Creator of fake Eastgate tornado photos explains how they went viral

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Photos of a tornado near Eastgate Mall that are appearing in email inboxes all over the Tri-State have been determined to be fake.

The photos show what appears to be a tornado near the parking lot of the mall.

The photos were sent to the Clermont County Emergency Management Agency, which sent the photos to the National Weather Service, who determined the photos to be fake.

In an e-mail to FOX19, the creator of the photos, a man named Justin, said he never had a malicious intent. He said he created the Photoshopped photos in October of 2010 and uploaded them to Facebook. A friend noticed them in a "photos recently uploaded" section, assumed they were taken on Wednesday, and forwarded them to coworkers. The friend had no idea they were created last year.

"It was literally a complete misunderstanding, and no one intentionally distributed those pictures for ANY malicious viral reasons," Justin said in the e-mail. "You can bet I was shocked to hear how far my photoshopped pictures had spread... while we did find it humorous at the speed this was taken (sic) off and how blown out of proportion it was being taken, neither of us found it to be the least bit funny that we were being accused of deliberately releasing these to induce panic, which was not why he forwarded them."

FOX19 Chief Meteorologist Steve Horstmeyer said the photos looked based on the following evidence:

Photographic Evidence

  1. Look at the cloud boundary behind the funnel before it touches down. Does it look suspicious? It should look at the several sharp angles and the very unnatural edge it just does not look like a ragged cloud boundary.  It looks like the Photoshop smudge tool not applied very well.
  2. Look at the second photo. Seconds later the background cloud edge is not smooth with an unnatural looking fuzzy edge.  This looks like the Photoshop blur tool again not applied very skillfully. The change from photo to photo is too dramatic to be real.
  3. On photo 2 starting on the right follow the smooth cloud edge - it looks natural - right at the tornado it starts to look unnaturally fuzzy and why the rise in cloud base at the funnel? There are numerous other areas where the cloud edges look suspiciously like Photoshop tools.

Geographic Evidence

  1. From photo to photo the tornado movement seems to have the right movement. Moving to the left would mean some easterly component to the movement. Depending on the specific location in the Eastgate Mall parking lot you are looking due west from the northern extreme of the parking lot or west northwest from the extreme southern edge of the parking lot by the Holiday Inn. That means the alleged tornado is moving the wrong way it appears to be moving from the northwest, not south through southwest which would be consistent with the storm movement.

Meteorological Evidence

  1. NWS meteorologists and they agree it is probably fake because if there was a funnel at the time it would have been a leading edge type funnel a.k.a. gustnado. This funnel is placed like the classic mesocyclone tornado near the rear of the storm, i.e. bright sky in back and there is no mesocyclone evidence for the storm.
  2. Note the lack of any mesocyclone caused features where the funnel meets the cloud base no evidence of circulation, no lowered cloud base.

Clermont County never had a tornado warning issued Wednesday morning, only severe thunderstorm warnings.

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