From the ABC 7 Weather team

WATCH: A wormy rope tornado wriggles in Oklahoma

September 19, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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On Saturday, a weird thread-shaped tornado stretched for miles in the open sky in Grant County, Okla. Here's what it looked like.

No sir, Mr. Grant County: I ain't applying for your immediate job opening for a heavy-duty-equipment operator. I heard about the kind of tornadoes you got yourself in Oklahoma, and I don't want none of it.

Exhibit A: This armpit hair from hell that stretched out over the prairie near Wakita (a town featured in Twister!) on Saturday. What in the name of Scott Momaday is this thing?

The description on the Weather Channel calls it an "elephant-trunk tornado," though it doesn't jibe with the descriptions of elephant-trunk twisters floating around on the net. That flavor of funnel seems to be a tapered, swaying beast that resembles more the shape of a classic tornado. More likely that the WC was referring to a twister that developed at an earlier point that day, as seen in the entire video filmed by Norman City chaser Ben Holcomb.

(Not enough elephant trunk for ya? Here's a pachydermal tornado from the Storm Chasers. It is three miles long and is "one of the most sought-after shot for chasers," according to the guys beholding it.)

So what is this tapeworm in the sky? Tornadoes come in all shapes and styles, from stovepipe and wedge to multivortex and sidewinder, but this feller is probably a rope tornado, one of the final stages that many twisters go through before dying. A rope tornado sticks its immense proboscis into the ground sometimes from a height of miles, spinning away into the narrowest penstroke in the sky. Nevertheless, their thin build can be deceptive as circulation is often still going strong. According to Chase Day:

Tornadoes can be dangerous in the rope stage. This was proven during research of tornadoes that hit during the rope stage and caused F-5 damage, the worst damage which leaves only the foundation of a well built house.... [Sometimes, injuries] occur when unsuspecting motorists drive into these dust clouds that may not rotate very fast on the outside when a narrow tornado is buried deep inside the obscuring dust.

For another angle on Saturday's tornadic weather in Oklahoma, consult the below video from another chaser, CoasterTroy80. Skip ahead to 2:40 to view the great white worm:

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