Fact Check

Florida Tornado

Photograph shows tornado that hit Central Florida in February 2007.

Published Feb 21, 2007

Claim:   Photograph shows tornado that hit Central Florida in February 2007.

Status:   Real photograph; inaccurate description.


[Collected via e-mail, February 2007]

Picture of Tornado in the Villages

A village resident took this photo of the Tornado

(for those of you who don't know, The Villages is a retirement housing area just a little north of Leesburg, FL, and we [they] had tremendous storms and tornadoes a couple of weeks ago - lots of damage and 20 deaths - no deaths at The Villages, but other places in the path of the storms)

[Collected via e-mail, February 2007]

Hey everyone, this is a picture of the tornado taken with a cell phone. In the right corner of the picture is the tower at Lake Sumter Landing. Jim got these from a victim of the storm.

[Collected via e-mail, February 2008]

Memphis Tornado

A friend of mine that works at the BNSF Railroad sent this picture to me a
few seconds ago. AWESOME!!! Someone in the tower took a picture as it
came through the yard and hit the Memphis ramp.

Origins:   The image displayed above

has become yet another "all-purpose" weather photo: Whenever a deadly tornado touches down somewhere in the U.S., this photograph gets trotted out and e-mailed around with text updated to match the new circumstances. It circulated after a series of violent storms hit Missouri in March 2006, began making the rounds again in mid-February 2007 after several tornadoes killed 21 people in Central Florida earlier that month, and hit inboxes yet again in February 2008 after deadly tornadoes that claimed 55 lives swept across Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

The picture of the tornado funnel and lightning bolt was indeed taken in Florida, but it long antedates the tornadoes that hit the state in February 2007. According to the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Melbourne, Florida, this photograph was snapped near Lake Okeechobee, Florida, on 15 June 1991. It has been available for purchase (in poster form) through the Tornado Project's on-line store since at least mid-2001.

Last updated:   14 February 2008

  Sources Sources:

    CNN.com.   "Severe Weather, Tornadoes Kill Dozens Across South."

    6 February 2008.

    Local6.com.   "Photo of Deadly Central Florida Tornado Circulating Internet Is Bogus."

    16 February 2007.

    Moberly Monitor-Index and Evening Democrat.   "Tornado Force Scale Adjusted."

    17 April 2006.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.