Man Sticks His Camera Out Storm Shelter Hole, Captures View of Tornado Up Close

When the 2013 Moore tornado struck Oklahoma on May 20th, 2013, Charles Gafford III took refuge in a storm shelter. Once inside, he noticed that there was a small gap in the shelter that he could stick his smartphone through. He did, and ended up capturing the footage above that shows what it’s like to have an EF5 tornado — the strongest strength rating assigned — pass almost directly overhead.

The video offers a glimpse of the size of the tornado — the funnel was 1.3 miles wide at its peak — and the its strength — peak winds reached 210 miles per hour. At 37 seconds into the video we see a heavy car tire fly past like it was shot out of a cannon:


The tornado came close, but Gafford was lucky; his neighborhood was severely damaged by the winds, ´╗┐but areas just streets away were completely wiped out.

P.S. Gafford says the video is vertical due to the simple fact that the tiny hole in his storm shelter was just large enough to stick his phone through vertically. It was just pure chance that the gap offered a perfect view of the funnel as it passed through the area.

P.P.S. Yesterday we shared some videos (both time-lapse and standard) that show what the tornado looked like from further away.

Update: Here’s a video showing Gafford and the storm shelter he was in:

  • Duke Shin

    Really man? Vertical video?

  • porter86

    Learn to read?

    “Gafford says the video is vertical due to the simple fact that the tiny hole in his storm shelter was just large enough to stick his phone through vertically.”

  • Diego

    A tornado without a flying cow is not a truly tornado

  • JJ

    Duke, you are ridiculous.. Vertically, horizontally, who cares.. Be thankful someone that was in a situation like this took time to even try and catch video footage from their bunker. Would you honestly be worried if you were in that situation trying to catch footage wether it was vertical or horizontal, like give me a break…

  • Adam Cross

    nope. that really doesn’t look like a car at 37 seconds – unless cars are circular and thin like pizzas :P (you can also see the parked car later on in the video not moving at all) still, awesome footage

  • Kara Whitmore

    they said car tire…

  • Tor Ivan Boine

    Tire, car tire.

  • JanSun

    This guy is in an F5 tornado, and you’re griping about the video being vertical? Wow.

  • Dave

    I am sure you would be diligently trying to capture the optimum chiaroscuro, bokeh and all of the zones Ansel ever imagined.

  • Discusss

    Being anywhere other than well inside the storm shelter = dumb. Also, a gap?!

  • 1rdd

    Gafford the 3rd must either have a crappy storm shelter or is just plain stupid. He is the kind of person your normally read about in the Darwin Award articles.

  • Vin Weathermon

    We seem to have a crop of real a-holes posting on this story. The footage was great, the person with the phone does not deserve to be criticized for using it. Saying stupid things also isn’t necessary. View, read, and shut the hell up if you are an a-hole.

  • Thiago Medeiros

    I came here expecting this comment, and there it is. Duke, I am disappoint.

  • Mansgame

    human hands can bed 90 degrees after he stuck it out. Deadly tornado or not, there is no excuse for vertical video.

  • Jackson Cheese

    Let’s not judge people who are in a horrifying situation, mmmkay?

  • Done with PP

    Totally agree….PP has become the dumping ground for morons and their hatred. I am happy to be done with them and this site. The articles, besides this one, have been nothing short of shocking titles that the article is not about and poorly written articles about how someone got screwed.
    Sad too, I used to love the site.

  • Gord

    Are you people frigging mental? He was in a tornado!

  • Nikki Comma

    No cows? :(

  • Nikki Comma

    If I could double upvote I would.

  • disqus_VUQrCmxq2n

    I’m sorry, but, I WOULD GET THE HECK OUT OF OKLAHOMA, and I have relatives there, and love the state otherwise, but, come on! This is NUTS to go through this all the time. My sister in law is elderly and she and my brother went there 3-4 years ago to visit her well to do brother, who is an attorney.
    Well, a huge tornado came 4 blocks from them and they had to fall into a hallway and put mattresses over them. I WOULD NOT PUT UP WITH LIVING IN SUCH A PLACE!

  • Mansgame

    He was safe in a shelter. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. NO VERTICAL VIDEO!

  • Thomas Casey

    Ansel would have used f64.

  • Duke Shin

    …in a shelter.

  • Scott M.

    If you live on the east coast, you get hurricanes. West coast, earthquakes. Rest of the US is tornados. Even if you go to Hawaii, you can get lava or tsunami. OK, still ok.

  • Humanrightsnotgunrights

    Van-I like your spirit.
    Inexperienced young’ns who think they’re omniscient posting on this site often come across rather more arsehole than they imagine.

    Thank you Mr. Gafford for being daring enough to even attempt the shots. Hope you and your family are safe.

  • Jackson Cheese

    Tornadoes are relatively rare, random, and only directly effect a relatively small area. One hitting a highly populated area is very uncommon, then one as massive as this one is nearly unheard of.

    Statistically, you’ll be fine.

  • bressennuit

    It is great, and unusual, video.

    i think the vertical view, besides being borne of necessity due to trying to fit the phone thru a tiny gap, actually shows the height of the storm better, than if the video had been horizontal.

    And he WAS in the middle of a huge storm that he needed to do some quicker thinking, and he wasn’t a movie director trying to line up that perfect shot for the next 100 $ Mil summer blockbuster at the cinema.

    As for some of you “haters” of this vertical video, well, get a life and quit wasting your time commenting stupidly. If you don’t really like something, why not just say nothing at all and go on your merry little way to something else?

    You can always download the video to your own computer, flip the video to be horizontal in your video editing software, and then watch it as you please.

    Howver, the orientation of items such as the house is correct in the vertical video, and if you flip it sideways, then all the views, and the house, will also be sideways.


  • Charles Gafford

    My hand was stil in the shelter. only the corner of the phone could fit out.

  • Jackie

    Fantastic! Lot better than ‘cat beard’ type projects :)

  • Logandi

    I can tell you guys don’t live in Oklahoma I live 40 miles from where the F5 took place and they are VERY rare. Even more rare that the happen to the same area twice. I applaud him for trying to catch video of something that isn’t very well documented. Meteorologists have only managed to get a few videos of inside a tornado and capturing, even just the edge of a tornado is quite a feat. Also considering that winds were upwards of 220 mph around they cyclone I don’t blame him for trying to stick his hand out to get horizontal footage. Oklahoma isn’t always like this. Tornado season is only 3-4 months long most years and just because you enter the state doesn’t mean your automatically going to be sucked up in twister. It’s a part of life down here and you learn to love with it.

  • D.G. Brown

    “Cow. … … … … Another cow.”
    “Actually I think that was the same one.”

  • Jackson Cheese

    Most people don’t have even the most basic grasp on probability.

  • Ubiety

    You nerds have clearly never been in a tornado.

    “Had my hand not been severed off by a piece of aluminum siding, you would have seen that my video was horizontal, and leveled quite nicely with the horizon. Perhaps someone will find my phone, and possibly my hand, and I can prove to you what a master videographer I truly am. No excuses for vertical video! I’m dying of blood loss!”

  • Dave

    You would not even have a video because sucking your thumb in the fetal position while trembling would make it impossible to reach the opening. Mansgame, your crap is so tired.

  • -

    Did you knew tornados are taller than wider?