Tornadoes are such a rare weather phenomena that they attract hundreds, if not thousands, of storm chasers to the Great Plains each spring and early summer, in the hope of glimpsing one of these beasts. Tornadoes, which are not their own cloud type, protrude from another rare, rotating cloud, known as a wall cloud.
In fact, some tornadoes are not completely visible from the ground to the base of the parent thunderstorm, due to a lack of moisture.
Tornadoes, too, come in all shapes and sizes. There are stovepipe funnels, rope tornadoes and the dreaded wedge, to name a few. All of these are bad news.
The U.S. was spared a major tornado disaster in 2016, but was not so lucky in previous years, particularly in 2011, when 1,691 tornadoes touched down, killing 550 people.
Yet for all the advances in tornado prediction, we still don’t know the exact, micro-scale sequence of events that gives rise to such calamities. The allure of the unknown is what drives many storm chasers to the Plains each spring and summer. Some are scientists gathering data to try to save lives. Others are thrill-seekers through and through.
Many chasers come face-to-face with the damage these storms can cause.