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All About Tornadoes


Getting Started in Tornado Spotting



Trekking for Tornadoes


Rich hard at work at the prediction center
"All we really know about tornadoes and storm chasing is from the movie Twister," Becky said as we sat down in the control center of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

"It is really not that glamorous," replied Rich Thompson, a forecaster at the center. "There would be nobody left alive if it happened like [the movie]."

What Rich does is look at a lot of equipment and try to figure out where a tornado might show up. The best place to find a tornado is in a big storm. When he finds one, it's time to get in the car and be there if a tornado happens.

Of the 200 chases Rich has been on, he has seen only about 50 tornadoes.

The greatest challenge of chasing isn't being gobbled up by a tornado. The dangerous parts are the driving on wet and broken roads, and the lightning!

Neda is overwhelmed by all the computers in the control room
There are 1,000-1,100 tornadoes each year in the United States, more than in any other country! The worst case in recent history was an outbreak on May 3, 1999 that traveled 43 miles across Oklahoma, destroying 9500 homes and businesses and killing 38 people. Tornadoes can occur anywhere at any time of the year.

In Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico combines with air coming from the northwest. This causes the air to rotate. It is rotating storms, or supercell storms, which make tornadoes.

What's the worst or most dangerous tornado Rich has ever spotted? In June of 1995, Rich and his crew spotted a monstrous F-4 tornado which eventually grew to be 1.3 miles wide, stripping the shrubbery bare, removing asphalt from highways and even pulling up hundred-year old trees.

Well, Becky and I are going to keep on driving, but not towards the storms. I think we'll try to stay out of the way of any tornadoes as we travel along!


Please email me at: neda@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Nick - Searching for the true "Bridge of God
Teddy - All that Yellowstone Park has to offer
Team - Pangaea? Isn't that some kind of weird pasta?