Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/771

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CYCLONES AND TORNADOES.

the nearer it approaches to a perfect point, the greater will be the accumulation: a high tension is caused, and the electricity must escape by some conductor. So, in the tornado-cloud, the smaller the point or stem, the greater the force exerted when it meets the earth.

The bounding or swaying motion of the tornado can be illustrated by the experiment of the "electrical puppets": the cloud above forming the upper plate, and the earth beneath the lower one. All light objects between are drawn up, then thrown down—being first attracted, then repelled.

While the tornado, on its course, possesses four distinct motions—as previously stated there seems little doubt that the central force, or the one exerting the greatest power, is purely electrical, although the outer surface of the vortex be composed of wind moving at a rate of speed that can scarcely be comprehended.

So many readers are already familiar with statements frequently made regarding the tornado's strange freaks, that a few illustrations only will be given.

Mr. C—— states that, during the tornado which visited Sangamon County, Illinois, on May 18th of the present year, while himself and family had taken refuge in the cellar, a sulphurous smell prevailed, a ball of fire burst above them, and they were severely burned about the face and neck, but otherwise uninjured, although the house was torn from over then-heads.

The family of Mr. T——, who had also sought shelter in a cellar from the same storm, were covered with a gummy substance, which would not wash off! This substance might have been formed from the sap of trees and juice of leaves, combined with the moist, heated atmosphere. In passing over the track of the tornado, the writer observed two large elm-trees torn out by the roots; one had fallen to the east, the other to the west, and the tops of both were firmly interlocked. A short distance from these, a white-oak tree, thirty inches in diameter, was broken off and lay upon the ground, the top toward the west; on top of this lay another large tree, which had stood in a northwest direction from the first. The rotary motion of the destructive force was here clearly proved. A thrifty young maple-tree, twelve inches in diameter, stood apart from other trees, near the edge of the storm's track. About six feet from the ground the bark was peeled entirely off for a distance of two feet. No broken limb, or other missile, lay near the tree, and its top was uninjured! Could this effect be produced by wind? Was it not, more likely, caused by concussion?

In the same tornado a whole orchard was swept away; the large trees carried one fourth of a mile, stripped of their bark and smaller limbs, and completely plastered with mud. A wagon-tire was torn from the wheel, straightened out, and driven into the side of a building. A flock of geese were plucked of their feathers, which were deposited in a hedge-fence, giving it a complete coating.