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First Tornado ever photographed: Howard, South Dakota 1884

The clouds above the funnel in the one surviving photograph were retouched when it was originally developed, as was the standard practice at the time. (Image: F.N. Robinson photo 8/24/1884, Howard City, Dakota Territory)

The clouds above the funnel in the one surviving photograph were retouched when it was originally developed, as was the standard practice at the time. (Image: F.N. Robinson photo 8/24/1884, Howard City, Dakota Territory)


Dalia Ibrahim
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 4:43 PM -

In today's world of smartphones and digital cameras the chances of capturing a weather phenomenon are much greater than they were a just a few years ago -- let alone more than a century ago. 

In addition, with modern technology such as Doppler radar, satellites and weather models, meterologists are able to not only pinpoint where severe weather will strike, but determine an approximate time it will occur -- allowing storm chasers the opportunity to digitally capture their next big catch. 

With that said, let's rewind back to 1884, the year the photo (featured above) was captured. 


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Taken in Howard, South Dakota on August 28, 1884, it was the first tornado ever photographed. 

Now imagine: no radar, no satellites and no models, and yet this weather observer was able to capture this iconic photo, in just a moments notice...making the image all the more incredible! 


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It is written that F.N. Robinson had observed the tornado from a street some 3 kilometres east of the storm track. 

Robinson - with the help of an assistant - set up cameras in the middle of a street intersection to capture one of four tornadoes that touched down over the southeastern corner of the Dakota Territory that fateful day. 


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According to Signal Corps weather observers, the twister was visible for an extended period of time on the horizon as it approached the city of Howard, which is likely the reason why Robinson was able to snap three exposures of it. 

Contemporary records and survivors' recollections indicate that the storms were F3 or F4 on the Fujita scale.

With files from mentalfloss.com

Stormhunters continue their chase through tornado alley

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