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No. 106: Jul-Aug 1996

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Looking Up Into A Tornado Funnel

January 21, 1992. Near Cripple Creek, Colorado. Shortly after 2 PM, while fishing at Skagway Reservoir, D. Mc Gown spotted an ominous cloud formation developing in the west. A horizontal, black cloud rolled toward him. Suddenly, it lifted to reveal a huge, twisting funnel advancing directly at him. He threw himself to the ground, but got a good look up into the interior of the funnel.

"The outside of the tornado was spinning so fast my eye couldn't follow it, but the inside was rotating almost lazily. I could see a thousand feet up inside it. Tiny fingers of lightning lined the hollow tube."

Passing over him, the funnel bounced across the lake, ripped up some trees, and was gone.

(McGown, Dennis; "Letters," Time, 147: 8, June 10, 1996)

Comment. The "tiny fingers of lightning" are of great interest to anomalists, because most meteorologists deny that electricity plays any part in tornado activity. Of course, there is often plenty of ordinary lightning in the accompanying storms. An observation very similar to McGown's occurred in Kansas, in 1928. (GLD10-X2 in Lightning, Auroras. For information on this book, visit here.)

Today, American meteorological journals are mostly filled with articles on the computermodelling of weather systems, satellite-imaging, etc. Eyewitness accounts of unusual phenomena were common 100 years ago in the science journals. Now, we have to get them from Time!

From Science Frontiers #106, JUL-AUG 1996. 1996-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987