On this day next week we will be talking about the one year anniversary of an event that changed everything. While we will spend lots of time talking about April 27th over the coming days, there was lots of severe weather leading up to that historic date. One event was the severe weather outbreak on April 15th. The included clip was from our noon show back on April 15th, 2011. This was the scene as a tornado developed over western Marengo County. Our weather watcher and storm spotter Brett Adair captured this incredible scene near the Nanafalia Community.
There were 29 confirmed tornadoes in the Birmingham NWS coverage area on that date. This made for one of the largest outbreaks in Alabama history by way of tornado occurrence. We were planning for a live severe weather special in Tuscaloosa to show arial views of the damage. The special never happened because of the rapid development of a larger outbreak that occurred on the 27th. One of our viewers in Tuscaloosa took shelter as a tornado crossed her home based on a phone call from her son stationed overseas. He was watching severe weather coverage on Fox 6 via our online stream. This was one of the many stories that was never told but just another example of how having multiple weather sources saves lives!
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The tornadoes that impacted Alabama on April 27th are still fresh on everybody’s mind. I know that when folks in Tuscaloosa watched the April tornado on Fox 6, many were reminded about another event that happened in December 2000. Eleven years ago on this date an F-4 tornado touched down in south Tuscaloosa county and stayed on the ground for 18 miles. This tornado was labeled an F-4 since it occurred prior to the introduction of the Enhanced-Fujita Scale. When I drive through the City of Tuscaloosa and see the aftermath on 15th street, I’m reminded of scenes from December 16th, 2000. The chance of two tornadoes of this size impacting the same county in the past 11 years is simply unbelievable.
I was working in Tuscaloosa when this tornado touched down and was on the scene just after the tornado passed. I know so many Tuscaloosa residents have their own stories to share but I remember just like it was yesterday, watching the tornado cross highway 69. Having witnessed tornadoes in the Great Plains, until this event happened, I had never seen such a large and destructive force in person. Traffic into the city was shutdown due to the damage path across the two main inbound highways. It was so sad to see Christmas presents scattered amongst debris and thinking about the families impacted during holiday season.
The tornado just missed the elementary school and high school I attended. Englewood Elementary School and Hillcrest High School were spared but sadly the tornado struck several homes and was responsible for 11 fatalities and 144 injuries. The tornado tracked across Bear Creek Road where it struck several mobile homes and crossed highway 82. Later the tornado tracked through Woodland Forest and then across I-20/59 near the Buttermilk Road Exit.
We are always amazed by the power of tornadoes. When I speak to groups I always share stories about some things I witnessed on that terrible day. As one example, after checking on my uncle who lost his home, there was a neighboring house that was swept off of its foundation. Just like a snowplow, the home forced a nearby riding lawnmower completely underground.
This particular event changed the way weather radar is positioned in the twin state region. In the years shortly following December 2000, the NWS in Jackson had discussed relocating the Central Mississippi NWS radar site. The reason behind this move was to improve radar velocity resolution. On December 16th the Jackson radar had a difficult time seeing the rotation within the storm as it produced a tornado north of Meridian. Therefore, a decision was made to relocate the NWS radar to Brandon, MS in order to improve this resolution over East Mississippi.
While this tornado changed the south Tuscaloosa landscape, one thing left standing is a flag pole near the entrance to Hinton Place and Shelton State. This flag pole stands today as a reminder of what happened on December 16th, 2000. Additional tornadoes impacted East Alabama, with an F-2 in Ashville, St. Clair County, and an F-3 in Etowah and Cherokee Counties. On this week before Christmas our thoughts go out to all of the families impacted by the severe weather that has impacted our state.
(Archived Radar Imagery from the Birmingham Site: Top Image 12:57 PM 12/16/2000; Middle Image: 1:07 PM 12/16/2000.-notice the bounded couplet in the top radar image.)
Fox 6 Meteorologist
The weekend is here. We can expect plenty of sunshine over the next few days with highs in the 60s. The morning forecast will be a bit chilly with overnight lows around 40. Locations in Marion, Winston, Cullman, Blount, Etowah, and Cherokee Counties will likely see temperatures fall into the upper 30s.
If you're going to either the Alabama or UAB games, the forecast will be incredible. Temperatures at kickoff will be around 60 with clear skies.
Moisture will surge back ahead of our next system on Monday and Tuesday with highs in the 70s. Looks like we'll see a good chance of rain and storms on Wednesday ahead of a cool front. A few storms could be strong, but overall the system will lack the formula for any kind of widespread severe weather. Colder temperatures will follow on Thursday and Friday.
Have a great weekend!
Fox 6 Chief Meteorologist
It's sunny right now, but things are changing quickly. There was a bit of a red sky this morning and you know the old saying - Red Sky in the Morning Sailors Taking Warning. There is some truth to that.
We are expecting some severe storms this afternoon. The timeframe is between 2pm and 7pm. Currently, the location most favored for severe development is north of I-20. It does not look like tornadoes will be likely with this system, but damaging straight line winds and hail.
The NAM is showing the lifted index approaching a -8 across Alabama. This is a good indicator for strong storms. Remember - anything negative is considered unstable. I'm also seeing CAPE at over 1500 j/kg during the afternoon.
Once the front passes - expect some dramatically colder air and blustery conditions to follow. Winds will likely gust over 25-30mph Wednesday with temperatures falling into the 30s during the evening. Get ready for frost by Thursday morning.
Fox 6 Chief Meteorologist
CIVIL EMERGENCY MESSAGE
ALABAMA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY CLANTON ALABAMA
RELAYED BY NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BIRMINGHAM AL
733 PM CDT MON SEP 5 2011
THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE IS TRANSMITTED AT THE REQUEST OF THE
FOLLOWING ALABAMA COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCIES...
SHELBY AND TALLEDEGA.
TRAVEL CONDITIONS ON ROADWAYS ACROSS PARTS OF CENTRAL ALABAMA HAVE
BECOME EXTREMELY DANGEROUS AND POTENTIALLY DEADLY THIS EVENING. MANY
LOCAL ROADS AND A FEW LARGER COUNTY AND STATE ROADWAYS HAVE BEEN
CLOSED DUE TO FLOODING. ROADWAYS THAT ARE NOT CLOSED MAY STILL BE
VERY HAZARDOUS. ADDITIONALLY...HIGH WINDS HAVE KNOCKED DOWN
NUMEROUS TREES AND POWER LINES ACROSS THESE COUNTIES. THESE TREES
ADD ANOTHER POTENTIAL HAZARD TO TRAVEL THIS EVENING. NOW THAT THE
SUN HAS SET...FLOODED ROADWAYS AND TREES BLOCKING ROADWAYS ARE
VERY DIFFICULT TO SEE UNTIL IT IS TOO LATE.
MANY FIRST RESPONDERS ARE NAVIGATING AREA ROADWAYS. SOME RESCUES
ARE STILL UNDERWAY. RESIDENTS ARE URGED TO REMAIN OFF ROADWAYS
THE REMAINDER OF THE EVENING. CONSULT YOUR LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY
OR EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY FOR FURTHER INFORMATION.
(Weather Service office in Pondville, Alabama near Centreville sustained damage at the time. source: NWS)
During the month of May we often see the major severe weather activity shift northward. Although that trend may happen, this doesn’t mean that the classice severe weather setup can’t develop in late May. Yesterday marked the anniversary of a severe weather day that produced two major tornadoes in our area. In 1973 an F-3 tornado touched down just northeast of the city of Tarrant and moved through Centerpoint in Jefferson County. With winds of 162-209 mph, this violent tornado was responsible for over 70 injures and one fatality.
On this date another violent tornado touched down near Greensboro and later traveled northeast into the town of Brent in Bibb County. This was an F-4 tornado and it was a long track tornado that later moved into Centreville, Montevallo, Columbiana, Wilsonville, and Childersburg. Around 90% of Brent was destroyed as this violent tornado moved through our area. Around 570 buildings were damaged as this tornado tracked northeast, with over 90 mobile homes destroyed. This tornado was responsible for reshaping the layout of towns like Centreville.
Notice that the labels use the “F” scale since these tornadoes were ranked prior to the new Enhanced Fujita Scale which is based on engineering studies. Now we see tornadoes ranked based on the EF Scale. For the complete report from the Birmingham National Weather Service click here.
(Image from the Birmingham Post-Herald. source: NWS)
Fox 6 Meteorologist
Today marks the anniversary of one of the most talked about weather events to ever impact this state. In 1993, a major winter storm impacted Alabama, dumping up to a foot of snow in many areas. This storm system carries many names. From the “Superstorm of 1993” to the “Storm of the Century,” this was certainly a once in a lifetime event. I can’t believe it has been 18 years! As a young weather woodchuck in Tuscaloosa, I was amazed to see it lightning and snowing at the same time. This mid-latitude cyclone had record breaking pressure levels as it deepened right over Alabama and Georgia. Typically, this type of strengthening occurs with mid-latitude cyclones well north and northeast of Alabama. While thundersnow occurred over our area, tornado producing thunderstorms impacted central Florida. I have included a link to a 2003 report compiled by the NWS, Birmingham. http://www.srh.noaa.gov/bmx/?n=winter_blizzardof1993
Fox 6 Meteorologist
If you've noticed temperatures have been a bit warmer lately - especially after the deep freeze that we had earlier in the month - you're experiencing what is known as the "January Thaw". This weather phenomenon is the opposite of Indian Summer. It's considered a signularity or annual weather episode that reoccurs at about the same time every year. The causes of this change is temperature are connection with a more westerly or southwestly atmospheric circulation. The stronger than normal westerlies tend to confine Arctic air northward and encourage the intrusion of warmer air from the Gulf of Mexico. Meteorologists have differing opinions on why these warmer than normal temperatures occur during late January. Some relate to sunspot activity while other researchers claim it's a large-scale readjustment of the atmopshere from an early Winter to a late Winter stage.
Fox 6 Chief Meteorologist
"The violent, killer tornado destroyed the entire business portion of Moundville, except for one store. The freight and passenger depot of the railroad, seven freight cars, a cotton ginnery, a livery stable, a grist mill, 21 negro cabins, the town hotel and 10 substantial homes were destroyed. Everything in the tornado's path was swept aside." -(Source: The Tuscaloosa News, February 25, 1968)
"At least 37 people were killed and around 150 people were injured by the tornado that moved through the Moundville area. The business section of Moundville, a small station on the Alabama Great Southern Railroad, was wiped out of existence on this day. Great giants of the forest were twisted, bent and broken. Fields were laid bare and houses, fences, and outbuildings were demolished. The Alabama Great Southern Railroad lost their water tank, depot and warehouse, with contents of 7 railroad cars, some of which were well ladened. Some of the victims were carried over 200 yards by the tornado. The store houses of R.L. Griffin, W.P. Fifer, A.D. Griffin, W.J. Wiggins & Sons, W.J. Dominick and J.H. Dominick were struck and leveled. The Griffin Hotel was flattened out. Two people were significantly injured by flying lumber missiles."-(Source: The Birmingham News, January 23, 1904)
Because of improved communication over the years and increased population, we now receive tornado reports and damage more readily. In addition, we've seen drastic improvements in how we detect and monitor severe weather conditions. One can only imagine what it must have been like not knowing a tornado was on the ground or even knowing conditions where favorable for a major tornado. Even today there is much we don't know and this event further proves that Alabama can experience severe weather during any time of the year.
Fox 6 Meteorologist
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