What are those flashes of light in this video of the tornado?


after the 0:15 mark. are they power flashes? it doesn’t look like the typical ones you find on youtube.

I was wondering the same thing. I saw them pretty high up in the tornado on another video.

WAG: Could the tornado have picked up power lines (or something else, I guess) and flung them around so fast that they generated static electricity?

Shards of glass and other shiny objects? The close-in shots of the tornado show lots of flying debris.

Probably power transformers blowing up.
Here is one from Hurricane Sandy (around the 0:38 mark).

The “flashes” start just about the time the windspeed near the viewer increases dramatically (as evidenced by the noise and by his exclamations). I suspect the “flashes” are just pieces of paper or other light-colored debris in the foreground (much closer to the observer than to the tornado) that is moving by so quickly that it’s only in the field of view for one or two frames of video and therefore their motion is not immediately obvious.

My initial reaction is that the flashes were obviously snapped power lines. However then you see many of the exact same flashes at a much higher than ground level elevation.

I am no expert but they definitely do not seem like random objects or debris… they clearly look like flashes of some form of energy. I would interested in getting an experts opinion on this.

I’m thinking lightning.

do you have a link to the video? a different perspective might rule out some possibilities.

The one time I was close to a tornado (Thornton, CO 6/3/1981) it also included the most intense thunderstorm I have experienced. Storm drains were overwhelmed, and the streets were flowing a foot deep or more.

Houses were damaged a block from where I was, and there were a few completely distroyed a couple miles away. Though the media referred to it as “a tornado” there were several distinct funnels that touched down, and probably a dozen that didn’t. One of the early funnels formed directly over my head. Not sure if it touched down, as I made for the basement as soon as I recognized it.

ETA:These were fairly mild as tornados go.

To pile on, I wondered about those too.

My wife and I were watching that first evening and probably saw the same one as you, taken from a helicopter? She asked me about them and I probably mistakenly replied they they likely were transmission artifacts, not real but created by the poor signal transmission caused but the weather. Now I’m not sure that was the case at all, seeing them again from a different angle and camera. It is strange that I don’t remember ever seeing anything like that in a tornado before.

I too hope someone can confirm what Machine Elf theorized or confirm some alternative.

It just looks like debris flashing in the sun to me (coupled with a crappy camera), you can sort of see the same thing at 3:30 in this video and at 1:40 in this one. These two are filmed close enough and with better cameras that you can see non-flashing debris too, so the flashing debris is no surprise and barely noticed. In the OP video, you can’t see any debris except the shiny stuff.

You know, I wondered about those too :slight_smile: (This should probably be required as the first sentence for all newcomers to this post)

I just figured that the high winds and debris were great for building up a static charge that just was randomly released. But now I’m not at all sure if that’s even plausible. So I guess I join everyone else in waiting until someone with more knowledge shows up.

I agree that debris ‘flashing’ is the simplest explanation.

Some questions about that hypothesis though; first, is this really how a poor quality video camera works? Those look like specular reflections like you get off of glass or smooth shiny surfaces, this would suggest an unobstructed sun, unlikely in a tornado unless the sun is very low in the sky. If these are just lightly coloured objects rather than specular reflections does a poor quality camera really bump up their contrast to the level they look like flashes of light?

A tornado funnel full of debris sounds to me like an excellent generator of static electricity. Static discharges seem pretty likely. Is there reason to believe there would not be a regular buildup and visible release of static charges?

tentative bump: is there no definite answer to the question?

Probably a bomb strapped to the bottom of the tornado by the government to ensure the damage was maximal. :slight_smile:

I assumed that they were transformers too. In the early 60s, I sat through a hurricane in Orland Florida ‘protecting’ the base finance office. Anyway, I sat up during the entire episode and there were many transformer explosions which looked exactly like that.