Twister and Hollywood disaster films

Well, for those of you who have seen Twister with the late Bill Paxton in the leading role playing a non-affiliated storm chaser who goes full-bore into a EF-5 tornado should note that the movie Twister is pure Hollywood fantasy.  At the time of the movie Twister in 1996, it was called “F-5” but it’s still the same thing.  It’s too bad that Twister did not mention a single word about Skywarn spotters spotting for tornadoes.  Twister is wrong for many reasons.  1 reason is that every tornado that spawns is an EF-5 monster twister.  The reality is that only a very small number of tornadoes are EF-5 twisters, roughly around 1-2%.  In the public consciousness, whenever someone thinks about a tornado, it’s the mega EF-5 twister that just wipes out everything in its path.  Of course, Hollywood movies would be boring if they showed an EF-3 or an EF-2 twister not doing a whole lot of destruction.  The movie Twister came out before the big 2011 outbreak that took place 15 years later.  The Wrath of God History Channel documentaries mention that Doppler radar was lacking because it could not see certain parts of the supercell storm, largely because of obstructions and the curvature of the Earth. Yes, that is indeed true and this is one of the reasons that an organization like Skywarn was founded in the first place.

Skywarn was founded to give the National Weather Service the eyes that they needed to spot tornadoes as they are forming or after they’ve formed.  Skywarn also reports the damage that a tornado causes. Of course, in Crawford County in the borough of Conneautville, we had a small tornado outbreak that did some damage to a Wesbury owned retirement home in the area. I believe that it was rated an EF-2, which is minuscule by comparison with the Greensburg twister.  Of course, the Weather Channel tends to focus way too much on EF-5 super tornadoes that just destroy everything in their paths.   Well, the Weather Channel is all about extreme weather and a guy like Jim Cantore lives for that. Of course, to Jim, it’s just an “adventure” when goes out into a hurricane and risks his own life just to let people know what’s going on when that hurricane hits in the Southern United States.  People like Jim Cantore tend to be glory seekers and they often over-dramatize natural disasters just to get people hooked on their exciting media stories, like Fox News and CNN and to an extent, RT. Jim Cantore doesn’t need to go full-bore into a hurricane and post it on TV just to let people know what it’s like on the receiving end of said disaster.  Do we need people to shoot themselves in the stomach with bulletproof vests on just to demonstrate that bulletproof vests work?  Well, I suppose that Jim Cantore has to make money somehow.   The media in general, IMHO, frequently talks way too much about EF-5 twisters.  Sure, EF-5’s are super destructive and wipe out everything in their path, but they are extremely rare,  but they are the most costly.  Twister tends to focus on Tornado Alley in the Midwest, namely Oklahoma.  Of course, there are tornadoes in states like Ohio, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, also.  They are just as violent as the ones seen in Twister, if not worse.  Of course, the 1925 tri-state tornado was the worst in American history.  There are some theories about the event, such as that it was a mega twister, like the El Reno twister and that satellite twisters formed around the parent funnel and also did some damage.  There was a reason that over 700 people lost their lives in the 1925 tornado. That reason is that Doppler radar had not been invented yet and that there wasn’t anything like what we have today, like Skywarn.  Weather forecasting in 1925 was not always accurate.  They also didn’t have the kind of mass communication devices that we are familiar with now in 1925. In 1925, people read the newspapers. The newspaper was the primary conveyor of news, before the invention of the TV. So, news did not spread as fast and that is why so many were affected by the 1925 twister.

In 1925, movies were silent and had no sound because Hollywood hadn’t quite figured out how to add sound to pictures, yet.   Of course, people still lost their lives in the 1965 and 1974 outbreaks, even though the TV had long been invented by then. Again, people didn’t have Facebook or Twitter or even the internet to communicate rapidly with people back then.  They never talk about how amateur radio operators through the ARES program relay messages to people who want to know how their loved ones are doing and ARES also plays a role in disasters. Of course, in today’s world, in the year 2018,  people still get killed by tornadoes because they are skeptical of the warnings on the TV, as many people are often skeptical of the meteorologists on the TV channels because they sometimes predict something and it does not materialize the way that they said it would. Predicting the weather is not an exact science and the Weather Channel usually talks about weather as it is happening because it’s easier that way.  Of course, amateur radio existed in 1925, 1965, and 1974.  1965 was exactly 40 years after the Tri-State Twister and 1974 was 49 years later, almost 50 years later.  Sometimes people are killed by twisters because they are lackadaisical and don’t pay attention to the signs around them and if your gut feeling tells you that something is wrong, you’d better listen. I remember how I sort of predicted that a tornado would strike Crawford County in 2014, when I moved down there the year previously. I was at the Touch-Stone Solutions office, which was then on Park Avenue, before its move to Murray Road and I told my program specialist that I thought that a tornado was going to happen. It was super humid that day and I could feel that something was coming.
I was on the W3MIE repeater when WW3S and WA3MCH and others were on the 145.130 running a Skywarn net talking about where the tornado was going and if there were going to be more of them.  Of course, the W3MIE club also had a Skywarn net on the 145.130 about 4 years later in 2018, about tornadoes in Crawford County.  I almost saw a twister form around Franklin Pike in Cochranton, PA, south of Meadville, in East Fairfield Township, Crawford County, Pennsylvania. I was with my staff at the time and there was a guy who lived out in the Midwestern states who was talking with us about  his past experiences with tornadoes in Illinois that there was a tornado forming. That one did not touch down.  WB3CNJ was in Crawford County at the time and she told everyone in the W3MIE meeting room at St. Brigid’s Church in Meadville that a tornado had touched down.  My staff member at the group home who was into receiving like reports on his cellphone/smartphone about severe weather was concerned. You could hear it in his voice. He said that the tornado was heading right for Meadville.  Many people in Meadville were looking up at the sky wondering if any more were going to hit. You could hear the tornado siren going off that evening. The tornado event happened on the 3rd Tuesday of that month and I remember that because I was at the W3MIE monthly meeting when I heard about it.  The meeting was adjourned and everyone who was in that room just got the hell out of there. W3MIE holds its meetings on the 3rd Tuesday of every month.

I went to my home on Creveling Road in Cochranton and I was just looking at the sky and I could see that people who were my neighbors were leaving to go to the courthouse in Meadville to seek shelter.  There was hardly any lightning. The one thing that I am afraid of is becoming a silent key because of a lightning strike.  Many hams became silent keys because of lightning strikes, tornadoes, or flooding, or sheer carelessness.

Of course, in amateur radio parlance, a silent key is any dead ham operator.  Once you become a silent key, you’re dead and that’s it.  You can never go back. Of course, you might get a mention in QST where it runs its monthly silent keys columns.  You have to be literally dead to be a silent key.  I take my call-sign W3AGF, from my late grandfather, who is a silent key.  He passed away in 2003.

A silent key is a tragedy for many in the ham radio community.  That person that passed away had knowledge to contribute to humanity and when that person passed their amateur radio exams, they were tested on that knowledge and when they passed and got their tickets, they could go up to General, if they were technicians, or bump it up to Amateur Extra if they were general class hams.



The southern states are also badly affected by tornadoes, too.  Again, the Wonders of Weather documentary focuses on the Midwest in Tornado Alley.  Of course, Ohio gets some pretty bad twisters, too. Namely southwest Ohio, like Cincinnati and Dayton, but also Northeast Ohio gets hit by twisters, too.  If you go west to Illinois and Indiana, you’re getting into Tornado Alley.
Looking back on Twister, I can say that Bill Paxton’s character would have been the one who got killed and not the Cary Elwes character.   They never show that professional storm chasers are not the only ones who don’t get killed.  Twister was a rather hokey movie. I felt that it dishonored real storm chasers because most storm chasers don’t get into ridiculous pissing contests over who is better, a la Twister.  The one scene were Bill Paxton’s team was watching a movie at a drive-in theater was kinda of weird.  Why didn’t someone report that there was a tornado that was touching down?  At night, if you have good eyes, you can see a tornado forming and about to touch down. Why didn’t they see that? It’s kinda of hard to not mistake a tornado forming at night.  I had some serious questions about the drive-in theater tornado. I also remember the scene where the guy who plays Jo’s dad was killed by a tornado when he tried to secure the storm shelter than his daughter Jo and his wife were in. The tornado sucked him up and took his life. That scene was heartbreaking.  Why didn’t Jo’s family look hear the tornado coming? I hear that you can often hear tornadoes coming, miles before they actually hit. Of course, there was frequent lightning in that scene, so of course, they weren’t going outside to see what was going on, largely out of fear that they would be killed by a lightning strike.

Why was there the cheesy romance between Bill Paxton’s character and Helen Hunt’s character? Again, someone has to make money selling a big story. Yes, Jan de  Bont, (Twister’s director) said in the DVD commentary that he heavily researched tornadoes while making the movie.  Of course, in Oklahoma, you can see for more than 10 miles down the road.  Jo’s family should have seen that twister coming. They were in their standard tornado shelter, which is all too common for people living in the Midwest.  People in Tornado Alley often go to their storm shelters to protect themselves from being killed by tornadoes. Of course, tornadoes are all too common out there, which is why it gets the moniker “Tornado Alley.”  Out in Kansas and Oklahoma, you can see tornadoes for miles before they hit you.  In Western PA, we have steep and high hills to “camouflage” tornadoes before they hit.  A tornado is said to sound like a freight train.  I remember that the air was freakishly quiet a few times. My one staff who was working at the time lived through a couple tornadoes in her lifetime.  In 2004, when I was in high school at 15 years of age, I remember that there was constant lightning flashing everywhere. We knew something was up. We later learned of a tornado that struck near Elgin, PA in Erie County.  It was like out of the movie Twister with all that lightning, namely the scene were Helen’s Hunt character (Jo) and her family are watching the TV warning people about the tornado.  It was really spooky. I was living in Erie County at the time in the small town of Corry and going to high school in Corry when that tornado hit. Back then, I had no knowledge of amateur radio or what the numbers of what the local amateur radio frequencies were in Erie County, PA or even about Skywarn and that was in 2004.  10 years had passed between 2004 and 2014 when I witnessed these tornado events. In 2004, I was 15 years old. I was afraid to take the amateur radio exams because I did not have a quite a good grasp of Morse Code (aka CW) to pass the exam. At the time, the FCC mandated that any new hams who were testing had to have a knowledge of Morse Code. Many who took these exams were daunted by the Morse Code soundbites that were playing and trying to tell apart individual letters in sequence.  Morse Code was daunting for new hams and many often failed because they couldn’t comprehend Morse code.  Of course, I hear hams complaining about how “dumbed-down” the tests supposedly are.  The probabilities for passing increased after the FCC dropped the Morse Code requirements.  More and more were passing their technician class exams. Of course, if you want any sort of chances to pass at all, you study the question pools that are available on various websites and you go to an amateur radio exam session and you fill in the question on the exams that you think is the right answer and if you get 26 out of 35 correct, (74%) you pass the exam and earn your license. Of course, not everyone who takes the exams passes.  I felt bad when I did not pass the first time, but I learned from that experience and took the exam a 2nd time and did not pass, but the 3rd time, I did pass my technician exam and was first licensed as KC3BDJ.

W3GHO informed my dad that he passed and that I did not.  Of course, my mom, KC3DEN, passed her exam without getting any answers on the test wrong. She aced it! That was a truly defining moment, when her dad Cecil was looking down from Heaven providing his guidance to her to help her pass.  It’s figurative, of course. My brother, KC3BGA, passed his general test and tried to go to extra, but he failed to pass the extra class exam.

What does ham radio have to do with it? Simple.  Hams provide the eyes that the National Weather Service uses to locate and track tornadoes via Skywarn.  Hams also help in the event of any disaster.  Of course, Twister never even mentioned hams.  I disliked Bill Paxton’s reckless and arrogant attitude when chasing that tornado in the movie. His blatant disregard of the lives of him and his passengers in the vehicle, WOULD have killed him and his passengers in the vehicle. He would have been the one who got killed. Cary Elwes’ character was chasing the tornado with a convoy of SUV’s all decked out in black and looking like a convoy from the C.W. McCall song.  These were “professionals” compared to Bill Paxton’s character.  The big meteorologists are dependent upon ham radio Skywarn spotters to report any sightings of tornadoes and to track them.  Bill Paxton’s character never gets killed by any of the tornadoes in the movie.  It’s not a giant egotistical pissing contest between the “big” tornado chasers and the “small” storm chasers, like in Twister.  Top Gun was all about Maverick’s giant ego and nothing else! That same kind of egotism that you see in Top Gun, you can also see in Twister. Except one’s a fighter pilot and the other’s a storm chaser.  I hate Twister! It makes the meteorological community look very bad!  Yes, the Top Gun-esque egotism was rather boring and cheesy.  I suppose that it could be said that Twister is our Top Gun.  There was a British movie called “Making Waves” about hams falling in love in a cheesy romantic comedy type film.

Of course, the cops in Law & Order behave like they’re members of the Gestapo. This is why I refer to it as “Gestapo Television” in one of my previous posts.  They are straightforward about talking about crimes in Law & Order.  You know what? I think that people should just refer to Investigation Discovery as the “Serial Killer Channel!”  Most of their shows are about psychotic serial killers and they are over-dramatized TV shows.  They are propaganda and nothing more! Of course, you could refer to Nancy Grace as the “Pedophile Show!” People just like watching morbid shows about pedophiles and serial killers.  People are interested by psychotic killers that stalk women and kill them. They are entertainment.  Law Enforcement are always “good” and “noble” and that the Law & Order show is “realistic” Not even close!  Of course, the police officers in Corry, Pennsylvania are pinheads, namely Hunt & Doolittle. They are glory-seekers.  These people who watch TV seem to think about only the Holocaust when thinking about genocides.  Of course, speaking of genocide,  Malagurski talks about “biased reporting” in his tirade of a film called “The Weight of Chains”  Everyone in the 90’s was obsessed with the Serbs and the war crimes that they were committing in Bosnia and throughout the former Yugoslavia. Yes, people only saw the Serbian atrocities on TV.  Everyone can agree on that. The Serbian atrocities were pretty odious and gruesome.  People have to remember that not all Serbs did these horrific war crimes, but they were done in the name of the Serbian people. The Serbs let these pinheads define their identity and Karadzic was a “moral crusader” against the “Turks!”  Sure, Karadzic could do “no” wrong! He did a lot wrong and now he’s serving 40 years in prison.  The Serbs that were fighting in Mladic’s forces were your typical redneck yahoos that made the KKK look like a social group.  Not all of them were rednecks, but the “undisciplined” The Serb soldiers commanded by Mladic just killed at will and took sadistic pleasure out of raping women.

Of course, the Serbs feared living under an Islamic state, like Iran or Saudi Arabia.  They had negative past experiences with the Bosniak Muslims and the Turks. The Bosniaks were derogatorily referred to as “Turks” by the Serbs who were fighting them.

Of course, not all Serbs were Chetniks. Again, we see Hollywood do this type of aforementioned cheesiness in Behind Enemy Lines with Owen Wilson.  That movie was wrong. He sees his pilot shot in the back of the head by Serbian soldiers.  He should have tried to save him, but they were too numerous for him to do anything to save him. He just runs away in a forest and the Serbs shooting at him are piss-poor shots, like the Imperial Stormtroopers out of Star Wars. Gabriel Macht’s character dies during the film.   Owen Wilson’s character does not die during the film. He sees a mass grave full of people killed by Serbian soldiers, led by Miroslav Lokar.  The Bosnian War was the biggest clusterfuck in modern history, next to the war in Donbass in Eastern Ukraine between Russia & Ukraine.  The Serbs always miss Owen Wilson’s character. Again,  Behind Enemy Lines was a rather hokey film, just like Twister and Into the Storm! It’s the same kind of hokey storytelling in all these movies.  Owen Wilson’s character disregards NATO procedure and sees a mass grave protected by a SAM site and that SAM shoots down his F/A-18 and Owen Wilson and Gabriel Macht survive the shootdown.

Of course, the Behind Enemy Lines has the stodgy Frenchman named Piquet, played by a Spaniard.  Another stereotype.




In 2007, the FCC removed the Morse Code requirement altogether. I didn’t really think about amateur radio, until 2013, 9 years later. My grandmother Gerda had recently passed away in May of 2013, just after I returned from my stay in Western Psych in Pittsburgh. She was W3AGF’s wife of many years.  His name was Cecil, W3AGF, (SK).

He was my maternal grandfather.  Gerda never remarried after Cecil had passed away in 2003.



The tornado was right on top of them.  I wonder why the characters weren’t listening to the Skywarn ham radio frequencies talking about tornadoes forming or ones that have touched down. Unlike Twister, the big professional meteorologists don’t get into ridiculous pissing contests with some supposedly “amateur” storm chaser.   Why weren’t they tuned into amateur radio frequencies? What about CB frequencies? Those too.


About Justin Royek

I am a critic of Wikipedia that likes to remind people that there are other sources out there than Wikipedia and that knowledge isn't written by a bunch of anonymous nobodies on a blog dressed up as an encyclopedia that Wikipedia is. My name is Justin Royek and this is my personal blog/soapbox for different issues and many things relevant to my life. I am a polyglot that speaks about 10 languages. I am NOT Tim Doner or Benny Lewis or Christophe Clugston or any of those self-proclaimed "polyglots" on YouTube. I am my own blog. I am Justin Edward Royek. Patchman123 on Facebook and YouTube. I am Justin Royek. I AM A WRITER ON MANY ISSUES. I HAVE DECIDED TO CHANGE MY USERNAME ON THE BLOG.
This entry was posted in Cold War, Eastern Europe, Former Soviet Union, History, Hollywood, Reviews, Science, Social Commentary, Western PA. Bookmark the permalink.

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