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Pampa, TX tornado
Photograph of an F-3 or F-4 tornado in Pampa, Texas on June 8, 1995. Notice the amount of deadly debris in the air, much of which is vehicles and sheet metal roofing 80 feet off the ground. Photograph by Alan Moller, National Weather Service employee and storm chaser. Click the picture for a larger image.

It's one thing for the National Weather Service to say that tornado damage is caused by dangerous debris hurled at high speeds, and quite another to really understand what that means. The amazing photograph on the left, shot in Pampa, Texas on June 8, 1995, gives you a different level of understanding of that statement. This is about an F-3 or F-4 storm that is plowing through an industrial area behind the residential neighborhood in the foreground. The scale is deceptive; the larger pieces of debris in this photograph are vehicles that were picked up from an oil company parking lot and large sections of sheet metal roofing, according to photographer Alan Moller, senior forecaster with the National Weather Service and storm chaser. Video taken of that same funnel by a sheriff on the scene clearly shows pickup trucks and vans airborne at an altitude of 80 to 90 feet off the ground: the height of an 8-story building. It would be hard for statistics to give you the deep understanding of the danger posed by flying debris in a tornado that this single image of airborne crushed vehicles and sheet metal roofing gives you. That is the power of experiential knowing, even when it's indirect like this.