawned N of Greensburg the same evening. It ended up some mile or so
off the road from where they think he was parked. An automobile is
light enough that indeed it can become airborne but again, it's almost
all wind forces, not "sucked up" by the pressure differential. Heavier
items also get carried along and thrown around because they have larger
They had to freeze the frame and draw little circles around the items in the
debris cloud, but once they did, you could easily pick out the large
vehicles. The amount of "real world" tornado footage has increased
dramatically because of cell phone cams, security cams and consumer cams
with video clip ability. I know the scene of a family scrambling to get up
under an overpass was real - you could see the grass flattening and hear
people screaming for their lives as the twister rode right up on top of
When you see a pickup truck whirling around 100's of feet off the ground it
sticks in your mind. You can easily see large chunks of debris silhouetted
against a clear sky in some of the pictures you'll find here:
That's true of many tornadoes, but it's clear that some of them present very
good displays of what's whirling around in the debris cloud.
That site says: "F-3 or F-4 tornado in Pampa, Texas on June 8, 1995. Scale
is deceptive; larger pieces of debris in this photograph are vehicles that
were picked up from an oil company parking lot and large sections of sheet
metal roofing, according to photographer Alan Moller, a National Weather
Service employee and storm chaser. Video taken of that same funnel by a
sheriff on the scene clearly shows pickup trucks and vans airborne at an
altitude of 80 to 90 feet off the ground: the height of an 8-story
Yeah, but they obviously aren't all like that.
Watch more Weather Channel! (-:
I've seen plenty of footage like the Pampa shot where the debris cloud is
perfectly illuminated. The problem is that the photos are usually taken
from so far away that it's hard to see what's rolling around the funnel
until you magnify them. They don't look like the close-up and obviously FX
shots in the movies. I am sure you'll eventually see the footage I am
talking about and be able to pick out the trucks, car, vans and other huge
items that tornadoes routinely pick up and spin.
Here's one of the most magnificent tornado photos I have ever seen:
That is awesome!
Can you imagine looking out your window at a night thunderstorm and seeing
THAT thing lit up by a large lightning bolt? When you're that far away you
could be easily completely unaware that a funnel that size was nearby. I
think I might soil my union suit - it's the ultimate boogeyman.
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