Terrifying Real-Life Tornadoes, Wind Storms & Hurricanes

(Part 4 in an Exclusive 4 Part WebEcoist Series on Natural Disasters)

The hurricane that swipes a town off the map. The month of tornadoes that won’t quit. A dust storm that has to be seen to be believed. While sudden volcanic explosions, massive earthquakes and terrifying tsunamis are examples of Mother Nature’s unexpected acts around the globe, some parts of the planet also experience ravaging tornadoes and hurricanes as reliably as the seasons. The damage these massive storms cause, however, is anything but predictable. In North America, residents in places like Florida and Kansas have learned to prepare for these wild disasters. But sometimes no amount of planning is enough.

Hurricane Ike

(Images via Boston.com)

13 days, 114 lives, $10 billion in damage. Most recent in memory is the devastating but brief Hurricane Ike. Boston.com has a stunning picture gallery of Hurricane Ike and the destruction throughout Cuba, Haiti and the United States.

(Images via Boston.com)

This home in Winnie, Texas was spared. Notice the horse grazing in the floodwater. Hurricane Ike was the first hurricane since Katrina to cause so much damage to mainland cities. Galveston was essentially wiped off the map, seeing damage only outdone by a storm in 1900.

The New England Hurricane

(Images via Popular Mechanics)

Hurricanes famously strike the Southern seaboard of the United States, but they can also reach as far north as New England. In 1938 a 120-m.p.h. hurricane slammed into New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island. 700 people were killed and 63,000 were instantly homeless in what is widely considered one of the worst storms of the last century. The hurricane created forceful two-story waves that flooded urban areas in New York and beyond.

A National Tragedy: Hurricane Katrina

(Images via Killed That, About.com, Biggest Tsunami, Geology.com, Why Files and Dismal World)

The tragedy was unspeakable; the initial response was shameful. A combination of a lack of preparedness – despite warnings – and a lack of adequate response in the face of one of the most powerful hurricanes in U.S. history created an epic disaster that many critics argued became the defining failure of the Bush Administration and the federal government. Tens of thousands were displaced, injured and homeless; thousands still live in temporary housing provided by FEMA. What made Category 5 Katrina so devastating was not only its blunt wind force (175 mph winds) – it was the hurricane combined with the massive waves that caused the levee breach.

Much of the city was flooded beyond all repair or hope of habitation. As 20,000 agonized without sufficient supplies in the Superdome and another 30,000 tried to escape the city, stifling heat and putrid conditions turned New Orleans into a shocking story of government neglect. According to Popular Mechanics, “The city they left behind had been nearly wiped off the map, but Hurricane Katrina affected 90,000 square miles in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Well over 1300 people were killed across the region, and bodies were still turning up in condemned homes eight months later. The financial tally as of July 2007 was approaching $200 billion; some predict it will top $300 billion after all the checks are written.” The nation was horrified at the management of the disaster and an outpouring of aid and celebrity involvement continues well into 2008.

Hurricanes from Above

(Images via Boston.com)

Going through the experience of a hurricane is terrifying – and in some tragic cases, deadly. Seen from above, however, hurricanes appear surreal, almost protective. The contrast is nothing short of unsettling. These are images of Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Gordon and Hurricane Ivan.

Tornadoes Caught on Film

(Image via mediaright)

Tornadoes are both terrifying and captivating. They are the products of thunderstorms and their whirling vortexes frequently reach up to 300 mph. As residents of the notorious Midwest’s Tornado Alley know, tornadoes can pop up suddenly and without much warning. In many tornado-prone areas residents have tornado shelters they can retreat to in the sudden event of a tornado. The following videos show incredible close-up moments.

In this amazing video, a boat outruns twin cyclones.

This person caught a tornado coming within a hair’s breadth of their property in 2005.

Scientist Tim Samaras achieved the unthinkable in 2003: he created a camera that was able to withstand the tornado so that we could get a first-time look inside the storm. The footage is simply breathtaking.

Sensitive viewers may want to skip this graphic video montage that shows footage of various tornadoes in Texas, Kansas and Georgia throughout the last 50 years.

Up Close: Tornado Chasers

(Image via NYTimes via Gizmodo)

A resident of Orchard, Iowa snapped this image seconds before the tornado passed by their home. It’s not an isolated case; people can’t seem to resist catching twisters on film despite the risks.

The Tri-State Tornado

(Images via Popular Mechanics)

Did you know there was a time when weather experts weren’t allowed to discuss tornadoes? The severe Tri-State Tornado in 1925, one of the worst storms of the last century, brought social awareness and paved the way for public alerts. The country’s longest-lasting tornado destroyed 15,000 homes in four states and killed hundreds.

Driving Through a Dust Storm

Though dust storms are less sensational than hurricanes or tornadoes, they can wreak tremendous damage. This incredible footage of driving through a dust storm is a rare live example. Dust storms, or sand storms, are common in arid regions, though they rarely grow as large or devastating as the two-day Dust Bowl, the infamous dust storm that struck the Southwestern United States.

See Even More Incredible Natural Disasters:

Part One: 8 Devastating Earth and Land Disasters
Part Two: 6 Chilling Ice and Water Disasters
Part Three: 6 Scorching Heat and Fire Disasters

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