First tornado photos taken 130 years ago

First Tornado

Photos and videos of tornadoes these days are a dime a dozen, as every outbreak seemingly produces dozens if not hundreds of images flying across the Twitterverse

But 130 years ago today, Aug. 28, 1884. F. N. Robinson took one of the first photos of a tornado ever, a strange. menacing twister that spun just west of Howard, in what was then the Dakota Territory.

The photo “shows a powerful tornado descended from its parent thunderstorm cloud and flanked on both sides by smaller funnel clouds, a phenomenon meteorologists refer to as ‘satellite tornadoes,'” wrote meteorologist Sean Potter in a 2010 issue of Weatherwise magazine.

Adding to the drama of the photo, Potter notes, is a well-defined debris cloud that evokes the destructive power in the storm. The tornado was part of an outbreak that killed at least six people.

That photo may very well have been “touched up,” according to an 1885 article in Science magazine. (The cloud above the photo does look a bit strange.) It’s something we’re still dealing with today, of course …After all, “Photoshop” is apparently now a verb.

IS IT REAL?:

Though it was thought to be the first tornado photo, a photo of a tornado in Garnett, Kan.,  taken by A.A. Adams a few months earlier, was likely the first. That photo, from April 26 of that year, captures a well-defined tornado in the rope stage, likely as it was dissipating, Potter wrote. But no deaths were reported with that twister.

So the Dakota photo is almost certainly the first killer tornado photo ever taken.

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