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Q: Tornado Lifting Force ( No Answer,   3 Comments )
Subject: Tornado Lifting Force
Category: Science > Earth Sciences
Asked by: subcrtical-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 21 Nov 2005 12:42 PST
Expires: 21 Dec 2005 12:42 PST
Question ID: 595888
Simply put, can an F5 tornado vertically lift an M1A2 Abrams tank off the ground?

Keep in mind the general aerodynamics of the tank in comparison to
other objects of similar weight when making comparisons. (train cars
for instance have been rumored to have been lifted off their tracks by
tornados; however, they have very large and broad surfaces that would
make little work for a strong tornado).

When I say vertically lifted, I mean both treads legitimately off the
ground, even for a short period of time. "Legitimately off" does not
mean .001cm off- at least half a foot here.

The Abrams tank weighs 69.5 tons.

An F5 tornado produces wind speeds between 261-315mph.
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Tornado Lifting Force
From: elids-ga on 21 Nov 2005 13:46 PST
I'm afraid the answer is no. 

It is not that it doesn't have the speed for that, it certainly does.
The problem is in the shape of the tank, since the tank does not
provide 'an air foil' for the air rushing above it to create a lifting
force the tornado in this case would be limited to it's 'sucking'
capabilities. That is generally assumed to be around 200 lbs per
square foot, certainly enough to lift a car but nowhere near enough to
lift a tank.

Now if you were to provide that tank with the wings of a 747...
Subject: Re: Tornado Lifting Force
From: j123ques-ga on 23 Nov 2005 23:44 PST
May 27 1931
---Various information---
*May 27, 1931 - 
A tornado struck the "Empire Builder" near Moorhead, Minnesota. Five
coaches weighing 70 tons each were lifted off the track. One was
carried 80 feet. 57 of the 117 passengers were injured and one was
blown through a window and killed
*The power of tornadoes
A tornado in Minnesota, USA, in 1931 lifted an 83-tonne train 25
metres (80 ft) into the air and dropped it in a ditch. Many of its 117
passengers died. As for a tornado which hit Missouri, USA in March
1925, it was only 274 metres (900 ft) across but it killed 800 people
and uprooted trees, swept cars over rooftops and hurled aside trains.
On 26 May 1917, a single tornado sped 471 km (293 miles) across Texas,
USA. It travelled at 88-120 kph (55-75 mph) for about 7 hours and 20
*Interesting Fact: In 1931 in the United States, a tornado lifted a
train that weighed 91 tons. It lifted the train into the air and
dropped it in a ditch.
*In 1931, a tornado in Minnesota lifted an 83 ton railroad train with
117 passengers and carried it for 80 feet.
*The Northern Pacific Railroad's passenger train, the Empire Builder,
was derailed south of Moorhead. The tornado literally picked it up and
moved it!
53 people were injured and two died.

In January 1974 a tornado in McComb, Miss., tossed three 40-passenger
school buses - fortunately no one was in them - into woods near a
school. All three buses cleared an eight-foot embankment without
hitting it.
In May 1970 a tornado in Lubbock, Texas, moved an empty fertilizer
tank weighting 26,000 pounds about 3,900 feet, Investigators couldn't
determine whether it was airborne all the way or whether it rolled and
In August 1990 near Plainfield, Ill, a tornado hit a tractor-trailer.
The trailer was unhitched and ended up in a field about 1,100 feet
from the road after bouncing five times. It was an open trailer
carrying a load of scrap metal, most of which fell out. The tractor
ended up about 375 feet from the road without bouncing at all.
*The outstanding example of lifting force was the tornado which struck
the Empire Builder, a train from Seattle to Chicago, as it sped along
at sixty miles an hour near Moorhead, Minnesota, late in the afternoon
on May 27, 1931. The tornado hit at almost a right angle. Five of the
coaches, each weighing sixty-four tons, were torn loose from the
engine and lifted from the rails. One, with its 117 passengers, was
carried through the air and laid down in a ditch eighty feet away. The
seven other coaches were derailed; only the engine and tender remained
on the tracks. One passenger was killed when hurled through a window,
and fifty-seven others were injured.
The crack passenger train, "Empire Builder," bound from Seattle to
Chicago, was struck by a tornado. The train was
traveling nearly 60 miles an hour when struck. Only the 136-ton
locomotive remained on the track.
Location: East of Moorhead, Minnesota
Photo Date: 1931 May 27
*Here are pictures of the train:
Story about it:
On May 27, 1931, the Great Northern Railway's crack transcontinental
passenger train, "The Empire Builder," was heading eastbound from
Seattle to Chicago. Less than an hour out of Fargo, North Dakota,
disaster struck.
Late that afternoon, severe thunderstorms raged through Clay County,
Minnesota. South of Moorhead, the clouds twisted and spun into a
tornado that stormed northeastward, cutting a wide path of
At approximately 4:30 PM, The Empire Builder was eight miles past
Moorhead, near the community of Sabin, when it ran directly into the
severe weather. As the train sped southeast across the Minnesota
prairie at 60 mph, an F3 tornado struck it nearly broadside.
The force of the tornado derailed each of the five 70-ton passenger
coaches. It carried one car through the air and deposited it in a
ditch eighty feet from the tracks. Only the 136-ton locomotive and
tender remained on the track.
Fifty-seven of the 170 passengers were injured, but only one was
killed, as he was hurled through a window and crushed in the wreckage.
The railroad quickly sent a rescue train out from Fargo to gather the
injured, who were then distributed among Fargo hospitals.
The wreck of the Empire Builder was not the first time a Great
Northern passenger train had run afoul of a northwestern Minnesota
tornado. In June 1919, a twister struck a passenger train just behind
the baggage car outside Fergus Falls, about 55 miles southeast of
Moorhead.  - The Weather Notebook
Incredible tornado 261-318 mph Strong frame houses lifted off
foundations and carried considerable distances to disintegrate;
automobile sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100 meters;
trees debarked; steel re-inforced concrete structures badly damaged.

(This is an what if tornado or a perfect tornado)
F6 Inconceivable tornado 319-379 mph These winds are very unlikely.
The small area of damage they might produce would probably not be
recognizable along with the mess produced by F4 and F5 wind that would
surround the F6 winds. Missiles, such as cars and refrigerators would
do serious secondary damage that could not be directly identified as
F6 damage. If this level is ever achieved, evidence for it might only
be found in some manner of ground swirl pattern, for it may never be
identifiable through engineering studies
think it would at least roll a tank if not pick it up a few feet as it
rolled and bounced off the ground only if the wind hit it from the
Subject: Re: Tornado Lifting Force
From: j123ques-ga on 24 Nov 2005 21:55 PST
A very strong F5 tornado at 318 mph would apply about 56,700 lbs
(28.35 tons) to the side of a M1A2 Abrams tank, that might could be
enough to get it tilted on its side.
If the wind tilted it on its side and caught the bottom it would apply
155,520 lbs (77.76 tons) of force over the bottom of the tank. That
would tumbble the tank and maybe get a few feet of air!

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