A gust, a storme, a spoute, a loume gaile, an eddy wind, a flake of wind, a Turnado.

Captain John Smith from An Accidence, or the Pathway to Experience Necessary for all Young Seamen (1626).

In an age of storm chasers and increasingly spectacular photos, Lucille Handberg’s celebrated picture may seem undramatic, but for the moment this is still the most celebrated tornado photo to date. I knew the picture from an early age thanks to its appearance in a children’s encyclopedia. When Deep Purple’s Stormbringer album appeared in 1974 (below) that imperilled barn, and the shape of the twister, was immediately recognisable.


Lucille Handberg took her famous photo on 8th July, 1927 as the tornado passed by Jasper, Minnesota. It’s a surprise to see from the account in The Milwaukee Sentinel that there’s at least one other picture. I tried searching for a larger image of the second photo but photo libraries still control its reproduction. The copy above is from an account of the tornado here.


Stormbringer (1974) by Deep Purple. Illustration by Joe Garnett, design by John Cabalka.

Michael Moorcock has been known to complain that this album stole the title of one of his Elric novels, something the group denied. (There’s also an earlier album by John and Beverley Martyn with the same title.) Whatever the case, it’s a cover I’ve never liked; a winged horse trailing rainbow lightning…ugh. The painting (and tornado) wraps onto the back cover where there is indeed a storm brewing.


Tinderbox (1986) by Siouxsie & The Banshees.

Much better is the sleeve for the Banshees’ Tinderbox which puts the actual photo in either a frame or a window. (Or a box?) The design is by the Brothers Quay.

While we’re on the subject, there’s a short video here showing the tornado tests for The Wizard of Oz. That equally famous tornado was created by a large muslin sock spinning its way through a miniature landscape, something which still looks remarkably effective.


Update: My thanks to Stephen O’Malley for sending this view of a cyclone in Oklahoma.

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One thought on “Tornadoes”

  1. Its a surreal thing the first time one sees a funnel cloud form. The formation itself is typically so smooth and fluid in its motion, that were not for the ominous colors the sky often takes during such storms, commonly off-black gray clouds amassing across a dirty amber sky, it would almost seem more quietly strange than dangerous, that is, until the winds touch ground and shit starts flying everywhere.

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