I can't help it. Even when I had a phobia of storms, I had a morbid fascination for tornadoes. Every April when I was a kid the PBS stations out of Cleveland and Canton showed storm chasing specials and I would watch them, terrified and transfixed. Since conquering my fear, I've become even more of a tornado nut.
They are rare. They're destructive and deadly. They're terrifying, unpredictable, and still not completely understood. And they're beautiful.
Photo from http://www.nebraskastorms.com/images
Even the storms that create tornadoes can be beautiful. They're often back-lit by the afternoon sunshine that follows so many tornadoes.
The people who chase these storms and take the video and still photos of tornadoes have to be smart. They have to try to be smarter than the storm. Even though the proliferation of digital video and still cameras has made photos of destructive storms seem almost commonplace in the media, it's still rare(1) to see a tornado.
Image from http://wallpapers-free.co.uk/background/weather/tornado/tornado-formedIt's easy to be inspired by them, though. The first book I read about tornadoes was Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman. It's a fictional tale that takes place during the very real April 3-4, 1974 tornado Super Outbreak. Talk about good, old fashioned nightmare fuel for a kid who's afraid of storms. But even it fed my fascination. In 1996 there was the blockbuster movie Twister about a group of storm chasers and starring Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. While the movie is low on real science, it has fun characters and a lot of action and pretty good tornado special effects.
Photo from www.hedwiggraymalk.etsy.com
The result of tornadic inspiration for me has manifested itself in fun things. For Christmas/Yule of 2008 I made a fellow tornado geek friend of mine a tornado tree ornament - complete with cows swirling around it. And this spring, in anticipation of the arrival of tornado season, I made the first earrings in what I hope will be a line of tornado inspired jewelry that can be found in my Etsy.com shop.
1. In late spring and early summer of 2009 the first part of Vortex2, the followup study to Project Vortex, spent weeks without seeing a tornado. This was a group of more than 100 scientists and 40 support vehicles wandering the most tornado-prone states in the US for five weeks with the single mission of finding tornadoes to study. They had the latest technology and still only managed to find one tornado. The 2009 tornado season was unusually quiet and this played a big part, but it's the perfect example of just how rare these wonders of nature are.