A tornado hit southern Romania on March 30, injuring many people as it overturned a bus and destroyed two dozen houses in the village of Drajna. Many were surprised that tornadoes even occur in Romania. Meteorologists now point the finger at communist propaganda.
Bogdan Antonescu, meteorologist with the Association for Applied Meteorology and Education – who has a PhD in tornadoes from the University of Manchester told Romanian news portal Ziare.com that while tornadoes had first been reported in Central and Eastern Europe some two hundred years ago, there is not a single mention of them from the Communist era, from 1945 to 1989.
“Why? We cannot know for certain. What we have noticed though, is that the same has happened in the Czech Republic and Poland. Tornadoes have no longer been registered in Eastern Europe.” Antonescu said. “Communist authorities denied their existence and the dangers they posed to the population. They seemingly associated them with the United States and capitalism.”
Antonescu said that because of the total lack of reports, average people and even most meteorologists in the region were under the impression that tornadoes did not exist in Central Europe. He also said that before 1945, tornadoes have been a common occurrence in Romania, with news reports about them going back to the 19th century. He said European tornadoes are usually level F2-F3 on the zero to five Fujita scale and Europe had its first F5 tornado in France in 1967, which moved on to Belgium and the Netherlands, prompting Dutch authorities to issue the first tornado warning in European history.
There was another F4-F5 strength tornado in Ivanovo, Russia, in 1984 which – according to official reports – killed 69 and injured hundreds but Antonescu says the casualty data have most likely been embellished.
We are just a few days after May 1, which was the traditional time in communist states for major spring parades fanfaring the achievements of the system. Often participation was mandatory for factory or institution empoyees. There was a widespread myth that weather forecasts for May 1 were routinely redacted so as to ensure proper attendance. Knowing what we now know about tornadoes, maybe that wasn’t a myth either.