Rare ‘backward-spinning’ tornado detected in Oklahoma twister outbreak

There have been dozens of tornadoes sighted across the Plains and Midwest over the past week in a relentless severe weather pattern, but one tornado in particular has the meteorology community buzzing after Doppler radar indicated it was spinning "backward" from typical tornadoes.

"Radar detected some strange things (Tuesday) night," FOX Weather Meteorologist Stephen Morgan said.

The tornado was one of multiple indicated in Oklahoma’s Tillman County near Loveland on Tuesday evening just after 10 p.m. CT.


In addition to tracking rain and hail, Doppler radar can measure the wind speed and direction inside storms. Tornadoes are usually indicated when radar scans show a rapid twisting of the winds in a counterclockwise direction, the same as a low-pressure center.

Velocity scan showing an apparent anticyclonic tornado near Loveland, Oklahoma on April 30, 2024. (FOX Weather)

But on Tuesday evening, radar indicated two tornadoes in proximity near Loveland, one of which showed rapid spin in a clockwise direction – likely an "anticyclonic" tornado.

"(Tuesday) night, radar detected an anticyclonic satellite tornado, meaning it spun the other direction … and rotated around what you could call a ‘normal’ tornado," Morgan said. "What we saw …. was very rare."

A FOX Forecast Center analysis of historical data indicates that less than 2% of all tornadoes across the U.S. spin clockwise.

"The reason tornadoes are cyclonic (counterclockwise) is because of the Coriolis force," FOX Weather Senior Meteorologist Jordan Overton said, referencing how the rotation of the Earth will make low-pressure centers spin counterclockwise. "Research has shown that tornadoes are the smallest-scale type of weather that is impacted by the Coriolis force, and it is generally accepted within the weather community that the most likely cause of these anticyclonic tornadoes are due to an extremely strong jet stream. That said, because they are so rare, there is limited research on this subject."

Rescue crews look for tornado damage in Tillman County, Oklahoma, after reported tornadoes on April 30, 2024. (Tillman County (Oklahoma) Emergency Management / FOX Weather)


Anticyclonic tornadoes usually form in tandem with another cyclonic tornado, but they are generally smaller and weaker than their cyclonic siblings.

Tillman County emergency officials said they did find damage from the tornado – mostly snapped tree limbs and uprooted trees and county roads that have been affected by flooding.

"Additionally, our agency found damage at the Frederick Golf Course and Airport," county emergency officials wrote in an update posted to Facebook. "The damage consisted of sheds being destroyed at the golf course as well as trees uprooted/snapped and then at the airport, the roof on a hangar was torn off on the NE side. Elsewhere, we have confirmed minimal structural damage in Hollister and Grandfield."

Tornado damage in Tillman County, Oklahoma after reported tornadoes on April 30, 2024. (Tillman County (Oklahoma) Emergency Management / FOX Weather)

The National Weather Service in Norma, Oklahoma later said their survey team found damage consistent with a high-end EF-1 tornado with estimated wind speeds of 105-110 mph. The tornado was on the ground for about 5 miles and had a width of about 1,200 yards. 

There are no reports of any injuries.