Can a human being survive a ride in a tornado?

Dateline article| David Murphy|

by David Murphy

While anything is possible, in general, the answer is no.

A tornado draws all manner of objects into its vortex and whirls them around so rapidly that they become virtual meteors inside the storm. I've seen evidence of this at various tornado damage sites. In Honey Brook, Chester County, a relatively small tornado was still strong enough to impale telephone poles with small wooden splinters from trees. The ground was also littered with larger splinters that had obviously been shot from the funnel like spears.

Imagine a human being inside a tornado vortex. Not only would the strong twisting winds exert pressure on the skeleton and organs, he or she would also have to endure debris inside the storm which would also induce injury.

Lastly, exiting the funnel is a risky proposition. Since the winds inside a tornado rise quickly, an object with the relative weight of a human body might easily be bourn to a great height before being cast out. The fall alone, without all the earlier mentioned problems would probably be enough to cause death, especially if the person was thrown out at a good speed.

While there have been reports and claims of people surviving brief rides in tornadoes, the vast majority do not. And by the way, this doesn't happen too often, because most people attempt to take cover from twisters and aren't outside as they pass. Most tornado deaths occur when buildings collapse on victims, or when the cars and mobile homes they're occupying are tossed about or smashed.

Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.