Storm Chasers Take Note: Important Tornado Facts Even the Pros Miss

Tornado raging over a darkened landscape

Tornadoes are among the most sudden and destructive of natural phenomena. This fact alone makes them more attractive for storm chasers. However, many amateurs aren’t familiar with the facts about tornadoes that could save their lives.

Tornadoes Are Inherently Unpredictable

While weather science has learned much regarding tornadoes, such as how they form and how they move, they remain dangerous, unpredictable engines of destruction. We still don’t know how exactly tornadoes’ paths are directed, how they dissipate, and even some aspects of their formation remain uncertain.

Anyone who wants to be a storm chaser needs to first understand that the power of a tornado is immense. Due to how unpredictable the storms are, it’s highly advised that any storm enthusiasts give them a wide berth and never assume they know the path a tornado is going to take.

What Can Stop a Tornado?

A common misconception about tornadoes persists in the popular mind: Some people believe that rivers, mountains, or similar geographical features can stop or otherwise slow tornadoes.

Of course, most pros know all too well how unstoppable a tornado in motion is. So why is this myth so stubborn?

Rivers, especially, are dangerous features for tornadoes to cross, as they can then pull water into their air column and become waterspouts. A waterspout maintains everything dangerous about a tornado while also being full of water and capable of drenching homes, cars, and people. The only thing more dangerous than a tornado is a tornado that can cause flooding.

Firestorms Can Cause True Tornadoes

If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon of a firestorm, here’s a quick refresher. Essentially, a firestorm is a pseudo-tornado that is formed when a wildfire becomes significantly massive. They occur when a fire is pulling in so much oxygen that it creates a whirling storm of fire and wind. As you could imagine, these are terrifying in their own right, as they can make an already dangerous wildfire even more unpredictable.

What’s more, a firestorm of sufficient strength can even spawn true tornadoes. This can happen if the firestorm causes a mesocyclone, which is the type of storm that can create a tornado. This occurred in 2002 with the Durango fire, when a massive firestorm also caused tornadoes to form in the area.

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Jeremy Liu
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Jeremy Liu

Jeremy Liu has always been fascinated by extreme weather—but he prefers to write about the world’s deadliest storms from the safety and comfort of his home office. He’s much less likely to get hit with a flying cow that way. (And yes, Jeremy’s favorite movie is Twister.)

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Jeremy Liu Written by Jeremy Liu