Have you ever seen a tornado in person? Few people actually want to experience it, but there is something fascinating about such a violent column of air. A tornado is basically a wind tunnel that twists in a particular direction. It's not very easy to spot one until it has accumulated debris and debris (such as sand or dirt) because the wind is at first invisible.
Twisters can inflict serious damage. In the 1940's, the word "tornado" was actually banished by the U.S. government because they were afraid it would cause panic. Unfortunately, panic is exactly what happens when tornados form.
They happen most often in Tornado Alley (located in the Midwest), but can actually occur anywhere in the world. Tornado Alley is kind of a mystery to many meteorologists, because it can shift depending on what weather-man is examining a chart. Some believe that it's more northwest while others place it just above Texas. Wherever it is, there's no doubt that a huge amount of devastating twisters have occurred in the alley, many of them causing millions of dollars of damage.
Here are some of the craziest photos from Tornado Alley that, while they're fascinating on print, probably won't inspire you to visit the area anytime soon.
25 Tornado Alley is Increasing In States Along the Mississippi River
For those in neighboring states, it might be pretty scary to realize that the exact parameters of Tornado Alley are shifting. Scientists have been surprised to discover that more tornados are occurring along the Mississippi River and less in their usual spots.
This is problematic for states like Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky, and Missouri. All of these states normally have some occurrences of tornados, especially during the high season, but the frequency is increasing year after year, leading scientists to think that a permanent shift is happening. There is little else that professionals can do to explain this and can simply recommend that residents take extra precautions.
24 Tornado Alley is Also Increasing In Eastern Northern States
What's even more intimidating is that this shift isn't solely happening in the South. Although the predominant increase in tornados is definitely in the southern part of the U.S., there has also been a shift in the number of twisters counted in northern states, especially in Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio.
The southern part of some of these states have seen many tornados in the past, but rarely have these lethal twisters (especially the larger ones) ventured as far north as they're routinely going now. This suggests that there is an overall shift happening within Tornado Alley, especially since the typically affected states have seen a decrease in the number of yearly twisters.
23 The Alley Is Decreasing in Texas, But Not By Enough
While this shift is scary for many of the residents in these affected states, it may be good news for Texas residents. The highest number of tornados have always been chronicled in Texas, but there has been a clear decrease in the number of twisters counted, especially in the eastern and central parts of Texas, within the past few years.
While this may initially be a good thing, the drop in number hasn't been enough to change the fact that Texas gets the most tornados out of any state in the U.S. It is also problematic because many of the states the tornados are shifting to are not equipped to deal with such extreme weather fluctuations, and residents live in more compact quarters, so more people will be affected per storm.
22 Tornados Are Measured By the Damage They Cause
Although we have plenty of eager scientists willing to study tornados, it is very difficult to actually do so. Getting an accurate read on the wind speeds and power is almost impossible when the tornado is in such fast motion, and the focus is almost always on getting out of the area rather than studying the tornado close-up. Few who do so would actually live to report anything of use.
Because it's so difficult to measure tornados, they're generally categorized according to how much damage they cause on the surrounding lands and people.
What this means is that a tornado that sweeps through a dessert (or abandoned area in Texas) would get a much lower categorization than one in a city, even though the twister in the abandoned area may actually be more powerful.
20 Storm Chasers Go In Search Of the Most Insane Photographs
Some storm chasers don't mind risking their lives in search of the most amazing photographs of nature known to man. Sure, these photographs might be impossible to capture anywhere else, but the risk is absolutely huge. It's not uncommon to be running away from a tornado in the Midwest, only to see a group of storm chasers moving towards it.
Surprisingly, many of these storm chasers make it out alive, but it is a risk that others aren't willing to take. Some of the worst storms move at 250 miles per hour, which is faster than any human or car could feasibly get away in time.
19 Tornado Alley Was Featured In a Popular Imax Movie
In 2012, a popular IMAX movie featuring the Midwestern tornados came out in New Mexico and is still available for viewing now. Quite a bit of cinema-photography efforts were poured into the film, and you might feel as though you're really in a tornado setting. For many residents who have routinely experienced this twister-induced fear, this movie is all too real.
Child and adult residents alike have cautioned others against seeing the movie, saying that it is quite literally their worst nightmare. What the film has done is make tourists more aware of the everyday fears that these twisters inspire, especially during the summer seasons.
18 Some Storm Enthusiasts Go 500m Away From a Cyclone
Many storm chasers go in search of the perfect storm, but some are more extreme than others, and will even get within 500m of a fast moving storm to get a better photograph or video. Unfortunately, many of these storm chasers are becoming famous via Youtube and Instagram, leading to more and more scientists or even regular people wanting to risk their lives to get some absolutely insane footage.
Eric Meola is one of the most famous tornado chasers and has captured some of the most incredible footage of twisters available in the world. He says that he attempts to edit the photo to reflect what he saw through his own eyes, even when the camera may have missed some of the more vibrant colors.
17 Drier Conditions May Impact the Placement of the Storms
Generally, tornados form when moist air (on the warmer side, even slightly) from the south meets the cool, dry air that comes from the north. This clash of different temperatures and types of air creates a cyclone that can be many different sizes and speeds, depending on the air itself. One difference is that dry air is absolutely necessary to create a tornado, which is why there aren't often twisters on the east and west coasts. The air just isn't dry enough.
Scientists believe that the air may be getting more dry along the coasts which is leading to the shift of Tornado Alley. There is no specific cause for this change in moisture (in fact, scientists strongly disagree about virtually everything to do with it) but it might explain why the tornados are coming closer and closer to large cities.
16 Tornados Actually Occur Virtually Everywhere
Did you know that almost everywhere in the world gets tornados? Sure, you might hear about them the most in the midwest, but that's only where they occur the most often. The United States has the highest prevalence of tornados (roughly 1000 tornados are spotted in the United States each year) because of the warm air from Mexico meeting with the dry air from Canada.
While twisters are best known for happening in the U.S., it's possible for them to happen almost anywhere, and they occasionally do form in random parts of the world. Because reporting on tornados is so difficult, scientists aren't completely sure what other areas of the world get hit the most. Interestingly, Antartica is unable to have tornados form due to the conditions of the air.
15 Most Tornados Last For Less Than 10 Minutes
Tornados are quick to form and quick to dissipate. Most twisters in Tornado Alley last less than 10 minutes, but this can still be enough time to cause a lot of damage. When a tornado is moving at 200 mph, even a few moments can wreak serious havoc.
The worst tornados can last upwards of 30 minutes. Because tornados are so hard to predict, residents usually have very little time to prepare and can quite literally be fleeing from an approaching tornado once it's within eyesight. When you're running on foot from a tornado that's approaching much faster than you could ever hope to move, 30 minutes is far too long.
14 Luckily, Insurance Will Usually Cover Most of the Damage
While most home insurance companies don't specifically cover tornados (or mention the word), they will often cover the damages that are inflicted by twisters, such as any areas of the home that are crushed, power outages, and more. Unfortunately, many people don't have enough insurance and are not prepared until a tornado hits.
Even if you know that a tornado is coming ahead of time, a day or even a few hours isn't enough time to change your insurance policy. One study found that about 64% of residents in the Midwest don't have enough insurance to properly cover the damage that could be inflicted by even a medium sized tornado.
13 Some People Don't Even Bother to Leave Their Homes
Most readers are probably thinking that if they saw a tornado, they would flee as fast as possible, but a lot of residents in the Midwest and in Texas don't think like this. Many Texas residents won't even leave their homes to go into a storm shelter if the tornado isn't extremely bad. Maybe it just becomes a hazard of living on the land, but tornados are scientifically (and quite literally) proven to cause a huge amount of damage.
Each year, an average of 60 people lose their lives due to tornados. Although technology has improved and storm shelters and homes are built to withstand more wind and force than before, this number hasn't gone down dramatically, suggesting that residents sometimes take bigger risks because they believe that their homes will withstand a large twister.
12 No One Has Ever Filmed the Inside of a Tornado
Many storm chasers have one ultimate goal: to film the inside of a tornado and live to tell the tale. To this day, no one has ever done it. The winds inside a tornado are so intense that there's quite literally no way to get inside it and get back out safety.
No harness exists that could hold someone while a tornado passes over, and even if it was possible to somehow be inside a tornado while tethered to something else, there's so much debris and debris flying around that the person would probably get hit in the head or at least seriously injured. Don't think this means that storm chasers aren't still looking for a way to do it though!
11 Tornados Are Increasing in Europe, As Well
Tornado Alley isn't the only area that gets hit by tornados. Although about 300 tornados happen throughout Europe every year, many scientists, weather-people, and even residents don't realize the danger that tornados really pose in Europe. They've been recorded to go as far north as Finland!
Over the last 50 years, damages in Europe alone due to tornados have cost the governments (collectively) over 1 billion dollars. Unfortunately, tornados are taken more seriously in Tornado Alley, but they can affect people everywhere. Many scientists are making a push for tornado awareness in areas where they aren't as recognized or common.
10 Tornados Are Even Popping Up In the Far Northeast
Unlike past years, areas in the northeast USA have seen an increase in the amount of tornados that form. Sure, many of them don't touch down, but that doesn't mean that the danger isn't approaching. This photo of New York City shows storm clouds forming that turned quickly into a havoc-wreaking tornado.
While residents in New York and New England are generally prepared for snowstorms, they aren't for tornados. Virtually no homes have tornado shelters and many don't even have real basements installed besides a crawl-space. Changes need to be made to ensure that people are properly prepared for surprise tornados.
9 You Can Be a Guest Storm Chaser For a Day
Did you know that you can actually pay to be a storm chaser for a day? It sounds absolutely insane, but quite a lot of people will shell out a great deal of money to follow star storm chasers around. These people are titled "guest storm chasers" during the excursion, and will often go to stay in Tornado Alley for a few weeks and be on the alert to catch the next storm.
Shockingly, these storm chasers don't seem concerned at all about the danger involved. They go into the heart of Tornado Alley during tornado season and willingly get closer to a massive storm. If you like adrenaline and the rush of danger, this could be for you.
8 Up to 70 Tornados a Weekend Occur in Tornado Alley During Some Seasons
Can you believe it? It's insane to realize that over 70 tornados a weekend can occur in Tornado Alley, especially during prime tornado season. Typically, the most dangerous time is between May to June, although tornado season extends until August or even September in some areas, especially more southern states like Texas (which may be a reason why Texas always sees a record amount of tornados).
You should keep in mind that not all of these formed tornados actually touch the ground. A twister only has to form to be categorized as an actual tornado. Still, it's pretty crazy to think about how many tornado warnings must be sent out in a weekend in 70 twisters actually form!
7 The Movie "Into The Storm" Managed to Almost Perfectly Recreate Real Tornados
Filmed in 2014, Into the Storm is a movie about an insanely massive tornado that threatens a town during high school graduation. What is so great about this movie isn't its plot (movie creators and watchers alike have been obsessed with huge natural disasters for quite some years now) but how accurately the directors managed to recreate a tornado.
Although there's very little clear footage of tornados, there are certain things that the directors had to match up so that the storms look realistic. For example, there had to be just the right amount of debris flying around compared to the amount of buildings around. The directors must have nailed it, because the film was a hit.
6 The Most Damaging Tornado In History Occurred in March of 1925
Although there have been way too many devastating storms over the years, the twister of 1925 is known as the absolute worst tornado in US history. It was dubbed the Tri-State Tornado (it swept through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana) and followed the longest track ever recorded by a single tornado. It lasted well over 3 hours!
There is some uncertainty as to whether this tornado was a single event or a series of twisters that moved so fast they combined. Experts and weather scientists have been studying this storm for almost a decade, and while it was insanely destructive, it has definitely provided a lot of material for students.