Steve Horstmeyer breaks down the 'Tornado Cave' - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Steve Horstmeyer breaks down the 'Tornado Cave'

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Finley's tornado map Finley's tornado map
Sketch of a tornado cave Sketch of a tornado cave
(FOX19) -

So just what is a tornado cave? The idea of a tornado cave goes back to the 1880s, and the first member of my list of severe storm 'rock stars'.

Sometime in the future, I will reveal all the members of this elite group.

Lt. John Park Finley was an officer in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, the original home of America's efforts to forecast nationwide weather. Today's National Weather Service is the direct descendant of those early efforts.

Lt. Finley was the world's very first tornado scientist. The map shows his efforts in the 1880s to plot every single tornado that touched down in the United States, in an effort to unravel the mystery of these deadly whirlwinds.

Some of the storms go back to the 1600s.

Finley advocated insurance against tornado damage, offered advice on staying safe and presented plans for what he called a 'tornado cave'.

In fact, Finley along with the Burlington Insurance Company in Iowa sponsored a contest for the best design of a tornado cave. The contest was won by architect John R. Church of Rochester, NY out of a total of 122 entries.

His prize was $200, which today is $4,200.

Maybe there is nothing new under the sun, what we call a storm shelter was Finley's tornado cave.

His work makes interesting reading and much of it is available free as ebooks on Google books.

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