AN AMAZING FACT: The United States has the dubious honor of having more tornadoes each year than every other country on the planet combined. These frightening storms can result in record numbers of injuries and deaths. One of the deadliest outbreaks ever seen was in April 1974. During a single 24-hour period, a record 148 tornadoes tore through the Midwest, killing more than three hundred people and injuring more than six thousand.
The worst tornadoes, classified as F5, are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. In the spring of 1999, a massive F5 tornado stayed on the ground near Oklahoma City for one hour and 25 minutes, killing 41 people, destroying thousands of homes and vehicles, and racking up approximately one billion dollars of damages. Researchers clocked the wind at 318 mph, which is the fastest surface wind ever recorded on Earth.
Tornadoes have been known to transport a thousand-pound bale of hay over 5 miles, drive a piece of straw through a 2×4 piece of wood, imbed a plastic music record halfway into a telephone pole, and leave a semi-truck dangling from a tree. On April 24, 1990, a 100-yard-wide tornado touched down in Barton County, Kansas, lifting 88 train cars off the tracks and stacking them three to four cars high. Tornadoes have also done some bizarre things like putting cows in treetops. An unusual incident occurred in 1957 in Thomasville, Alabama: thousands of small fish, frogs, and crayfish fell from the sky. A tornado had pulled up lake water some miles away, and as the winds lost strength, the little animals rained down across the countryside.
In the Bible, God’s judgment is sometime pictured as a tornado: “Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord has gone forth in fury—a violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked” (Jeremiah 23:19). But God’s people don’t need to fear! “When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation” (Proverbs 10:25). In fact, one of God’s righteous, Elijah, even rode a tornado to heaven!
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 2 Kings 2:11