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Rare, Powerful Tornado Hits Russian City

: A video still of a tornado that touched down in the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk, near the border with China, on July 31, 2011. (Image credit: RussiaToday/YouTube.)

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misstated that the Daily Mail reported that the tornado was rated an EF-5. The Daily Mail article was referring to the Joplin, Mo., EF-5 tornado.

A rare tornado touched down in Russia last night (July 31), according to news reports.

The tornado hit Blagoveshchensk, a city of about 200,000 in eastern Russia near the China border.

The rare tornado in Russia is a perfect example of how tornadoes are not exclusive to Tornado Alley. The nighttime twister killed one person and injured 12 others, reported RIA Novosti. The tornado was the first to hit a Russian city, one meteorologist told the news agency.

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Tornadoes have touched down in every continent except Antarctica. They can occur wherever cold, dry air hits moist, warm air high in the atmosphere. Most of the Earth's tornadoes occur in the hotbed known as Tornado Alley, but the United Kingdom reports the most tornadoes by land area, given its small size.

In Tornado Alley, thousands of twisters touch down here every year because of its geography. The alley is bordered by the Dakotas to the north, the Gulf Coast to the south, the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Appalachian Mountains to the east.

Here, warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico collides with the cool, dry Arctic air, fueling the massive supercell storms capable of spawning tornadoes.

Similar conditions can occur in the region where the Russian twister formed, downstream from the Himalayas and in the Gobi Desert, but, historically, reports have been rare, said Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla.

The Russian twister's rating on the tornado damage scale is unknown, but the twister lasted 13 minutes and caused a reported 80 million rubles ($2.9 million) in damage, according to news reports.

Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.