I’m not sure if this broken, twisted pine tree was because of a tornado or from straight-line winds. We had a tornado come through this area of the Ouachita National Forest back in 2013. This tornado caused a lot of damage to several miles of National Forest. It came within a 1 / 2 mile of my place. This pine tree was several hundred yards from where the main tornado damage occurred.
I read that just because a tree is twisted this does not mean it was caused by a tornado. Weather.gov states that:
This is one of the most common mistakes – the fact that trees were “twisted” off doesn’t necessarily mean a tornado has gone through. If you could draw a line straight down a tree, you’d see that the tree isn’t exactly alike from one side to the other. Differences in limbs and leaves may cause the tree to have more wind resistance on one side than the other. The tree begins to “twist” (much like a stop sign “twists” in strong winds). If wind speeds are high enough the tree will begin to tear apart in a twisting motion -even though the winds are relatively straight!
I also read that this area is a High Risk area for Tornadoes. According to records, the largest tornado in this area was an F4 in 1952 that caused 9 injuries and 7 deaths. *Tornado risk is calculated from the destruction path that has occurred within 30 miles of the location.
Straight-Line Winds vs. Tornado
The key difference is in two words – IN and OUT!
IN – all wind flows INTO a tornado. Debris is often laying at angles due to the curving of the inflow winds.
OUT – all wind flows OUT from a downburst. Debris is often laying in straight lines (hence the term “straight line winds”) parallel to the outward wind flow