Update 05/01/11: The same photograph is now making the rounds as having originated in the Alabama Outbreak of April 28, 2011. As you’ll read below, this is untrue. This photograph seems to make the rounds following every significant outbreak. For some truly astounding images that actually originated from the 2011 Alabama outbreak, click here.
(MeteorologyNews.com) In the wake of the tragedy that struck Little Sioux, IA on June 11th, a photograph of an ominous looking cloud has been making the rounds through email, falsely attributed to the fatal storm that struck the Little Sioux Boy Scout Camp that evening, killing four and injuring dozens. The image going around the internet, often titled “Little Sioux Boy Scout camp twister” was not in fact a photograph of a tornado – it is not even the storm that struck that Boy Scout camp location on the evening of June 11th, but instead of a non-tornadic storm the night before (June 10, 2008) approximately 220 miles away in the town of Orchard in Mitchell County, Iowa.
This image, along with its inaccurate caption, appears to be going viral – reaching millions of viewers via email forwards, message boards, and websites. While the image now appears on dozens of websites with multiple, conflicting captions, the image first appeared through local media websites in Iowa on the evening of June 10th or the morning of June 11th, prior to the tornadic supercell that struck Little Sioux Iowa later on June 11th. Some of the earliest reports of this image appearing online include a posting on Mason City, Iowa’s Globe Gazette website on the morning of June 11th (direct image link). The image was also posted on Mason City’s KIMT website containing the following caption:
This picture was taken by Lori Mehmen of Orchard, IA taken in her front yard looking east of her house. Picture taken at 9:04 p.m. on June 10th, 2008.
The caption above appears to be the most credible, neither calling the feature a tornado, nor attributing this image to the Little Sioux, IA storm. Rather than a tornado, the image appears to be of a shelf cloud or other feature of a well-structured supercell thunderstorm. Whether a funnel or tornado exists cannot be discerned from this still photograph, as evidence of rotation is not clearly visible.
The image appeared on the heavily-trafficked news website Drudge Report on Friday, June 13th above several headline stories concerning the recent storms and flooding in Iowa, although it was not directly attributed to the Little Sioux, IA storm (view Drudge Report Screen Capture).
Among those falsely spreading the “Little Sioux Boy Scout Camp” attribute, CNN continues to host this image with an improper caption as part of its “citizen journalist” I-Report department; a segment of the CNN website that displays reader-submitted photographs, apparently without verification or vetting of any sort. The image was posted to their website on Friday, June 13th, 2008 with the following caption:
Posted by: Orion5243 // 1 day ago // Omaha, Nebraska. Here is a picture of the Tornado that hit the Boy Scout Camp in Western Iowa.
Although readers have already posted numerous comments regarding this image being improperly attributed to the Little Sioux, IA storm and CNN failing to properly attribute the image to the photographer, Lori Mehmen, the image still appears on their website (direct link) as of midday on Saturday, June 14th.
The National Weather Service has completed their damage survey of the Little Sioux Scout Camp tornado. Becky Griffis, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service office outside of Omaha, rated the tornado as an EF-3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. A fund has been set up to aid in the Little Sioux, IA relief effort.