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No. 52: Jul-Aug 1987

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Inside A Texas Tornado

May 3, 1943. McKinney, Texas. People rarely get the chance to look up into the funnel of a tornado and live to tell about it. R.S. Hall did; and what he saw is very strange.

"The bottom of the rim was about 20 feet off the ground, and had doubtless a few moments before destroyed our house as it passed. The interior of the funnel was hollow; the rim itself appearing to be not over 10 feet in thickness and, owing possibly to the light within the funnel, appeared perfectly opaque. Its inside was so slick and even that it resembled the interior of a glazed standpipe. The rim had another motion which I was, for a moment, too dazzled to grasp. Presently I did. The whole thing was rotating, shooting past from right to left with incredible velocity.

"I lay back on my left elbow, to afford the baby better protection, and looked up. It is possible that in that upward glance my stricken eyes beheld something few have ever seen before and lived to tell about it. I was looking far up the interior of a great tornado funnel! It extended upward for over a thousand feet, and was swaying gently, and bending slowly toward the southeast. Down at the bottom, judging from the circle in front of me, the funnel was about 150 yards across. Higher up it was larger, and seemed to be partly filled with a bright cloud, which shimmered like a fluorescent light. This brilliant cloud was in the middle of the funnel, not touching the sides, as I recall having seen the walls extending on up outside the cloud.

"Up there, too, where I could observe both the front and back of the funnel, the terrific whirling could be plainly seen. As the upper portion of the huge pipe swayed over, another phenomenon took place. It looked as if the whole column were composed of rings or layers, and when a higher ring moved on toward the southeast, the ring immediately below slipped over to get back under it. This rippling motion continued on down toward the lower tip."

Hall also reported a peculiar bluish light and blue streamers that appeared to consist of vapor. (Hall, Roy S.; "Inside a Texas Tornado," Weatherwise, 40:73, 1987.)

Comment. The luminous phenomena and complex internal structure do not seem to be described by tornado theory.

From Science Frontiers #52, JUL-AUG 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss