Video of the birth of the Oklahoma tornado

Some more spectacular mostly-amateur video of the Moore, Oklahoma tornado that devastated the state yesterday. Including new video of the birth of the tornado, below.

I’ve created an animated gif of the first 5 minutes of the tornado’s birth and growth, just to get a sense of how amazingly fast this thing grew:


Growing up in the midwest, I’ve feared, and been in awe, of tornadoes since I was a kid. I lived through the famous 1967 Chicago tornado. It struck a mile from our house, and while I was only 3 1/2 years old, I do remember having to go the basement because of a bad tornado, but that’s about it.  But Lord knows, I’ve had my share of tornado warnings, growing up in Illinois.  I respect them and fear them, but damn they’re impressive beasts.

It is amazing how much more, and better, video we have of these things now that everyone (practically) has video, and good quality video, on their phones. (I’d posted other videos and photos of the Oklahoma tornado earlier, here.)

This appears to be a video of the birth of the monster tornado that caused so much damage (sadly, it was filmed by one of those people who cut your head off in photos – seriously, why are you filming the pavement?)  It’s amazing how quickly it goes from nothing to a monster – a matter of a minute or so.

Here are some screen shots showing the tornado develop over only a few minutes, and then the video:

0 seconds:


53 seconds:


1 minute 33 seconds:


2 minutes 18 seconds:


3 minutes 07 seconds:


3 minutes 33 seconds:


4 minutes 23 seconds:


5 minutes 15 seconds:


And here’s the video of the tornado’s birth:

This one is kind of neat, in addition to be completely idiotic.  The guy stuck his arm out of the cellar in order to film the tornado that was literally right over his house.  Great for science, not so great for staying alive. Video taken from half a mile away. Again, a submission for the Darwin award. If that things changes direction, you’re dead. This one says it’s a time-lapse. I’m not entirely sure what that means in this case, but the beginning of the video especially is quite interesting: These guys are “stormchasers,” but I’m not sure if that means they’re professionals. They sound a bit freaked to be pros. This is another one that is very cool, and doesn’t look terribly safe. This is an interesting video of one of the tornadoes winding down: The beginning of this video gives you a sense of just how massive this tornado really was – you also get a good sense of how often (in my experience) the sky turns green when the conditions are ripe for a tornado:


CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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16 Responses to “Video of the birth of the Oklahoma tornado”

  1. benb says:

    So why did two of the devastated elementary schools in OK fail to have storm shelters? Tell me that Oklahomans weren’t sitting around on their butts waiting ‘Big Government’ that they all curse to come in and build it for them. Folks in OK will rush to the polls worrying about Sharia Law or the Unborn but easily ignore the danger to their neighbors’ kids’ lives EVERY SPRING AND SUMMER.

    Now Inhofe wants to pass the bill to limit the amount of ammo the Feds can buy. Kids are dead and Coburn is worried more about the mythical deficit problem than he is helping out folks in an emergency. Nutty.

    Oklahomans: Jesus’ll turn the other cheek but I have no doubt God will be sending you another EF-5

  2. Yeah, I noticed in another video that it might have been just the camera. But it really does turn green, often, when tornado conditions are ripe, it’s very creepy.

  3. Is the sky really green in that last video? I notice that when the fellow gets out of his car at around 2:08 and the camera refocuses, the green cast is largely gone.

  4. judybrowni says:

    “wind socks at airports resembled the shape of a tornado. He decided to make a tornado out of muslin (plain woven cloth) keeping it flexible so that it could bend, twist, and move from side to side.

    Gillespie finally built a thirty-five foot long tapered muslin sock. The top of the tornado was connected to a steel gantry suspended from the top of the stage… It was a mobile structure similar to those used in warehouses to lift heavy objects and could travel the entire length of the stage. The bottom of the tornado disappeared into a slot in the stage floor. A rod came up through the base of the tornado to pull it from one side to another. By moving the gantry and the rod in opposite directions, it would make the tornado appear to snake back and forth….

    To heighten the illusion a product known as “fullers earth”, a powdery brown dust, was sprayed into the base of the tornado with hoses containing compressed air. The same material also was sprayed into the top of the wind sock. The result was a boiling mass of dirt or cloud. The muslin was sufficiently porous that some of the dirt sifted through giving a blur or softness to the material. This also kept the the sides of the tornado fuzzy, so that it didn’t look like a hard surface.

    Four or five feet in front of the cameras were two panels of glass on which grey balls of cotton (great for mammatus) had been pasted. The two panels moved in opposite directions adding to the boiling sensation and, at the same time, they obscured the steel gantry and top portion of the tornado. Dense clouds of yellow-black smoke made from sulfer and carbon were injected onto the set from a catwalk above the gantry…

    Rear- projection was used to transfer the previously shot tornado image onto a translucent screen while actors such as Dorothy were placed in front of it. Wind machines provided the big blow while stage hands threw dried leaves and other debris in the air. When the tornado came real close to the house at the end of the scene, more debris and dirt were added in the foreground to obscure the fake tornado while providing more realism. The tornado scene in the Wizard of Oz ended up costing more money than any other special effect in the movie.”

    More at:

  5. BeccaM says:

    FWIW, that ‘micro twister’ describes exactly the one I saw once while on a solo camping trip in upstate western Pennsylvania. I was on one side of a small bowl-shaped valley, and on the other side was this small tornado, about 15 yards wide, ripping up trees and snapping off others, and creating a godawful loud noise and cloud of dirt and dust.

    I thought about running, then realized there wasn’t much point. If it came for me, I was a goner. Fortunately, it was moving at an oblique angle from me and it dissipated after less than ten minutes.

  6. Fortunately I’d never been close enough to hear the freight train.

  7. BeccaM says:

    I’m not sure either, but having lived in Western PA, I’ve seen it more than a few times. It was never a good thing, in terms of the storms that followed.

  8. BeccaM says:

    They didn’t have time to send the kids home, and usually don’t. By time there’s an actual tornado warning, the last thing one wants is to have a bunch of buses full of kids out on the roads.

    When that warning comes across on the weather radio (and everybody ought to have one), it’s time to head into whatever is the safest place in your house, school, place of business, or wherever it is you happen to be. Storm cellars, basements, small closets or bathrooms, etc.

  9. Actually that’s a good point about the special effects, I’m sure there’s something somewhere explaining how they did it

  10. lilyannerose says:

    I’m from Michigan. I recall when I was about 8 we were at a state park when a thunderstorm moved in and I can still see the small tornado that seemed to be chasing us as we drove away. One of the most vivid memories from my childhood. We were sent home from school when tornado warnings were broadcast given the situation in Oklahoma it appears that is no longer the case.

  11. Naja pallida says:

    The sky color isn’t the freakiest part. The noise coming from the sky that sounds like an oncoming freight train is what gets me.

  12. TonyT says:

    To me tornadoes are this archetypal symbol of fear. In a story full of archetypes “The Wizard of Oz” has one of the most famous tornado scenes. Amazing how good a job they did in the 1930″s creating that on screen version.

  13. Yep, that’s the sky that often spells trouble. I’ve noticed it’s also often eerily quiet right before.

  14. Zachary Smith says:
    There is one explanation. No idea whatever if it’s accurate.
    I saw a pea-green sky once – about 10 years ago here in central Indiana. The sky was writhing and twisting like something alive. No tornado happened, but it scared the dickens out of several of us, for we had no place to go except into a shoddily built little house. (think 2×2 wall studs!)

  15. leathersmith says:

    I wonder why does the sky turn green like that – is it a refractive condition of the air pressure maybe?

  16. Zachary Smith says:

    My own experience with tornadoes started with the 1974 Super Outbreak.
    When the storm came through the little town where I lived at the time I was arriving at work 8 miles away. When I heard the storm had hit, I took off home on back roads at high speed.
    The wiki says our twister was an F4, which surprises me, for the path of destruction wasn’t much over 100 yards wide. A church on one corner of an intersection was untouched, while the another church on the opposite corner was a pile of kindling. The old school was one of the massive brick antiques, and the upper two stories were pulverized. Some quick-thinking teachers had emptied the assembled school buses and sent everybody back inside. Nobody was even scratched. But those buses were tossed around like toys. The oddest sight I saw was an unharmed house sitting directly between two others both of which looked like a giant had stomped them.
    My other experience was with one of the “micro” twisters which would probably count as a fractional F number. Its path was only about 15 yards wide, snapping off small 1-foot diameter trees about head high and uprooting shallow-rooted conifers. It skipped right over the top of my house doing minimal damage to the roof. A neighbor lost some larger trees, but again, an extremely narrow path of super-high wind. Following its path, a mobile home was smashed and a farm 3 miles away took some heavy damage to outbuildings.
    By the way of a footnote, the school in the little town was replaced with a new one and the central part was reinforced to become a huge “safe room” for the students. Sad to say, at this very moment the bean counters on the school board are planning to shut it down and bus the kids to a modern new “shopping center” type of school.

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