Thursday, June 2, 2011

Train in a tornado

I received the following video in an e-mail last week. The very spare accompanying text explained that the view is out the back window of a locomotive, noting that today's trains are equipped - like police cars - with forward- and rear-facing cameras. The video was said to have been disseminated by the railroad's dispatcher. The e-mail encourages watching until the end, as do I before you read on:

Typically, the e-mail contained no identifying information, though it was surely authentic. Since I was on the theme of tornadoes yesterday, I took it as a personal challenge to find out where this occurred and am pleased to report my success. Here are the circumstances:

The tornado touched down northeast of Harvard, Illinois, on January 7, 2008. The dated image below is a still from this stormchaser video, and the other photograph was reposted with comments by a northwestern Illinois resident. The funnel was 100yds wide and took off roofs, uprooted trees, and leveled a 2-story farmhouse in its 20 minutes on the ground. The force of the winds, determined to be F3, blew 12 cars of the Union Pacific train over. The momentum of the still-moving train caused several more cars to derail, including a tanker that leaked its hazardous contents for hours before it was contained and prompted evacuations in nearby Lawrence. The tornado continued to move to the east with estimated winds around 100 mph. The force snapped a hardwood tree at its base, knocked over an old barn, and headed across the farm fields. As it crossed highway 14 (misidentified as highway 23 in this video - caution: language), it flipped a semi-trailer and injured the driver at a truck stop weigh station.

Thanks, Barbara!

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