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May 21 2013

Put down the cell phone!

Damned monkeys. Stop gawking, put the cell phone away, and flee.

We get these things up here in Minnesota, too, and one thing you will not get from me is a video showing it off. I’ll be in the basement, hiding under a mattress.

47 comments

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  1. 1
    Pyra

    I wonder if I should have watched that. It’s been a long time since I had recurring tornado dreams. I hope this doesn’t spawn some. But yeah, I can’t imagine staying and looking at it. I’d be out of there.

  2. 2
    PZ Myers

    Don’t look at these photos either.

  3. 3
    Ben P

    Eh, it looks like he’s well outside of the path of the storm. And if it’s an EF5, well…the mattress won’t help much. Winds 200+ mph strip houses down to bare concrete slabs. You’d better have a tornado shelter.

  4. 4
    gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet

    Just a warning about the photos that PZ linked to…

    Number 14 is a photo of a dead dog on a driveway. As if the the almost unimaginable devastation wasn’t enough, they had to put in a photo of a poor dead dog.

  5. 5
    newfie

    Horrific. I’m thankful that the only weather related death I’m likely to experience here, is a heart attack while shovelling snow.

  6. 6
    FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!)

    All I could think as that thing moved across and its colour changed: now people are dying.

  7. 7
    kantalope

    Is standing there gawking a primate thing or strictly homo? I don’t recall any nature documentary where “a snake entered the territory, half of the chimps stood around scratching their heads and the other half of the troop ran for the hills as fast as they could” kind of moments…but maybe.

    I also don’t understand no basements if you live in tornado alley? Is there bedrock right near the surface? I thought there was just a bunch of topsoil?

  8. 8
    Ben P

    I also don’t understand no basements if you live in tornado alley? Is there bedrock right near the surface? I thought there was just a bunch of topsoil?

    Full size basements are expensive, a tornado shelter requires a thousand or so to build, less if you can borrow the backhoe from a friend.

    Also regarding animals, they don’t escape any more than humans do. I live in NW Arkansas, and have a friend that is with the vet school at OSU. She went with several others to a horse farm in the path of the tornado last night and had to help put down 20+ badly injured horses and make arrangements for the bodies of more. She called it the most horrific thing she’d ever experienced. (and most Vets quickly become at least somewhat jaded to putting animals down, it’s an unpleasant, but often necessary, part of the job)

    I might well be taking off a couple days and driving out there this weekend to help the cleanup effort.

  9. 9
    cathynewman

    There were a couple of quite close-up videos that went viral of the tornado that devastated my hometown Tuscaloosa, AL, in 2011. Dumbasses, all of them. Storm chasers are trained experts and know what they’re doing. The guy in AL was shooting cell phone video while SITTING IN HIS CAR in the mall parking lot when the monster tornado was obviously coming his direction. But hey, at least he got 6.7 million youtube hits.

  10. 10
    madarab

    Is this something like gazelles dancing in front of the cheetah that’s chasing them?

  11. 11
    Ben P

    There were a couple of quite close-up videos that went viral of the tornado that devastated my hometown Tuscaloosa, AL, in 2011. Dumbasses, all of them. Storm chasers are trained experts and know what they’re doing. Mostly amateurs and with a handful of groups from Meteorology or atmospheric sciences programs thrown in.

    It might be comforting to think so, but there aren’t any “training classes” or “degrees” for storm chasers. The closest thing to professionals are weather reporters and groups from universities that, in most cases are groups of undergrads with a professor or graduate student telling them what to do, and most of what they’ve learned wouldn’t help them much to predict what a storm is doing in real time. Most “professional” storm chasers are photographers who take pictures and video and then sell it to TV stations and other media outlets, they don’t have any particular training on storms.

    I fully apply the concept of assumed risk. If you’re filming a storm, you’re responsible for your own conduct and it’s no one else’s fault or responsibility what happens to you. If you’re willing to accept that, fine, but if you do, people are entitled to take risks with their own safety if they want to do so.

  12. 12
    neuroturtle

    My Skywarn storm spotter training was one afternoon of lectures and slide shows. The first thing they told us was “you are not storm chasers.” The first thing everyone did was go try to be storm chasers. We discovered quickly that being armed with a camera and a ham radio tuned to Weathernet was not protection at all. =P

  13. 13
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I could tell my mind had flipped into denial when I caught myself thinking, “Wow, that’s pretty good video quality.”

  14. 14
    YOB - Ye Olde Blacksmith is a Spocktopus cuddler

    He’s
    1. Filming WHILE driving
    2. With no cover
    3. With No apparent escape trajectory
    4. In a parking lot with other gawkers not paying attention
    5. In the path of a tornado!

    *boggled*

  15. 15
    lochaber

    Ye Olde Blacksmith – Spocktopus cuddler>

    Yeah, pretty much all kinds of wrong with what was going on there.

    Though, as it seemed to be a mostly empty parking lot, without any significant obstructions twixt the filmer and the tornado, I’m sorta puzzeled as to why everyone was milling about. It’s not like they could really get a much better spot view-wise.

  16. 16
    DLC

    I used to live in a much more tornado-prone state. My father, a realtor and general contractor, told me on more than one occasion he wouldn’t live in a home without a basement in it and a good strong storm cellar in that. Educated as an Industrial Engineer, he scoffed at the idea of “safe rooms” and insisted that any shelter more than 2 minutes away was worthless.
    My sympathies go out to those people in Oklahoma who lost loved ones. Your home you can rebuild, you can’t rebuild a family member.
    ———————————————-
    I remember an article some years ago about how combat photographers often are injured or killed because they suffer from “lens capture” and forget that what they’re recording actually can kill them, too.
    Have we humans finally forgotten our “fight or flight” reflex ? Has our curiosity become a non-survival trait ? Or are that many of us just that bloody stupid ? I agree with PZ. I’d be one of the ones hiding out. screw that storm-chasing shit.
    ==============================
    A cynical part of me wants to snidely ask Pat Robertson what sin these people committed that god saw fit to blast their existence. But then I realize that I don’t give a flying fuck what Pat “blood diamonds” Robertson thinks, and that he’s a fucking ghoul who’ll tell his parishioners it’s because of Teh Gheyz.
    Makes me want to throw up.
    sorry I thought of it.

  17. 17
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    Storm chasers.

    When I was younger, I wanted to be one. I wanted to be out there actually chasing tornadoes and filming them and studying them and collecting data on them…

    I have yet to actually experience a tornado in real life, so I can’t say that wish is gone, but I’ve actually found something I know I can do, and I’m quite happy with it.

    I am a bit strange like that, though. Despite knowing the danger and heartache and damage and so on they cause, I still want to experience a tornado, an earthquake, a hurricane… preferably small ones that kill no one and cause minimal, if any, damage, but still…

    What happened in Oklahoma is horrible and I feel for all of them. My thoughts are with them.

  18. 18
    Kevin

    @16: No no no. The tornado was in Oklahoma — a state that does not have gay marriage.

    God is aiming squarely at those states that don’t protect gay rights. Look it up. When was the last time an F5 tornado hit Vermont?

    Every once in a while he misses (ie, Iowa), but mainly he hits all the anti-gay marriage states right on. Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama.

    God is very very angry with the lack of gay marriage.

  19. 19
    cathynewman

    Don’t confuse storm chasers with Skywarn spotters. By “storm chasers,” I was referring to (mainly) meteorologists, often affiliated with local networks, who do have extensive training and experience – both in the field and reading Doppler – as well as keeping in constant communication with meteorologists back in the studio during an actual chase event.

  20. 20
    cathynewman

    @16 and 18 — and in fact, believe it or not (I’m sure you will), the Westboro Baptist assholes were in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, just 3 days ago picketing on the campus of the University of Alabama, insisting that the city was destroyed by the tornado because of gay marriage. WTF. Like Alabama allows gay marriage.

  21. 21
    quidam

    You can put me down for a front row seat. Yes I’d be scared and yes it would be risky – but what an experience!

    I’d be watching until the last possible instant. Foolish I know.

    Do look at the pictures, the children being brought out alive is inspiring and there’s nothing special about a dead dog under a blanket considering the wholesale destruction

  22. 22
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Here’s some good to counteract the devastation (a woman finds her dog during interview): (HuffPo link) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/21/tornado-victim-barbara-ga_n_3312226.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

    *the “answered prayer” line made me sigh, but still…

  23. 23
    Pierce R. Butler

    I’ll be in the basement, hiding under a mattress.

    With a keyboard, writing a blog post.

  24. 24
    Ben P

    Don’t confuse storm chasers with Skywarn spotters. By “storm chasers,” I was referring to (mainly) meteorologists, often affiliated with local networks, who do have extensive training and experience – both in the field and reading Doppler – as well as keeping in constant communication with meteorologists back in the studio during an actual chase event.

    I won’t try the strikeout because it didn’t work last time, but *professionals* are most commonly a distinct minority of “storm chasers.” We get crowds of them every year. Most of the ones I meet are photographers. Most meteorologists are safely ensconced in their studios.

    And if you really think that the 23 year old junior weather intern they send out to stand in the rain and wind has “extensive training and experience,” on how to recognize what a storm will do by looking at it, well, you can be naive about it if you like.

  25. 25
    David Marjanović

    I also don’t understand no basements if you live in tornado alley? Is there bedrock right near the surface? I thought there was just a bunch of topsoil?

    See the previous thread: it’s red clay that expands and contracts a lot with changes in moisture, and the water table is very high.

    My parents live on loam in Vienna, and no building in that small part of the city has a basement.

  26. 26
    Crissa

    If you’re in a parking lot, where do you go? How do you know what direction you go in won’t lead you into a blind storm, like rain?

    On the clear side of the tornado, in the car, able to move out of its way is slightly more safe than some other places, at least. The video plus driving is sucky. At least I have a tripod in my car.

  27. 27
    rrhain

    OK…I’m wondering how many people have actually lived through a tornado, given some of the naivete of the criticisms of this guy.

    I lived through the Omaha tornado of 1975 when I was a smaller person. I was with my soccer team on the field. We could all see the clouds forming, but the game wasn’t canceled. After a while, my father came out to let the refs know that a tornado watch had been declared.

    Eh, there’s still plenty of light and no rain. Keep playing.

    A short while later, he comes back to say that it’s been upgraded to a tornado warning.

    Eh, there’s still light and no rain. Keep playing.

    A short while later, he and a few other parents come out to say that it’s heading this way.

    OK, fine. There’s a bit of rain. Call the game.

    Now, tornados are dangerous. They’re unpredictable, change course on a dime, and will suck you up and throw you like the rag doll that you really are. But from looking at the video, he’s very far away. Many seem to be unaware of the true perspective of a funnel cloud: They’re further away than you think. It only looks close because it is so big.

    Yeah, he was driving while filming which is always a poor thing to do, but he was in a mostly empty lot which is a good thing. One of the dangers of a tornado is the debris being flung around. Being in the open is a safer place to be since there is less stuff to throw around and you have more options for moving. Too, he’s hardly going anywhere…mostly just repositioning himself.

    Note, his windows are down. That’s a good thing. One of the other dangers of a tornado is the sudden change in pressure. It’s why the winds are so large: There is a massive low-pressure area that is quite literally sucking up all the air. You need to open up the enclosed space so that it doesn’t become a bubble and burst.

    So I don’t really see that much “stupidity” in this guy’s actions. It was far enough away, he was in a vehicle, he was in an open area, and he was ready to make a break for it.

  28. 28
    Helen Huntingdon

    Well as someone who has lived though more of them than I can keep track of, comment #27 sounds patently silly to me. I’m sorry the adults in charge of your game did not understand what a tornado warning means in the context of how tornadoes actually behave. That doesn’t make their behavior okay. They had no business being that negligent.

    The comment about one of the main dangers being flying debris is absolutely correct. The conclusion that therefore being out in the open is better is one of the stupidest things I have ever read in my entire life. Tornadoes and straight line winds don’t just knock around things that are nearby — they borrow projectiles from three counties over and drive them through concrete walls. That’s part of why the most crucial thing is to be below ground level. Even if it’s just lying in a ditch. Mostly the projectiles are moving across, not being dropped straight down.

    However, things get dropped straight down as well (including hail), which is why once you’ve managed to get below ground level, raising what protection you can get over yourself or at least your head is the next item of urgency.

    Fleeing by vehicle is a chancy business — if you run out of road going in the right direction or take a wrong turn under stress or the tornado changes path, you might have just killed yourself by losing time that could have been used finding a ditch or a basement. This guy was betting that he wouldn’t need shelter. He apparently won, but it was a stupid bet, same as driving your truck out on too-thin lake ice.

    PZ’s remark in the post that he would be hiding in his basement under a mattress is the correct behavior — he’s talking about a good solid MN-type basement, which is good protection, but may have windows, hence the mattress over his head to protect against flying glass.

  29. 29
    Helen Huntingdon

    “Many seem to be unaware of the true perspective of a funnel cloud: They’re further away than you think.”

    Sometimes. Sometimes not. They can be quite narrow but deadly, for example. Or the little cow-scarers aren’t all that deadly and aren’t very big either, but you still don’t want to find out the hard way how close is too close. It’s all fun and adrenaline until somebody loses an eye.

  30. 30
    Nerull

    The Red Cross no longer recommends seeking shelter in a ditch, and now state it is safer to stay in the car, as low as you can possibly get.

    Both the NWS and the Red Cross state the first thing you should try to do is drive away. Only shelter in a ditch or car as an absolute last resort. In a tornado of this magnitude, either one is a death sentence.

  31. 31
    Helen Huntingdon

    Nerull, source? Because at http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4340177_Tornado.pdf they still recommend the ditch option over staying in your car when the thing actually hits you.

    They also remark on choosing based on your specific circumstances, which is correct. If the ditch is full of water, it hardly does you good if you might drown by sheltering there. If hail is falling, your car might be better protection for the moment.

  32. 32
    Helen Huntingdon

    Also http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4340177_Tornado.pdf does NOT “state the first thing you should try to do is drive away”. It says the thing is to get into below-ground or sturdy shelter with all possible speed.

    If there is no such thing where you are, only then do you drive somewhere.

  33. 33
    Helen Huntingdon

    Ben at #11 said, “If you’re filming a storm, you’re responsible for your own conduct and it’s no one else’s fault or responsibility what happens to you. If you’re willing to accept that, fine, but if you do, people are entitled to take risks with their own safety if they want to do so.”

    I don’t fully agree. Putting yourself in a situation where you might have to be rescued, and with that rescue having potential to harm others, merely for your own entertainment, is a deeply sociopathic act. In a natural disaster like a tornado, there is always the possibility that choosing not to seek shelter means you will draw rescue personnel away from those who had no shelter to seek, or who had it and were harmed anyway.

    If you want to risk your safety for fun, find a more responsible way to do it.

  34. 34
    Infophile

    Oddly enough, I read an article on this type of behaviour just a couple minutes ago: http://io9.com/the-frozen-calm-of-normalcy-bias-486764924

    In short, when a disaster strikes, ~15% of people will panic, ~15% of people will do the most logical thing (to survive, help, etc.), and the remaining 70% will continue as normal until someone tells them what to do. For many people these days, filming interesting things and posting to the net is perfectly normal, so a good bulk of people are going to think only of that until someone (or multiple someones) yells at them to take shelter. It’s natural, not just for humans, but for any animal that might conceivably be preyed upon: Predators will occasionally leave alone prey that goes limp and doesn’t try to fight or flee, thinking it might be sick or poisoned, and thus not worth the trouble. This passive state is thus the default reaction for most people when facing an overwhelming disaster.

  35. 35
    Ragutis

    To assume makes an ass of u and me… or in this case, of Wolf Blitzer:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/21/wolf-blitzer-atheist-tornado-survivor_n_3316312.html

  36. 36
    Ragutis

    Dammit. The Digital Cuttlefish beat me to it…

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2013/05/21/wolf-do-you-thank-the-lord/

    Rats! Foiled again! If it weren’t for you meddling poets…

  37. 37
    Ragutis

    Squids. Dammit. Squids.

    “If it weren’t for you meddling squids” would have been soooo much funnier.

    Damn… that comment could have been something. Could have been a contender.

  38. 38
    Helen Huntingdon

    Infophile, that would explain a lot of things that have baffled me in the past. My experiences of laying eyes on a tornado all run to a pattern:

    First there’s about a quarter-second in adrenaline-enhanced time spent on “Huh, seriously?” or “No really, seriously? AGAIN??” or “Huh, probably not going to make it through this one.”

    Then there’s a rapid triangulation of my position versus the tornado’s position and apparent path and speed versus location of the nearest adequate ditch versus location of the nearest adequate cellar or basement.

    Within two seconds I am running like I’m on steroids in my chosen direction for the shelter I’m guessing is my best shot at continuing to live on borrowed time.

    It’s been freaky during those times to glance back and realize older, more experienced people weren’t following me but just standing there.

  39. 39
    David Marjanović

    Within two seconds I am running like I’m on steroids

    Adrenalin is a steroid. :-)

  40. 40
    rrhain

    @28: “I’m sorry the adults in charge of your game did not understand what a tornado warning means in the context of how tornadoes actually behave.”

    (*chuckle*)

    Yeah…people who’ve lived in Nebraska all their lives don’t understand what a tornado warning means. It’s precious that you think that.

    And I see you responded to things I didn’t say rather than what I did. Of course being as low as possible is best, but as you can tell from the video, that wasn’t really an option. If you’re on the ground, you want to be away from everything. The more debris that is being flung around, the worse off you are, so running inside just to be inside is not helpful.

    And I also see that you didn’t even pay attention to what I did say. Let’s try it again and see if you figure it out this time:

    Now, tornados are dangerous. They’re unpredictable, change course on a dime, and will suck you up and throw you like the rag doll that you really are.

    Let that sink in. Does that sound like I’m being dismissive of the dangers of a tornado? Or course not. It means that I do understand that there is danger.

    The problem is that people are hyperventilating over this. Yes, it’s a tornado, but it’s over there. Very far away. Remember, this thing got to a mile wide. Thus, given the perspective shown in the video, it’s very far away.

    So yeah, it’s a tornado. Very dangerous. But it’s all the way over there. It’s not really a threat to the guy where he is. Pay attention, watch what it’s doing, plan your escape path, and be ready to go when it becomes a real threat. But, mere existence within a 20-mile radius is not enough of a threat to panic and run for the hills over. In the meantime, why not film it? It’s a fascinating display.

  41. 41
    Ichthyic

    Full size basements are expensive, a tornado shelter requires a thousand or so to build, less if you can borrow the backhoe from a friend.

    you’d think there would be government assistance to build such a thing…

    oh, right, that’s not the role of government any more, it’s just there to protect the interests of private industry and speculators in teh stock market and real estate.

    better just not live in areas where any kind of disaster can occur.

    *sigh*

  42. 42
    Ichthyic

    Eh, there’s still plenty of light and no rain. Keep playing.

    A short while later, he comes back to say that it’s been upgraded to a tornado warning.

    Eh, there’s still light and no rain. Keep playing.

    A short while later, he and a few other parents come out to say that it’s heading this way.

    OK, fine. There’s a bit of rain. Call the game.

    Here’s the point I got out of your anecdote:

    People can be really stupid in ignoring warnings of impending disaster.

    your ref not calling the game was risking people’s lives. If the tornado had touched down closer to the field, they might all be dead now.

    Is that not the point you wanted to make?

  43. 43
    Ichthyic

    Pay attention, watch what it’s doing, plan your escape path, and be ready to go when it becomes a real threat.

    It’s rather unlikely the person recording that with the cell phone probably is an expert on meteorological phenomena.

    nor are you.

  44. 44
    Ichthyic

    … people are entitled to take risks with their own safety if they want to do so.”

    actually, this is entirely incorrect. Laws have been passed against such things for hundreds of years now.

    do you at least understand why?

  45. 45
    lpetrich

    This reminds me of Pliny the Elder dying as he tried to study the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum.

  46. 46
    Helen Huntingdon

    (*chuckle*)

    Yeah…people who’ve lived in Nebraska all their lives don’t understand what a tornado warning means. It’s precious that you think that.

    Ah, I see — you know you’ve embarrassed yourself badly, so you go for both misogyny (the gendered-patronizing use of “precious” in addressing someone with a a female name) and in doubling down on the stupidity.

    My apologies to the readers of this thread for not catching the promulgation of further utter cluelessness before. The only reason I bothered to comment on this thread was that I saw raging stupidity being spread that threatens people’s lives when they believe it. And sadly, a great many people who do live in tornado zones do believe things about tornadoes and tornado warnings that are fundamentally wrong, making those beliefs fundamentally dangerous.

    Please pay attention to what’s real. Read up on what a tornado warning means with respect to what is actually happening inside the storm, and what it does and does not tell you about what will happen next with respect to locations on the ground. It is crucial to understand this. As we have seen demonstrated clearly in this thread, growing up in a tornado state and having been near one once as a small child doesn’t automatically mean you comprehend a damn thing, and it certainly doesn’t confer the ability to think logically (anyone who resorts to bigotry as part of their argument clearly is not capable of rational thought when addressing such argument).

  47. 47
    Helen Huntingdon

    Also, anyone who reads this thread in the future, please remember the Dunning-Kruger effect when it comes to evaluating your own safety and the safety of those you might impact.

    If you believe that you personally are capable of looking at a tornado on the ground and accurately assessing whether or not you might be in danger, you are pretty much guaranteed to be a victim of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Luckily it doesn’t take much more than half an hour and an internet connection to educate yourself past this point.

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