Six people have been injured, one critically, after a tornado hit a campsite used by oil workers and their families near Watford City in McKenzie County, North Dakota at about 7.50 pm local time on Monday 26 May 2014, destroying 15 trailers. None of the people involved has been named, but it is understood to be a 15-year-old girl, and has been flown to hospital in Minot. Tornadoes are not an uncommon occurrence in North Dakota at this time of year, and most permanent homes have good storm shelters. However an oil boom in the state has led to tens of thousands of people migrating in search of work, with many living in trailer parks, prefabricated barracks-style buildings or even sleeping in tents or cars.
Image captured as the storm approaching the McKenzie County worker's camp on Monday 26 May 2014. Associated Press.
Tornadoes are formed by winds within large thunder storms called super cells. Supercells are large masses of warm water-laden air formed by hot weather over the sea, when they encounter winds at high altitudes the air within them begins to rotate. The air pressure will drop within these zones of rotation, causing the air within them so rise, sucking the air beneath them up into the storm, this creates a zone of rotating rising air that appears to extend downwards as it grows; when it hits the ground it is called a tornado.
The 26 May 2014 McKenzie County tornado reached two on the Enhanced Fujita scale (or an EF-2 tornado), with winds peaking at 190 km per hour.
The aftermath of the 26 May McKenzie County tornado. abc7.
Tornadoes can occur anywhere in the world, but are most common, and most severe, in the area of the American mid-west known as 'Tornado Ally', running from Texas to Minnisota, which is fueled by moist air currents from over the warm enclosed waters of the Gulf of Mexico interacting with cool fast moving jet stream winds from the Rocky Mountains. Many climatologists are concerned that rising temperatures over the Gulf of Mexico will lead to more frequent and more severe tornado events.
The approximate location of the camp hit by the 26 May 2014 McKenzie County tornado. Google Maps.
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