Sunday, April 25, 2021

Tornado Watch

We are in the midst of tornado season.

The months of April, May and June usually present the greatest risk of tornado activity in the United States.


I know something about the dangers and risks of tornadoes having survived a direct hit to my home from a category f4 tornado 60 years ago today. (Wind speeds in excess of 207 mph. Only about 1% of tornados reach this level of devastating damage) The memories of that day are as clear to me today as if it was yesterday.

I wrote about that experience in these pages 10 years ago which I have inserted below.

The common narrative we hear today is that climate change is causing an increase in violent storms such as tornadoes and hurricanes. In his 2006 movie, An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore claimed that tornadoes would increase in frequency and intensity due to global warming.

However, the facts do not support that narrative.

Those claims are often accompanied by a chart like this that supposedly shows an increased level of tornado activity over the last 25-30 years.


However, before you believe that tornado activity is trending up, bear in mind that tornado reporting is much better today than it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago. Nothing occurs on the face of our earth today that is not reported and chronicled. It was not always that way. In years past, many smaller tornadoes were never recorded as they meandered harmlessly across a Kansas field.

The advent of Doppler radar in the early 1990's made it possible to document every tornado no matter how small. The fact is that most tornadoes are category f0 or f1 and they comprise 80% of all tornadoes.

A better perspective in comparing tornado activity over the years is to focus on those storms that are rated f3+ to f5+ on the Fujita scale. These are the tornadoes that cause the most severe damage and would clearly have been captured in previous statistics.  

This data indicates that tornado activity is actually less severe in the United States today than it was previously and has actually been trending downwards in recent years. For example, 2018 had the lowest number of f3+ tornadoes since the NOAA started publishing tornado activity in 1954.


This graphic shows the path of every tornado track since 1950. The areas of the United States with the greatest storm risk are the Central and Southeastern states.


Here are the state averages for tornado activity for the period 1995-2019.

The top states are Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Illinois and Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Iowa.

Note that when I wrote the blog post below in 2011 we were experiencing a spike in tornado activity. Climate alarmists jumped on this at the time but the tornado activity quickly settled down. We have seen nothing like that year since.

Could it be that man has nothing to do with the weather or climate?

Am I crazy in believing that it is in God's hands?

I needed to believe that 60 years ago today. 

A Tornado Tale
(Originally published 4/25/11)

50 years ago today I came close to death. I was in a house that took a direct hit from an f4 Tornado (winds of 207-260 mph) in Eaton, Ohio. It was shortly before 4:00pm on a late April afternoon and I was in my bedroom organizing baseball cards with my best friend. My mother was visiting a neighbor with my younger brother.  I looked out the back window and looming straight ahead about a half mile away was a tornado dancing back and forth right in front of my eyes.  It appeared to be on a direct path to our home.

I remember seeing details that you normally don't pick up in photographs.  I clearly could see lumber, shingles and other debris swirling around near the top of the twister.  We made a quick call to my friend's home to warn them of the approaching tornado and headed for the basement.  We bounded down the stairs. We heard the sound of a car's horn racing down the main road that was parallel to the tornado's path.  We later learned it was the family who operated the farm behind us who had decided to run for it rather than go to their basement.

A few seconds later the tornado hit. It was a deafening roar.  It was as if you were standing right by the railroad tracks and a train was going by at enormous speed. I covered my ears with my hands because of the roar.  I remember my friend and I shouting at each other at the top of our lungs but you could not hear a word over the sound.  Suddenly it got even louder and it sounded as if the entire house was caving in. I remember looking up at the floor and joists above me and thinking that this was it.  I fully expected to be buried alive. Time did slow down.  I remember thinking I had just turned 11 years old and this was the end of the road for me.  It then became deathly quiet.  The floor had held and my friend and I checked each other to be sure we were all right.

We cautiously started up the basement stairs.  The door would not open but we both put our shoulder to it and pushed hard. We got it about half way open and slithered out the basement door.  Staring at us through the adjoining door to the garage was a steel beam that had been thrown around like a tooth pick. It had penetrated almost a foot through the door into the house.  The windows on the back side of the house that faced the tornado were all broken.  The draperies hung in tatters and were now blowing in the wind.  The windows on the front of the house were intact but were caked with dirt and grass that looked like it had been sprayed on. The dirt was so thick you could not see through the windows at all.  All through the house lay debris. Drywall from the ceiling was laying all over. You could look up and see the sky through the open roof.

I tried to make my way back to my bedroom but I couldn't navigate the debris that littered the hallway.  My friend and I went out the front door and we could see the tornado continuing on its way to more destruction down the road.  The tornado looked much better from the backside.

I did not have shoes on but I began running toward the house where my mother was.  It had been spared but for some minor damage.  It was a debris field of 2x4's, downed electric wires and protruding nails to get to her. I saw some hay straw blown straight into some siding as if it was a nail. I reached my mother and looked back at our house for the first time.  I almost could not believe the sight.  It looked as if our house had been bombed.  I had a hard time choking back tears as I saw our house.  I kept saying to my mother, "Look at our house".  She just kept repeating, "It is ok.  You are alive". Even after 50 years, you do not forget a day like that.

Photographs and other background on the tornado of April 25, 1961.

Photo taken of the tornado by a local photographer at close to the time it destroyed our house.

Photo of what was left of the Turner farmhouse that was directly behind our house.  Witnesses said that when the tornado hit the 2-story frame house it lifted it straight up and the house exploded. The entire remains of the house was deposited in the basement as debris.  Fortunately, the Turner family did not go to the basement for shelter.  Mr. and Mrs. Turner started for the basement but their 20-year son did not feel the house could withstand the tornado.  They jumped in their car and made a run for it.  That decision undoubtedly saved their lives. It was their car horn I heard in the basement right before the tornado struck.

Our house was totally constructed out of stone.  I was in the basement on the left side of the house as you look at this picture.  The people are on top of debris that used to be the garage and a back porch both of which were on a slab.  It was the sound of the collapse of this part of the house that had me thinking the entire house was coming down on me. You can also see that the entire roof on the side of the basement that I was in was destroyed.

The house as it looked shortly after construction in 1957 (4 years before the tornado). I was in the bedroom looking out the window on the far right side of the house when I first saw the tornado approaching.

The house from the right front showing the collapsed garage.  I was in the basement near this corner of the house when the tornado struck.

Through April 24, 2011 according to the National Weather Service, there have been 438 confirmed tornadoes in the United States. Only one has been an f4 similar to the Eaton tornado of 1961.  We have already seen 306 tornadoes in April, 2011. This is the highest April total ever.  The previous record was 267 in 1974. The average number of April tornadoes is 163.  Keep your eyes on the sky and take shelter immediately if one of these terrible twisters heads your way.

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