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Planet Earth

Texas Twister Cuts Destructive Path Visible From Space

Even though the tornado was not as powerful as others spawned by a supercell storm system in the South, it scoured out a path visible to the Landsat 8 satellite.

ImaGeo iconImaGeoBy Tom YulsmanApril 29, 2020 9:15 PM
Texas Twister's Path of Destruction
The Landsat 8 satellite acquired this image showing the track of a tornado that tore through Texas on April 23, 2020. (Credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

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Trees ripped out of the ground, cars tossed in the air, and homes shredded into splinters — the aftermath of a tornado can be a frightening sight to behold from the ground.

But what about from space? Is it possible to see a tornado’s path of destruction in satellite imagery?

As the Landsat 8 satellite image above shows, the answer is yes. That somewhat-uneven line marked by arrows is the path of a tornado spawned by a supercell storm system that churned across nearly 300 miles of the Southern U.S. on April 22 and 23, 2020.

The trail of damage visible in the image was caused by an EF-2 tornado that cut through Jasper and Newton counties in Texas, with peak winds of 130 mph. It damaged roofs and snapped trees along a 37-mile-long track.

“While this tornado passed through a rural area and caused no injuries, the same supercell storm system spawned several other tornadoes, some of which caused injuries, deaths, and severe damage to homes in several places in the region,” according to NASA.

The video above, consisting of imagery acquired by the GOES-16 weather satellite, shows one supercell that was part of the system as it tracked from eastern Texas into Louisiana. As the storm crosses into Louisiana, the video stops. But it kept going all the way to near the Louisiana-Mississippi border.

A supercell is a particularly dangerous kind of thunderstorm featuring a deep, rotating updraft. They typically produce strong downdrafts, high winds, large hail and, sometimes, tornadoes.

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