Saturday 14 June 2014

Texas house carried 100 m by tornado.

A house in Burnet County, Texas, has been lifted off its foundations by a tornado, then deposited 100 m away in a field with its occupants unharmed. The incident happened on the evening of Thursday 12 June 2014, when a tornado touched down close to the house, about 16 km to the northeast of the city of Bertram, and carried the four members of the Ashworth family, plus their two dogs, safely to a nearby pasture. Although it survived reasonably intact, the house is not thought to be salvageable.

The Ashworth residence of Burnet County, Texas, after its areal excursion. Statesman.

Officials from the National Weather Service have confirmed having never heard of a similar incident, and have attributed it to the exceptionally sturdy nature of the house; usually when wooden houses are uprooted by tornadoes they end up scattered over a wide area. The tornado is estimated to have been a  two on the enhance Fujita scale (or an EF-2 tornado); such a tornado will produce sustained windspeeds of 178–217 km per hour  and gusts of 50–60 meters per second.

The approximate location of the 12 June 2014 Burnet County tornado. Google Maps.

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. 

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.

Simplified diagram of the air currents that contribute to tornado formation in Tornado Alley. Dan Craggs/Wikimedia Commons/NOAA.

See also...

Six people have been injured, one critically, after a tornado hit a campsite used by oil workers and their families near Watford City...

Residents of the town of Orrick in Ray County, Missouri, are cleaning up after a tornado hit at about 5.30 pm on Saturday 10 May 2014. The town received about 15 minutes warning of the event...

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