Since it’s late March and freezing, I’ve decided to think warmer thoughts. This led me – of course – to watch tornado videos on YouTube. While perusing, I chose to review two infamous tornadoes, and do an “apparent violence” comparison.
The first was the Andover, KS tornado of April 26, 1991 (rated F5).
The second was the Tuscaloosa, AL tornado of April 27, 2011 (rated high-end EF4).
However, if you watch the Andover video, you’ll notice – around 4:35 – that it seems to take its violence a notch upward. The upward vertical velocities appear to increase as the debris field explodes. As I understand it, this is the point in the path where that tornado hit the Golden Spur mobile home park and caused F5 damage (unfortunately, also where most of the fatalities occurred).
The Tuscaloosa tornado was quite violent as well, but it never seemed to attain to the apparent intensity of the Andover tornado. Officially, the Tuscaloosa tornado was rated high-end EF4. Does the degree of damage confirm the visual inspection? Or, was the construction of buildings in Tuscaloosa not up to standards, making such comparisons impossible?
To be fair, though, there are at least two other factors to consider. First, the translational speed of the tornadoes may have impacted the degree of damage. Though the forward motion of both tornadoes was comparable, the Tuscaloosa tornado was translating ~10 mph faster. Since the tornadoes were about the same size (when they were most damaging), one can deduce that the Andover tornado spent more time at each location it hit. Thus, one might expect the Andover tornado to produce a higher degree of damage (even though the tornadic winds would be slightly higher in the Tuscaloosa tornado, given the translational speed).
Second, it’s possible that the most intense portions of the Tuscaloosa tornado were visually obscured by condensation. Often, this is the reason why some large and violent tornadoes don’t appear incredibly intense, but damage surveys reveal extreme damage. I suppose one could estimate the lifted condensation level (LCL) and ballpark it, but I’ll leave that to someone else!
Nevertheless, to date, I have not seen a video of a large tornado that is more violent than the Andover tornado. Are there any other candidates? Perhaps the Xenia F5 tornado (April 3, 1974) was as violent?
What other tornadoes would you place in this category?