FACT CHECK: Viral Image Showing A Tornado And Lightning Strike Next To An Oil Rig In Texas Is Altered

Hannah Hudnall | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook over 260 times allegedly shows a photo of a bolt of lightning and a tornado captured near an oil rig in Texas.

Verdict: False

The oil rig has been digitally superimposed into the picture. The original photo of the tornado was captured in Lake Okeechobee, Florida in 1991.

Fact Check:

The Facebook post, shared over 200 times, appears to show a photo of a tornado and a lightning strike near an oil rig. “THIS IS A PICTURE THAT SOMEONE TOOK WHO WORKS ON AN OIL RIG IN TEXAS,” reads text included in the image. “HE WANTED TO GET A SHOT OF THE LIGHTNING THAT WAS FLASHING BY. HE WAS UNAWARE OF THE TORNADO UNTIL THE LIGHTNING ILLUMINATED IT.”

The photo is digitally altered. A reverse image search revealed the image of the tornado and lightning strike was captured by a man in Melbourne, Florida named Fred Smith, according to the National Weather Service website. “This picture of a tornado and lightning stroke over Lake Okeechobee was taken at about 10 PM on June 15, 1991,” the caption reads. The oil rig does not appear in the photo.

Check Your Fact was unable to track the source of the oil rig in the image. However, the unedited photo of the tornado and lightning has appeared in numerous articles and media outlets since its publication. The image appeared in a 2013 tornado preparedness article from the U.S. Army and a 2019 Forbes article discussing the possibility of tornadoes on Halloween. (RELATED: Does This Image Show A Tornado In Grand Island, Nebraska?)

The photo was also included in a 2019 article published by the Weather Channel titled, “Fake and Overused Weather Photos: Avoid Sharing These Viral Images.” The article states that the image frequently appears on social media during night-time tornado reports.

Hannah Hudnall

Fact Check Reporter