Sun, May 18, 2003
Helicopter pilot and news reporter Johnny Rowlands
put life and limb on the line when he used a Bell JetRanger to
track two tornados on May 4 and May 8.
Flying "NewsChopper 9" for KMBC-TV in Kansas City, Missouri,
Rowlands delivered running commentary, provided footage of the
storms, and helped warn residents as part of a live newscast during
the slew of tornados that swept across the Midwestern States in
"We were wall to wall with coverage on both storms," Rowlands
reported to HAI. "We actually showed live where the funnels were
touching down, then warned those in the path to take cover."
Tornados in the United States are classified according to a
system known as the Fujita or Fujita-Pearson scale. Storms are
given the notation "F" followed by a number between 1 and 6.
According to Rowlands, the first storm he tracked was classified an
F-4, or a "Devastating Tornado".
To get some idea of the conditions through which he was flying,
an F-4 tornado reaches wind speeds of 207-260 mph, can flatten
well-constructed buildings, blow some structures off of their
foundations, and hurl automobiles through the air.
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