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How to detect tornados using your TV

Dear Cecil:

I remember hearing somewhere about being able to tell from the static on your television set whether a tornado is coming. Is this true, Cecil? If so, how and why?

Auntie Em, Kansas

Cecil replies:

Tornados create an electrical disturbance somewhere in the 55 megahertz range, close to the frequency band assigned to channel 2. With this phenomenon in mind, Newton Weller, an electronics technician, has devised the following method for using your TV set as a tornado warning device.

Tune to channel 13 and turn the brightness control down tothe point where the image is nearly–not completely–black. Then turn to channel 2. Lightning will register as horizontal streaks on the screen. When the picture becomes bright enough to be seen, or when the screen glows with an even light, there’s a tornado within 20 miles, and it’s time to find Toto and head for the basement.

Cecil Adams

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