"Classic" Tornado Videos of the 21st Century

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Oct 10, 2004
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The Tornado Project's "Tornado Video Classics" series ended after three volumes of footage dating from the early days of storm chasing into the first home video explosion of the early-mid '90s. Now, with hordes of chasers, HD camcorders, and everyone and their uncle armed with a decent video camera in their cell phone hoping for their 15 minutes of YouTube fame, there is more tornado video than ever. How do you sort out the best?

My criteria are:
Decent camera (can't be vertical or look like it was "shot with a potato," as YouTube critics like to say)
Relatively steady - tripoded is best, some shakiness is okay and understandable if handheld, but it has to be relatively steady on the tornado for at least 10 seconds at a time.
Relative minimum of shouting/screaming/swearing. Again, some is understandable given the circumstances especially in amateur footage, but this disqualifies almost everything shot by/in the vicinity of Reed Timmer.

Some examples that would be on my list:

Pecos Hank's Pilger day video. Might be the best tornado footage of the millennium to date. Tripoded, calm, cool commentary, Pilger twins and then graceful rope-out of Pilger II whips around the maturing Stanton tornado.


Stephen Locke's video of the Langley-Salina, KS EF4 of April 14, 2012, especially the part after about 3:40 when the camera gets its focus back and it's just spinning in a field right next to him, suction vorticies whipping around the edge.


Holy Tornado's video at Chickasha, OK 5/24/2011. This tornado touches down as a graceful elephant's trunk, crosses the road right in front of them, then rapidly intensifies into a violent EF4 spewing out a massive amount of debris.


April 27th and Joplin day that year also produced some amazing (although tragic) footage, as did Henryville '12 and Moore and El Reno 2013. Rozel and Bennington in '13 also resulted in some spectacular video as well, I'm sure.

Although the camera quality is less than ideal, I'd say ABC 33/40's skycam footage of the Cullman tornado on 4/27/11 also qualifies for the unique vantage point and watershed moment in tornado history (first violent tornado and first city impacted by a violent tornado of the second Super Outbreak, broadcast live as it happened).
 
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Oct 10, 2004
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It won't let me embed more than three videos per post, but here's what I'm referring to above. Everything from about 31:30 to 38:45:


Here's an example of amateur footage that would qualify, from that same outbreak. Quality is decent for SD, and while a highly dangerous decision for them to wait that long looking out the window, they kept the camera fairly steady and their frightened commentary (almost) clean as the EF4 roared over the tree line toward them at 50-60 MPH:


What would you put in if you were producing a new TVC series for the 21st century (it can be your own chase footage, if it meets the criteria)?
 
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Dan Robinson

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Jan 14, 2011
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A few of my favorites:

Pilger-Wisner twins both in barrel stage, shot by local resident:

Tuscaloosa - close pass with good sound:

Dick McGowan's video of the Alpena, SD vortex carousel:

Phil Campbell EF5 close pass/roar:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLDR-mfO5Ms

Springfield, MA tornado intensifying over the Connecticut River:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGYCkGv5sPs

Bad quality/contrast, but still classics:

Leighton, AL tornado picking up cars:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clFCtNN3GBM

Flying semi-trailers in Dallas tornado:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwPEF0P2DQM

Havard, IL tornado derailing train:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-smEEHYdGQ

There a many more I'm missing, but those are a few that come to mind.
 
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Oct 10, 2004
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McGowan's Alpena video for sure. Thanks for that Dan, I knew I'd seen that but couldn't remember who or which event.

Also the Dallas trailer-throwing video looks like someone shot their TV screen, the original footage from the station is surely better quality.
 
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Apr 21, 2016
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Bowling Green, OH
That video out of Rochelle is the most incredible I have ever seen. My favorite is probably the Phil Campbell one however, just to see that kind of speed and strength is inconceivable
 
Oct 10, 2004
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Several amazing clips from yesterday's event would be in for sure, including these:




I'm sure there's something out there from the Wray event that would be a must-have, as well!
 
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Oct 10, 2004
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I had not seen this one before...excellent but tragic video of the Pilger twin that actually went through the town, which explodes in a massive cloud of debris. Correct me if I'm wrong, but about 2:40 that appears to be a whole house flying through the air. Maybe the Wizard of Oz wasn't so far off after all.

 

Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
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Oct 7, 2008
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Since it was shot, I've always liked Tim Samaras' shot of the Salina EF4 from 14 April 2012 going across a highway a few hundred yards down the road, mostly because it was the first high-quality video I can recall seeing in which you can clearly see vapor condensing as parcels approach the tornado...in other words parcels hit their LCL moving laterally into the tornado.

I only know of the full clip being on his Driven by Passion II DVD, but the segment that includes what I'm talking about can be found at this link (video starting right around 1:00):

I did see this same behavior from multiple videos of the Elmore City-Wynnewood, OK tornado from this past week. Darin Brunin/Dick McGowan's and Scott Peake's videos both show it pretty well.
 
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Jan 6, 2016
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but about 2:40 that appears to be a whole house flying through the air.
Yes that is a house flying! What's even more remarkable is that it was put back down on its foundation, though facing the wrong direction according to this article http://m.omaha.com/news/metro/video-has-some-thinking-pilger-tornado-took-house-on-ride/article_6694cd6d-b45f-53f5-b4f5-e71a2769a6ef.html?mode=jqm

5817f5ea75ccfbce5ffb2f551d93b5d6.jpg and here is a picture of the house, EF1ish damage.

In one of the videos of the Wyneewood tornado from this last Monday, there appears to be a flying house, too.


Sent from my iPhone using Stormtrack mobile app
 
Oct 10, 2004
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Here's a video from May 9, 2016 that I missed before, showing some of the clearest multi-vortex action I've seen yet (other than McGowan's Alpena video) in both the Katie and later Sulphur tornadoes. There's several chasers' versions of it crossing that country road as a Pampa-esque drillbit and blowing apart a house, but I didn't even know the Katie tornado had a multi-vortex phase this dramatic.


This is another video of the Cullman, AL tornado of 4-27-11 from "mcgrathimages" that I think would qualify. You have the secondary funnel looming out ahead, then the main vortex in contact with the ground as a not-fully-condensed but violently rotating drillbit and moving at blinding speed.


Unfortunately, the Pilger video that appears to show a house being lofted in one piece, Wizard of Oz style, seems to have been removed from YouTube.
 
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