What Facebook, Blue Jeans, and Metal Signs Taught Us About Tornado Science – Facts So Romantic

Screen capture of Patty Bullion’s “Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes” Facebook page.

On April 27, 2011 a monstrous EF5 tornado traveled 132 miles across northern Alabama and into southern Tennessee, missing one of the nation’s largest nuclear power plants by less than two miles, and also skirting the grounds of an Alabama state prison and obliterating the Alabama towns of Hackleburg and Phil Campbell. In Hackleburg, the tornado destroyed 75 percent of the structures, killed 18 people and crumpled a Wrangler blue jeans plant.

The jeans were syphoned up into the air, and somewhere in the anvil of the thunderstorm that had spawned the twister they joined high school letter jackets, family photographs, homemade quilts, metal signs, and all manner of documents. In the lingo of meteorologists this horrific aerial parade of items, snatched crudely from the human world below, is known as tornado debris.

“What I find most amazing,” said University of Georgia atmospheric scientist John Knox, “is how The Wizard of Oz is truer than anyone might think with regard to tornado debris. Admittedly, the stuff in the storm is mangled pieces of houses and their contents, instead of Dorothy and Toto in…

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