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In the movie Into the Storm (2014) near the end, storm chaser Pete sees the eye of a massive tornado.

In 1928 (real life), Will Keller was in his barn when a huge tornado passed through. He reported seeing an opening in the center of the tornado "about 55 feet (17 meters) across and extended some 2,500 feet (762 meters) up." Source

Is there any "official" documentation or evidence that tornadoes, especially stronger ones, have eyes like a hurricane does? Or is it just an urban legend?

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  • $\begingroup$ Theoretically, the eye of the storm is the center of the tornado in which everything is peaceful and calm. It has been described as "still as death." I was trapped in an F-1 tornado near my home in Philadelphia and saw the eye. Everything was extremely peaceful and it was as if the storm had passed. It was dark and eerily calm. But in no time, the trailing winds hit and the the back end winds were a bit stronger than the initial ones. Hope this helps! $\endgroup$ – user5370 Feb 1 '16 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ Hi Jeff, welcome to Earth Science. Although your experience is interesting, we are looking for science-based answers rather than personal anecdotes. I have converted your answer to a comment. Once you have 50 reputation, you will be able to comment everywhere! $\endgroup$ – gerrit Feb 2 '16 at 11:35
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Yes, if one takes the common meaning of the term "eye of the storm" to be the area of relatively low wind speed near the center of the vortex, most tornadoes can be said to have eyes. Cyclostrophic balance describes a steady-state, inviscid flow with neglected Coriolis force:

$$ \dfrac{v^2}{r} = -\dfrac{1}{\rho}\dfrac{\partial p}{\partial n} $$

where centripetal force balances radial pressure gradient. Here, $v$ is tangential wind speed, $r$ distance from vortex center, $\rho$ is air density, $p$ is atmospheric pressure and $n$ is the radial direction pointing inward. From here, tangential wind speed is simply:

$$ v = \sqrt{-\dfrac{r}{\rho}\dfrac{\partial p}{\partial n}} $$

suggesting that $v\to0$ when $r\to0$. While the flow in tornadoes is highly non-stationary and subject to friction, this idealized model shows why there must exist an "eye" inside a vortex or an area of closed circulation. This "eye" may or may not be easily recognized by a hypothetical human observer inside a tornado.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a very science heavy answer. I'm sure it took a lot of work and time to compile. Thanks IRO-bot. The last line, though, was a stroke of genious .....a hypothetical human observer inside a tornado....! If a human was really inside a tornado, like one of the questioners referred to, they would either be extraordinarily lucky to be able to come back and report....or be referred by the adjective....the Former human observer. :) thanks for this forum. $\endgroup$ – user837 Aug 30 '14 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ @user837 : Or, they were not inside the tornado naked. See Reed Timmer and his TIV. A real human observer who has gone to the core of many a tornado and built a vehicle for the express purpose of doing exactly that - getting inside and taking measurements: it's armored like a tank and heavy as hell, but considerably more mobile. $\endgroup$ – The_Sympathizer Jul 29 '18 at 9:29
  • $\begingroup$ @milancurcic - In your answer dp/dn is actually normal to the pressure gradient. Check out my parallel derivation of the same - earthscience.stackexchange.com/questions/12353/… $\endgroup$ – gansub Apr 20 at 2:45

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