Fake Tornado Photograph Falsely Attributed to Boy Scout Camp Storm

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.


What? Get real, anyone whose from the tornado belt states whose has ever seen a tornado with their own eyes can tell that this is not a tornado, there is no revolution of that cloud, the leading edge of that cell is all wrong for a tornado.

I’ve never been in an actual toronado. But if that is one . Why is everything around it so still? From what I’ve seen on tv, it’s not like that! So, what gives? Why the lies? Claire

I have lived in Arkansas for 15 yrs and have been through a few tornadoes. They are almost always during heavy rain and hail with debris flying everywhere. I see none of that in this pic. In fact it looks like the sun is shining through the trees. I think this has been photo-shopped.

The cloud formation looks like one I saw on WeatherBug a few weeks ago. The comment from the photographer stated that it looked like it started to come down, but went back up. If it was a tornado, it didn’t touch down. And it was not in this setting. Someone did some real photo doctoring here.

THE picture. Does anyone really think that that much time was taken to “photoshop (?)” this startlingly scary photo so that we could all marvel at the bravery or stupidity of the photographer to take such a shot? I wonder if most of the naysayers are more impressed with their own sharp eyes and want others to know of that or persons of integrity articulating that they want no one to get credit for such a picture. As for myself, if my eyesight or my willingness to believe that this is a REAL shot, would doubt the veracity then I would have no willingness to believe most anything else of an unusual nature. Good picture,I was
startled and I didn’t immediately begin to doubt it.

Yes, Mr. Stuart – It is a good picture, BUT if you have any comprehension of knowledge of tornados, you would immediately know that this is not a tornado. Just a good picture of a thunderstorm. Before you criticize “naysayers” you should do some research yourself to find out what part of a thunderstorm a real tornado comes out of. AND, look closely for nonexistent rotation in this picture. CNN should be ashamed for not doing any checking whatsoever on their own part.

about the picture of the “tornado” Meteorologists have said this is called a mesocyclone cloud, with a wall cloud, no tornado, ..no funnel.. and as some have noticed and you can tell, there is no debris and the trees are not blowing half way to the ground… we live in tornado alley, and have seen a similar looking cloud once.. it was unreal… very similar to this one, but no tornado. susie in Omaha

Yes, Mesocyclone cloud is like you say “unreal” looking. So unreal looking that they could not use it in the movie “Twister” as viewers would call such a device “Hollywood special effects”. Some of them look like a “mother ship”, like a UFO. Quite a meteorological package of severe weather that can last a long time and travel quite a distance.

Darrell Kirk
Tornado Witness Radio

Its not photoshop, its a real picture.

Not of a tornado though, tornadoes are thin and whispy.

If this “cloud” was a hundred times bigger it might look like hurricane center, but its just a thunderstorm.

Sorry, BUT THIS PHOTO IS REAL AND NOT PHOTOSHOPED. I was there and have awesome video to prove what this storm was actually like. What you are seeing in the photo in one incredible surfaced base Mesocylone, that had a very nice wall cloud. However, this storm never produced a tornado, but a couple of very brief funnel clouds. Nothing more..

the buildings are actually in greensburg indiana. we had a tornado go through on may 25 and the pic turned up 3 days later. the tornado may not be real but those are def the buildings in greensburg.

Sorry Casey..the photo is not of a storm in your home town Greensburg, Indiana but is really from Orchard, Ia. The photo first turned up featured in the Mason City, Ia. Globe Gazette newspaper in June of 2008 one or two days after Lori Mehmen took the picture in her home town of Orchard, Ia. I’ve seen the online page at the Globe Gazette & read the accompanying article. Mason City is the nearest city with a regional newspaper and that is why it was used first in that paper.
Today I spoke to the U.S. Post Office Postmaster in Orchard, Ia. who said that she had spoken with Lori about the photo when her photo became a local news item. Orchard is a tiny hamlet where everyone knows everyone else.
So, the bottomlines are that the picture is not photo shopped nor is it from anywhere other than Orchard, Ia.

Your blog is really interesting to me and your subject matter is very relevant. I was browsing around and came across something you might find interesting. I was guilty of 3 of them with my sites. “99% of website owners are guilty of these five errors”. http://tinyurl.com/bn4kol9 You will be suprised how fast they are to fix.

This picture is NOT of a tornado nor is it a Photo Shopped image. This is a very real weather effect, but it’s not a tornado.

There’s people now circulating and claiming this same picture as the tornado that
took lives in parts of KY as well…

I’ve never seen a purple tornado and I never hope to see one….. Took me about a second and a half to figure out it is fake. There is absolutely zero damage being done to anything in that picture. Plus, it’s obvious that the “tornado” was plunked down into the picture. How do people fall for these things? Do they think EVERYTHING online is real?…is true?

I am really enjoying the theme/design of your website.
Do you ever run into any browser compatibility problems?
A few of my blog audience have complained about my blog not operating
correctly in Explorer but looks great in Firefox.
Do you have any tips to help fix this issue?

I’ll right away grab your rss as I can’t find your e-mail subscription

link or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly let me know so that I

could subscribe. Thanks.

Hi there, i read your blog from time to time and
i own a similar one and i was just

curious if you get a lot of spam responses? If so how do you stop it,
any plugin or anything you can recommend? I get so much
lately it’s driving me

insane so any assistance is very much appreciated.

Greetings from Florida! I’m bored to tears at

work so I decided to check out your blog on my iphone during lunch break.
I really like the information you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.

amazed at how fast your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not
even using WIFI,

just 3G .. Anyways, excellent site!

Fantastic site. Lots of helpful

information here. I’m sending it to several buddies ans additionally

sharing in delicious. And certainly, thank you on your


Great web site. A lot of useful

information here. I am sending it to a few friends ans also

sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you in your


First off I would like to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask
if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and
clear your mind prior to writing. I have had a difficult time clearing my mind in
getting my thoughts out there. I do take pleasure in writing but it
just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are wasted just trying
to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions
or tips? Thank you!

Drupal is one of these effective software packages that helps people and businesses publish
content on their websites. One should keep in mind that communication lines for live support are kept open for paid accounts, who are given top
priority. Japanese Gardens – Although the gardens are technically in Fort Worth, Texas,
it is only a short drive.

Leave a Reply