Power Flash within Giant Tornado

Power Flashes in a Giant Tornado

This video frame shows one of four bright flashes observed when a one mile wide, violent "wedge" tornado snapped high-voltage lines near Abell, OK, on the night of 3 May 1999. Being concentrated to a point, blue-green to white to orange in color, and near the ground, these "power flashes" are usually easy for the trained spotter to distinguish from lightning. Most tornadoes with funnels are small enough for at least part of their outline to be illuminated from below by power flashes. This was an exception. The Abell (a.k.a. Mulhall) tornado was simply too wide for either side to be lit; however, churning debris and cloud material could be seen with the eyes. The observers could also see the tornado itself at times, when lightning flashes too faint for video would outline one edge or the other. [Lightning was brighter and more frequent earlier, when the tornado was smaller.]