About the Author

Me chasing in Lane County, Kansas.

Author of ExtremePlanet, Maximilian Hagen, chasing in Lane County, Kansas, with Jim Leonard, Michael Laca, Kathy Velasquez and Linda Kitchen in May of 2008. (Image by Kathy Velasquez)

I am a storm chaser and science fanatic who has documented a fair number of tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural phenomena on camera. The content of my blog relates to topics I find the most fascinating – the strongest, the largest, the most intense.

Pseudo-information is abundant on the internet, and inaccurate facts often find their way into official sources. All of the material in my blog has been taken from scientific reports, first-hand media and logical deductions from that information. Nothing is more satisfying than reading incredible facts that are not just amazing but also true. I love the works of Christopher C. Burt – his passion for accuracy and creating a story out of data points is fascinating.

Dissenting opinions, comments and suggestions for future articles are welcomed. Anybody can respond, whether they have a log-in or not.

For direct contact, e-mail me at extremeplanetmax@gmail.com.

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39 thoughts on “About the Author

  1. Absolutely amazing site. Thank you from all the people who have a passion for extreme weather! Keep it up!


    Helena, AL

  2. Why isn’t Greensburg, Kansas, or two subsequent tornadoes in the family on your list? I saw the damage in both Greensburg and in the City of Andover and Greensburg was more impressive. Greensburg, Trousdale, and Macksville were very severe. Greensburg was F-5 but the latter two didn’t hit any structures that would have allowed that rating. That said, the Doppler couplets on these tornadoes were likely the strongest ever measured on an -88D.

    • Mike – I’m familiar with your book and flattered you wrote on my blog.

      I didn’t include the other members of the Greensburg family because they caused no fatalities, which is the criterion I use to remove the hundreds of violent tornadoes that hit nothing. I have yet to see a damage picture from the Trousdale event (I’d love to), but from what I’ve heard it was a very high-end storm.

      I also saw the damage in Greensburg, though it was during a chase trip in May of 2008 so much of the effect was lost. The extensive imagery of the storm shows a huge swath of F3 damage and some F4 damage, but very little F5 damage considering the massive size and slow movement of the tornado. From what I have seen, most of the trees in town were not fully debarked, the vehicles were not mangled beyond recognition and the vegetation was not scoured from the ground. I have seen photographs around the pond just outside town that show pretty incredible debarking, but not near the destroyed homes. The few storm chasers I have spoken too about the storm seemed to share my sentiments.

      Considering that the Jarrell and Greensburg storms likely affected locations for similar periods of time (greater than 2 minutes), it seems clear the Jarrell tornado was a much more violent storm. I’m interested to hear you feel the damage in Andover (I’m assuming you mean near the mobile home park) was less intense than Greensburg. I felt very much the opposite, but I didn’t see either in person.

      I am open to changing any of the tornado’s on the list (which I have already done more than a dozen times) based on photographic evidence.

  3. One aspect of comparison between 1974 and 2011 I found missing: population. 100 million more people now–had to have some effect,The country seemed empty then compared to today…nice site

    • Good point, although the random nature of tornadoes makes population density a less relevant factor unless the tornadoes followed the exact same path. The number of homes destroyed gives a more comparable statistic, and in that regard the outbreaks were quite similar.

  4. I’ve read through the majority of the articles you’ve written and I find your approach to analyzing tornadoes fascinating and refreshing. Most others focus mainly on structural damage and loss of life and neglect to mention other factors such as wind rowing and granulation of debris which can paint the intensity of a tornado in a whole different light.

    I agree one hundred percent with your view that wind speeds in tornadoes are grossly underestimated and the science behind it is undeniable.

    I have two suggestions for future articles:

    1. The Andover tornado – Your individual write-ups of tornadoes are my favorite articles on the site and I’ve been fascinated by the Andover tornado for a long time now. For as much as the tornado itself was captured on film, detailed analysis of the aftermath and the heaviest areas of damage is hard to find. Being such a well-known tornado, I imagine a lot of people would be interested in seeing your view on it in more detail.

    2. The Chandler-Lake Wilson F5 – As a resident of Minnesota, I’ve been trying for a long time to find information and damage pictures of this tornado, both of which you seem to have a great deal of. I noticed that it was listed as a potential top-10 tornado that wasn’t included on your list due to the low death toll. I’ve only ever seen one video of the tornado but it was one of the most impressive that I’ve seen.

    Another idea if there is not enough information out there for an entire post about the Chandler-Lake Wilson tornado would be a list of less-covered tornadoes. I have seen a lot of people looking for more information on strong tornadoes with little information around such as the Guin, Alabama F5 during the Super Outbreak and the Niles-Wheatland F5, both of which caused incredible damage.

    Keep up the great work

    • Dillon,

      I would eventually like to do some posts on all of the F5 tornadoes that occurred in the 80’s and 90’s. I got a good amount of material on the Andover storm but not too much on the Chandler event at this point beyond the NWS survey, some youtube movies and a research article that mentions it. The tornado might not have received an EF5 rating today due to the quality of the homes that were destroyed (well-built but not of “superior construction”) but it certainly had the potential to sweep away hundreds of homes had it hit a more populated area.

      If I have the opportunity to visit Minnesota again I’d head to a local library and get more information from archived newspapers.

  5. Today is the three year anniversary of the largest tornado outbreak in Minnesota history. http://www.crh.noaa.gov/images/mpx/StormReports/17June2010.pdf

    As it happens, the next day was my mother’s birthday and we headed south to Bemidji on the 17th for a vacation. I remember being a bit concerned because the TOR:CON values were astronomical that day.


    We ended up going anyways and we were about 10 miles outside of Bemidji before the severe weather started. We ended up in a horrible rainstorm with strong winds. Not being used to driving in such horrible weather, we ended up turning around several times until the rain stopped, unsure of which direction we were facing. It seemed like every time we would turn around, the winds would change direction.

    We eventually made it to a gas station and waited there until a hailstorm let up. Outside of the hotel we were staying in, a group of storm spotters were outside in the parking lot watching the skies for an hour or two, an ominous sign. The tornado sirens went off at least 3 times in Bemidji that day, but thankfully the town wasn’t hit.

    As somebody who has loved researching severe weather events for a while now, experiencing something like this first hand was one of the best days in recent memory.

  6. The Greensburg, Kansas tornado was definitely not as strong as the Andover, Kansas tornado. The Andover tornado ripped well-built homes off their foundations and snapped some of the anchorage bolts, trees were completely debarked, the ground was massively scoured, a number of vehicles were wadded beyond recognition, and many types of incredible phenomena occurred. I have a lot of family members who live in that and said the damage in some areas was so complete as to be unrecognizable. My cousin told me that all that remained of a gas station was a slab of concrete. She said that a church made out of brick was completely swept away all that remained was the door. Your aerial view photos Max show the incredible scouring of the ground and well-built homes swept cleanly away. The Greensburg tornado was very intense but like you said there was more intense tree debarking by the river and damage appeared to be at its strongest point which I think was borderline EF4/EF5 damage. Another thing you said Max was the Greensburg tornado failed to debark numerous trees, no presence of fine granulated debris, vehicles were not destroyed beyond recognition, and also very little evidence of massive ground scouring.

  7. If you do not think Greensburg debarked trees you are incorrect. Unfortunately, I have no way to post a photo here but I assure trees were completely debarked in the city of Greensburg.

    • Mike – Send the links to any pictures if you can. I know one of the areas determined to have EF5 damage was adjacent to the water tower. I just checked out some pictures of that area and I did see some debarking, but the majority of the trees were defoliated but largely intact.

  8. I am not saying the Greensburg tornado did not completely debark any trees but it was very few in comparison to other events. I think the Greensburg tornado was a very devastating tornado and it did an immense amount of widespread EF3 damage, with some isolated EF4 damage and maybe very spotty EF5 damage. Widespread EF3 damage can definitely look very devastating but it is definitely different than seeing widespread or even isolated EF4 and EF5 damage. I tend to believe that most 2+ mile wide tornadoes are not necessarily going to be capable of inflicting the highest level of damage though I still think they would produce streaks of EF3 and EF4 damage. IMO I think that most tornadoes that get that large tend to weaken somewhat and may be incapable of inflicting the highest level of damage.

  9. Absolutely phenomenal website. Your analyses are exceptional, and the shear volume of information you have supplied is astounding. I have read and reread most of them, and it truly is amazing. Anyway, as a tornado aficionado, I just wanted to applaud your work. Thanks again.

  10. Extremeplanet,
    Thanks for an absolutely brilliant blog!
    I’d like to hear your (or others’) opinion on an issue related to the under-/overestimation of tornadic winds. A while ago I participated in a discussion about a tornado in Montgomery County (see link below). To cut a long story short: the NWS estimated the max wind speed to be 75mph, while the forward speed (movement of parent storm) was 60mph. Logically, this means that
    the wind speed in the circulation was 15mph (75-60) and that winds on the left side were -45 mph (15-60). In other words that the wind on the left side is blowing backwards from the point of view of the circulation. When I say logically, I mean mathematically. Beyond that, it’s not logical/sensible at all to me. A 15mph tornado (I have never heard of such a thing) equaling a tiny dust devil travels for 17 miles without the circulation being dissolved by the counteracting winds, downing trees and doing other sorts of damage. This strikes me as rather absurd. Also, wouldn’t it be very difficult to determine that it was a tornado rather than straight line winds given that the strong winds (75 and 45/right and left) capable of downing trees blow in the same direction? Bottom line, isn’t it sensible to think that rotational speed was larger than 15mph (meaning that max speed was more than 75mph) and that there are many similar cases where tornadic winds are underestimated?

    • First, yes I believe the winds were under-estimated – as they almost always are (like one commenter said, a 17-mile path length is indicative of greater intensity than 75mph). The EF-scale is based on structural damage, so the scarcity of buildings in most areas means that the vast majority of tornadoes fail to leave damage indicators congruent with the storm’s peak intensity.

      Second, the combination of forward speed is quite a bit more complex than simply adding or subtracting the tornado’s motion. Exactly how it works is beyond my knowledge, but I know DOW contour maps are exceptionally intricate due to the constant presence of varying air motions and sub vortices.

      A very interesting video was posted from inside the West Liberty, KY, tornado of 2012. The storm moved at or in excess of 70mph, so wildly varying forces existed within the funnel. In the video posted below, there appears to be little horizontal motion as the tornado first passes over, yet the updraft of the storm remains in tact – so a roof is ripped from a structure and tossed almost vertically into the air. Once the backside of the tornado comes around, horizontal winds in excess of 170mph blast through the area like a nuclear shock wave. (The video is the second one in the clip, beginning around :50)

      • Thanks for your reply.
        Interesting video indeed. I guess it illustrates the exceptional complexity that you talk about. I see the point that merely adding and subtracting the forward speed doesn’t account for the phenomena in question. Still, it seems to be a common belief (and a logical assumption) that forward speed adds to the wind that is moving in the same direction, i.e. that the right side of the tornado is stronger than the left side. Perhaps the issue of how much weaker the left side is needs to consider different mechanisms (which are way beyond my understanding)? Also, according to the oversimplified addition/ subtraction model the back side and front side of the tornado should be equal in strength. The video you referred to seems to suggest otherwise, given that what is responsible for the final “blast” actually qualifies as the back side. On that note, here’s another video to ponder:

        I might be wrong, but to me it seems as if the truck “explodes” slightly after the visible funnel has passed?

  11. I saw a similar such blast on one video of the 2011 Tuscaloosa tornado. I had always though it was inflow into the right side of the tornado.
    Also, the idea of simply adding and subtracting the forward speed to get the winds on the right and left sides doesn’t quite work, as it fails to take into account the vertical component of tornadic winds. So even with a simplified model of a tornado you have to involve some trigonometry.

  12. I enjoyed your article on the 1997 Jarrell Texas Tornado very much. I lived in Cedar Park Texas on that day, and I will never forget it. I am still tramatized from that day.

  13. After coming across your site and detailed analysis of so many tornadoes, I’ve spent days now going back to re-watch all the videos, news coverage, and others’ accounts, while following paths on interactive before and after maps, or Google Earth. I feel like I can’t learn enough about something so fascinating, yet so foreign to me (I’ve only ever lived in California).
    I can’t thank you enough for all the research you’ve done and the time spent sharing it in words easy to understand. I also question current methods used to classify tornadoes and appreciate how much you back up your findings with so much science.

  14. Incredible site! I agree about the Greensburg not being so strong. With debarking and Ef-5 rating home damage, I consider it a low end Ef-5. What was your thoughts on the Mayflower-Vilonia, Arkansas tornado?

    • I’ve been talking about the Vilonia tornado under a few other posts. I believe the tornado left damage indicative of EF5 intensity. In fact, I believe that the Vilonia damage may deserve a place in my list of the 20 strongest tornadoes post-1970. The tornado left ground scouring and extreme vegetation damage similar to the 2013 Moore tornado. Additionally, it swept away entire rows of homes, nearly flattened a well-constructed school and swept away a large section of an outlet mall on Main Street, which was built with what appear to be thick, concrete/cinderblock walls.

      • Thanks for responding. My amateur opinion is the same. While superior construction is a reliable indicator, the rows of homes lifted off their slabs as well as other damage leads me to believe that the wind spread was around 195-210 mph (EF-5). Your analysis is great!

  15. I have photos of that day and the days after, when my friends and I went to search for our classmates.

  16. Excellent site enjoyed reading

    Can you please make sure the Wikipedia page for strongest tornado records includes the jarrell tornado right now it doesn’t ???

    • Mike – when it comes to records, you need objective parameters like path length, path width, DOW velocities etc… It wouldn’t be accurate to say the Jarrell tornado was “the strongest in history” – there have undoubtably been tornadoes capable of causing more extreme damage, but most storms occur in rural areas where their destructive nature is unrealized.

  17. Hello Max,
    I would like to add a minor correction to the article regarding the 1974 Xenia tornado. The place where 5 people died was the A&W Root Beer Stand, not R&W given in your article. I worked there, missed the tornado by 15 minutes (was there to pick up my paycheck), and knew the two carhops killed there (the other 3 deaths were customers in a car).
    Thank you.

  18. Max-
    I have a question regarding determining intensity using tree damage. The May 25th, 2016 Chapman, KS tornado was rated EF4 based on damage to homes. I visited the site 6 months later, and took a picture of some trees that appeared to have been snapped a few feet off the ground. I would love to hear your thoughts on that damage and on the Chapman tornado in general. Thanks!

  19. Take down pictures of our TOWN!
    Don’t show dead animals, you are sick!!! Don’t show areas that took the lives of so many people that due to
    Political reasons show how high the death toll really was ..,…

  20. One thing that’s come back to my mind recently is that the Enhanced Fujita scale sets too high of a construction requirement for assigning EF5 damage. For example the NCDC page for the 2013 Washington, IL tornado says that well-constructed homes were swept away, and yet the rating remains as EF4. It seems to me that this results in a rating that depends more on the happenstance of what the tornado hits than on its actual intensity; even more than the original Fujita scale. From damage surveys of other EF4-rated tornadoes it seems now that only a small minority of homes could actually give an EF5 rating. What are your thoughts? Do you think the Washington tornado would have been rated F5 had it occurred 20 years ago?

  21. You’re a very talented writer. I appreciate the accuracy of your reports and how you provide verified scientific data with links to the source. I hope you continue covering these events because they provide powerful information and awareness to the public.

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