Cyclone, windstorm, whirlwind, twister. These are some of the many names given to nature’s most violent storm, the tornado. We get the word tornado from the Spanish word tronada, meaning “thunderstorm.” A tornado looks like an ice cream cone spinning on its end like a top. Tornados typically move from southwest to northeast, but have been known to move in any direction. Amazingly, about 800 twisters occur in the United States each year. Although tornados appear in many parts of the U.S., most occur in the midwest during the months of April, May, and June. The midwest has rightfully earned the nickname “Tornado Alley.”
Tornados spiral down to the ground from a spinning cloud called a funnel cloud and can twist at speeds faster than 250 miles per hour. They can travel forward at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, and can leave a path of destruction up to 50 miles long! Tornados are not only dangerous, but are also amazingly powerful and destructive. The Bible compares God’s wrath towards evil to the strength of a tornado or whirlwind in Jeremiah 23:19.
Many communities have been damaged by tornadoes. In 1944, West Virginia’s West Fork River was momentarily sucked dry by a tornado. Tornados passing over barnyards have been known to strip the chickens of their feathers, leaving them completely bald. Tornado winds can pick up large pieces of debris and hurl them like deadly missiles. Scientists once observed that the winds of a tornado had driven pieces of straw into houses and telephone poles.As amatter of fact, much of the property damage caused by a tornado is the result of flying debris. Tornado winds are so powerful that they can collapse buildings and even uproot trees.
Tornados are also amazing to watch. In May of 1955, people living in Oklahoma described a tornado that looked like it had a pinwheel of fire spinning at its top. Others said the tornado was lit up from the inside—blue near the top, and orange fire spitting from its base. Scientists do not know the real reason for these lights, but in the Old Testament Ezekiel describes a whirlwind.
“And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and I looked out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire.” (Ezekiel 1:4)
Tornadoes are incredibly powerful forces of nature which show us that the God who created this world must be even more powerful. Tornados are fun to study and learn about, but they are extremely dangerous and we should always respect them.