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Tornadoes Put Straw Through Poles

By Jesse Ferrell, Meteorologist/Community Director
5/21/2008, 12:56:44 PM

While I was cruising around on the Mythbusters site earlier (what a job on a Friday afternoon, huh?) I came across this question from a fellow surfer:

I have yet to see this myself but I have heard from a lot of farmers that when a tornado touches down it will embed pieces of straw and hay, unscathed, into wooden telephone poles. I have seen tornadoes pick pieces of someones barn up and drop it 15 to 20 miles away but have yet to see the straw in the pole trick. Do you think it is possible?

The answer, in short, is yes, they probably can, but I was unable to find any photos of this phenomenon online. It has been documented here and many other places that Google can tell you about. This site has a personal account describing a tornado that did such a thing in 1942. About.com states that "straw can be driven into telephone poles at speeds as low as 50 mph." Tornadic winds can approach 300 mph.

Certainly tornadoes have been known to embed things like records into telephone poles, as this NOAA Historical Weather Photo shows:


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And hurricanes, which have winds below the speeds achieved in most tornadoes, have been known to embed 1x4's and sheets of plywood in palm trees, per these photos from Hurricane Andrew in 1992:

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So, to borrow a Mythbusters' term, I'd call this one "Plausible."

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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