Little Bits of History

Widest Recorded Tornado

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 31, 2014
El Reno, Oklahoma

El Reno, Oklahoma

May 31, 2013: El Reno, Oklahoma is destroyed. The widest tornado in recorded history measured 2.6 miles at its peak. Initial touchdown occurred at 6:03 PM local time about 8.3 miles west-southwest of El Reno. During the day, a mid-to-upper level trough met with a mid-level low pressure area and moved east-northeast over the southern Rocky Mountains to the southern Great Plains. The air mass was expected to become unstable through the upper Midwest and the Mississippi Valley by the afternoon. Dewpoint and temperatures were perfect to enhance the storm’s organization. A cold front was in place from the eastern Dakotas to western Oklahoma.

Intense severe weather was expected across the southern Great Plains and especially in Oklahoma during the afternoon. As the storm organized, the wind shear and moisture along with the instability of the warm sector created a perfect mix for the formation of supercells. Large hail and tornadoes were expected and by 3:30 PM, a Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch was issued. By 5:33, that had increased to a warning for Canadian County. As the touchdown took place in a mostly rural area, there was little initial property damage. At 6:28, the storm began moving toward more populous regions and a tornado emergency was called.

The rating of the intensity of the storm was debated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration used the Enhanced Fajita Scale which is based on the damage left behind. They gave the storm an EF3 rating. However, based on data from mobile radar, the University of Oklahoma’s RaXPol Doppler weather radar measured winds in excess of 296 mph and the rating was increased to EF5, the highest rating. Officials debate the proper scale citing lower damage rates. However, if the same tornado had passed directly over Oklahoma City rather than the rural regions in its path, the damage would have been “of biblical proportions” according to William Hooke of the American Meteorological Society.

The tornado killed four storm chasers, the first known deaths in the history of storm chasing. As it passed over open terrain, the chasers were unaware of the massive size of the storm. Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and research partner Carl Young were killed when their vehicle was thrown by the tornado or a sub-vortex as they travelled along Highway 81. Richard Charles Henderson, a local man, also decided to chase the storm and he was killed in the same area. There were eight fatalities associated with the tornado and 151 people were injured. The estimate of damages was $35-40 million. Since it was rush hour and many were trying to get home from jobs in Oklahoma City, it was fortunate that the storm did not cross crowded roads filled with commuters heading home or the death toll may have reached over 500.

Vows made in storms are forgotten in calm. – Thomas Fuller

If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm. – Mahatma Gandhi

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm. – Willa Cather

Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm. – Marcus Garvey

Also on this day: Ready to Eat – In 1884 Kellogg patents corn flakes.
Johnstown Flood – In 1889, the South Fork Dam burst.
Pepys’s Diary – In 1669, Samuel made his last diary entry.
BEN – In 1859, Big Ben went on line.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 17, 2012

Depiction of the London Tornado of 1091

October 17, 1091: The London Tornado of 1091 strikes. It was Britain’s earliest reported tornado, possibly because it was so fierce. Only two people were reported killed, however damage to London was immense. There were reports of four rafters being driven into the ground. The beams were 26 feet long and yet only four feet were protruding from the ground after the storm passed. This has helped modern meteorologists to set the force of the tornado at T8 or F4. Much of London was wooden construction and therefore susceptible to damage. The wooden London Bridge was destroyed.  St. Mary-le-Bow was badly damaged, losing the rafters mentioned above. Many other area churches were also demolished and over 600 houses were destroyed.

London became what we would consider a city with the Roman occupation. In the year 140 there were about 45-60,000 inhabitants of Londinium. City size dropped with the fall of the Empire and by 300 there were only 10-20,000 residents. By the beginning of the first millennium, the population had dwindled to only 5-10,000 but it was picking back up. With the destruction of the Cnut dynasty in 1042, English rule came under Edward the Confessor and the foundation of Westminster Abbey is credited to him. By the end of the century there were probably about 18,000 people living there watching this gigantic twister strike the city.

St. Mary-le-Bow had been part of London since the Saxon period of England. The medieval version of the church was the one destroyed by this tornado. During the Norman period, a church known as St. Mary de Arcubus was built. It was famous for its two arches or bows. Today, the church remains a historic London building. According to tradition, in order to be considered a true Cockney (East End working class Londoner), one must be born within earshot of the sound of the church’s bells. The present day church was designed by Christopher Wren in the Baroque style and there are twelve bells ringing out.

Tornadoes are violent storms with a rotating column of air and they can also be called twisters or cyclones. There are a variety of ways to measure them. The TORRO scale is one method and rates intensity from T0 to T11. It evolved from the Beaufort Scale which measured intensity from 8 to 30. The other type of scale often used is the Fujita Scale which rates storms from F0 to F5. These scales are based on a number of factors including wind speed and resulting damage. On the TORRO scale, T8 through T11 are considered violent storms. An F4 storm leaves behind “devastating” damage.

A broken heart is a very pleasant complaint for a man in London if he has a comfortable income. – George Bernard Shaw

I think London’s sexy because it’s so full of eccentrics. – Rachel Weisz

People in London think of London as the center of the world, whereas New Yorkers think the world ends three miles outside of Manhattan. – Toby Young

You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. – Samuel Johnson

Also on this day:

National Geographic – In 1888, the National Geographic Society began publishing a new magazine.
Fore – In 1860, the Open Championship was first played.
War on Poverty – In 1993, the UN sponsored its first International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

First Tornado Photograph

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 28, 2010

First photograph of a tornado

August 28, 1884: Near Howard, South Dakota a tornado is photographed for the first time. The process of taking photographs came to the public in 1839 and was named as such by Sir John Herschel. The first photo was taken in 1827 by Joseph Niépce and required an exposure time of eight hours. Niépce went into partnership with Louis Daguerre and the exposure time was quickly dropped to a mere thirty minutes.

The early process allowed for only one copy of any picture to ever be made. By August 1835, a negative on paper was produced by William Fox Talbot in a process called Calotype. It allowed for many copies of the picture to be made. These first pictures were not quite as nice as Daguerreotypes. However, the less defined pictures was offset by the ability to make copies. In fifteen years, the number of photographic shops more than doubled.

By 1884, the negatives were being made on celluloid or film. Color photos were possible in 1907 when the first color film was introduced. Digital photography was introduced in 1981 when Sony first marketed a camera for the public. That camera saved images to a disk and they were displayed on television screens. The first truly digital camera arrived in 1990 from Kodak.

Warren Faidley bills himself as the first full-time professional storm chaser. Roger Jensen began chasing storms in 1951 and is generally said to be the first storm chaser ever. Storm chasers seek out all types of weather: lightning storms, thunderstorms, hurricanes, fires, blizzards, hail storms, and of course, tornadoes. There was even a movie about this, called appropriately – Twister.

“To photograph is to confer importance.” Susan Sontag

“Every day we have some weather, and yesterday was no exception.” – John Carr

“As I have practiced it, photography produces pleasure by simplicity. I see something special and show it to the camera. A picture is produced. The moment is held until someone sees it. Then it is theirs.” – Sam Abell

“One of the things about a tornado, it comes so quickly you don’t have time to get in a panic. If you do, you’re probably not in one.” – Mike Huckabee

Also on this day, in 1845 Scientific American begins publication.

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