Some people are big fans of storms. The rhythmic sound of the rain on the rooftop, thunder rolling overhead, or whistling gusts of icy wind as the snow piles up can feel comforting–especially if you don’t have to leave your cozy spot by the window to watch it. And even if the wild weather outside bothers you, it certainly always puts on a show that the most timid can at least respect.

Getting caught in extreme weather, however, is another story altogether. Suddenly, you’re in the thick of it—and what was once a quiet rainstorm or a steady breeze has easily become a raging flood or a destructive tornado tearing away at everything in its path.

Thankfully, these five photographs—as documented by National Geographic in 2012—keep you on the safe side of frighteningly extreme weather. While these severe storms and weather conditions were undoubtedly catastrophic at the time these images were taken, you can at least appreciate them for their beauty… from a distance, of course.

In July 2011, a massive thunderstorm kicked up dust a mile high to blanket the city of Phoenix, Arizona.

earth-1National Geographic Magazine / Daniel Bryant

When the Yazoo River flooded in Mississippi, these homeowners were forced to build a levee for safety, trapping their property in a sort of “bowl” while the rising water drowned the land around them.

earth-2National Geographic Magazine / Scott Olsen


This 2011 tornado in Nebraska derailed trains and ripped up fields with winds that reached up to 130 miles per hour.

earth-3National Geographic Magazine / Mike Hollingshead

A record-breaking heat wave and high winds caused this Texas cotton field to completely erode and disappear.

earth-4National Geographic Magazine / Rob Kendrick


In central China, a rare torrential downpour caused major floods, like this one in a parking garage.

earth-5National Geographic Magazine / China Daily

No matter where you are in the world, nature’s ferocity will find you one way or another. The extreme weather in these photographs may look beautiful, but in reality, it’s often deadly. To be safe, you might want to stick with looking at pictures instead of trying to snap them yourself!

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