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CSI Tornado: Decoding – and chasing – supercells with the experts

CSI Tornado: Chasing supercells, interviewing a homeowner sucked off his front porch in an Oklahoma tornado outbreak, and examining the path of a destructive funnel, an expert expedition shows how science is close to decoding the way a tornado works.

How Twisters Form
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Forecasters had seen it coming for days – an angry blob of bright pink blossoming on forecast maps over a nearly 175,000-square-mile area of the Great Plains. For only the second time in its history, the National Weather Service held a pre-outbreak press conference Friday, April 13, alerting the region – much as it does for hurricanes ahead of landfall – to brace itself. Conditions were ripe for a significant tornado outbreak.

Indeed, 150 reports of twisters across four states – including a powerful funnel a mile wide that hit Wichita, Kan. – reached federal forecast offices.

By nightfall Saturday, the last in a parade of roiling supercells, the thunderstorms that spawn twisters, had marched northeast, and some TV meteorologists in Oklahoma City were saying the worst was over. So residents of this cattle, wheat, and oil town along the path the storms had taken northwest of Oklahoma City went to bed relieved. All that was left was the squall line that TV forecasters said would bring strong storms – but nothing like that day's supercells.

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