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Tornadic Hell In Central/Southern U.S.

Natural disasters Tornadoes Southern US 2011

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#61 Vapor Trails

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 09:24 AM

This is Dr. Greg Forbes's blog on the Weather Channel site. Worth a read. Excerpt:

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Early in my graduate school experience I had the privilege of surveying the damage from many of the April 3-4, 1974 Superoutbreak tornadoes as part of Dr. Fujita's team. 148 tornadoes struck in 48 hours. Six of the tornadoes in that outbreak were rated F5 (on the original Fujita Scale) and 30 were rated F4 or stronger. There were more than 300 fatalities, over 5000 injuries, and the sum of tornado path lengths exceeded 2500 miles. The Superoutbreak has been the benchmark for all tornado outbreaks since.

I always thought that there was a chance that some future tornado outbreak might be worse. The most recent one could be, at least in some respects. Damage surveys are still in progress that will bring us the true count of the number of tornadoes, their EF-Scale ratings, path lengths and widths, and other measures of the outbreak's fury. The National Weather Service, using preliminary data, has already indicated that its tornado count might exceed the number of tornadoes in the Superoutbreak.

Once Doppler radars were deployed across the United States in the early 1990s, though, I never thought I'd see a tornado outbreak kill hundreds of people again. How sad that it has happened on Wednesday. More than 200 people were killed in Alabama alone and more than 300 in total, according to news reports! The Doppler radars allow us to see tornadoes and their parent thunderstorms' rotating updrafts like never before, and the National Weather Service issues tornado warnings with an average of 13 minutes of lead time (in advance of the tornado), and often much more than that. Combine that with so many more - and more efficient - ways of getting the warnings in this internet era and it's a "different world" relative to the 80-character-per-second teletypes that gave warnings to the media (and not directly to the public) back in 1974. People can get timely and effective warnings on NOAA Weather Radio, on The Weather Channel, from services like TWC's "Nofify!" that can personally send you a message that a tornado is coming, and in many other ways.

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#62 Vapor Trails

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 09:32 AM

Here is a web site dealing with the 1925 tornado that killed nearly 700 people.
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#63 SparkyCola

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 11:26 AM

Man, must be terrifying.

If tornadoes happen a lot in Alabama - how come they don't have storm cellars or basements? :unsure: Seems a bit of an oversight somehow.

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#64 Vapor Trails

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 11:36 AM

View PostSparkyCola, on 30 April 2011 - 11:26 AM, said:

Man, must be terrifying.

If tornadoes happen a lot in Alabama - how come they don't have storm cellars or basements? :unsure: Seems a bit of an oversight somehow.

Sparky

If you're right about the lack of storm cellars, good question. There have been those who say that Tornado Alley (Central U.S.) is the one that gets hit the hardest and most frequently by twisters-keep in mind, we are about to start May, which is supposed to be the height of tornado season here. That's when the jet stream is going across the center of the U.S., from west to east. As the season goes on, the jet stream goes more and more to the north.

Because the Central U.S. is considered Tornado Alley for these reasons, it's typical for storm cellars to be in these areas. I don't know enough about twister frequency in the S.E. U.S.-I obviously have to do some reading. I'm still in Ramsey, NJ-but the kids will be finishing their track meet within the next 45 minutes, so it will be time for me to pack up and bus them back south.
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#65 FnlPrblm

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 04:17 PM

Well, it seems as though when we speak of severe weather happening more frequently and worse...we're right.  Checking N.O.A.A.'s data (which only goes up to 2007 apparently on this summary), the data shows over a 20 year period that severe storm frequency and severity has jumped 708% for the Saint Louis area alone. :eek:

Oddly, Oklahoma City, OK had been on the decline and Tulsa, OK has been on a semi-high rise.  Dallas/Ft. Worth has been on a slow decline.  Minnesota seems to have spiked as well.  IF global warming is there and factoring in, it would seem that it's pushing that cold-warm front band-clashing further north over the last 20+ years.  Maybe since 2007, weather patterns have started moving it back south again and thus the resurgence of the killer tornadoes?

But for the first half of that deduction, it would also help explain why tornadoes have started showing up in places that it was practically unheard of before (New York City and London) in recent years.

Sparky, as far as the basements are concerned, it seems as though cost, demographics/geographics and lottery-chance planning on builder's side are all to blame most of with that.  Here in Saint Louis, it's not unheard of that there wouldn't be a basement, but it's not very common.  It still lingers in the back of most people's minds that Saint Louis has been bulldozed by some of the worst tornadoes to strike a metropolitan area.  (1896, 1927, 1967 are all in almanacs.)  Not taking into account this years outbreaks, Saint Louis has the third deadliest (1896: 1000+ injuries 256 dead) and the second costliest (adjusted for inflation 1927).  So basements are typically a must here.  In places like the Carolinas, they happen and they're deadly when they do strike, but it's not quite as common.

The tornado that just ripped through Saint Louis was rated as an EF4 in the two hardest hit places.  Fatalities = 0 Zero.  The damage in some areas was similar to that in Alabama happening days later.  However, surveyor's say that the tornado which ravaged Tuscaloosa, Alabama was estimated to be 2 1/2 times larger than that which hit STL.  Another issue apparently seemed to be that over the previous couple of weeks, the tornado sirens and alert systems had been activated, while producing little of actual extreme weather.  So people had grown complacent and didn't rush.  (This is something one of our weathermen who went to T., Alabama said after speaking with law enforcement/locals in the aftermath.)
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#66 Shoshana

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 11:27 PM

re basements and storm cellars:

I know here in Texas most houses don't have basements of any sort. Mostly slab or pier and beam construction.

#67 Tricia

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 08:32 AM

Shoshana is right on that...it's not even an option offered as far as I have ever heard.  

I once lived in a rural area up near Dallas (as a child) in an older home that had been built near an old homesite (from the 1800s) that had  a storm cellar.  Not that it would have done any good in a storm because it was always flooded and had been barricaded.

But that is the only one I have ever seen or heard of.

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#68 Nikcara

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 08:56 AM

I never had a basement or cellar until I moved to OH.  Granted California isn't know for tornadoes, but I don't think I even KNEW anyone with a basement or cellar.
or
Construction in general has a fair amount to do with geography: in CA, there's a lot of rock you would have to bore out to make a cellar, so it's a lot of cost for very little benefit.  Cellars aren't useful in earthquakes or fires and tornadoes and hurricanes don't happen, so there's no real upside.  But there aren't many brick buildings, because earthquakes tear bricks up (cracks the mortar and shifts the bricks around) worse than then do wood.

I don't know the geography of Alabama very well, but I know that elevation-wise it's pretty close to sea level (apparently it averages 500' above sea level) so basements would tend to be very, very wet.  Given that and the rain Alabama gets, I imagine basements would be flooded regularly, and since tornadoes aren't that common, most people probably forgo the headaches figuring they'll never really need one anyway.

I also read somewhere that Alabama has a very high percentage of people who live in mobile homes and trailers.  Obviously none of those are going to have basements, as well as being about the most dangerous building to be in when a tornado hits.
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#69 Vapor Trails

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 09:47 AM

I'm watching Meet The Press now....

The death toll is now 342. :( There were 288 tornadoes during this breakout.
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#70 Tricia

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 10:34 AM

View PostNikcara, on 01 May 2011 - 08:56 AM, said:

I also read somewhere that Alabama has a very high percentage of people who live in mobile homes and trailers.  Obviously none of those are going to have basements, as well as being about the most dangerous building to be in when a tornado hits.


I thought that was what i had heard also...the high larger amount of people living in mobile homes...

Not making a joke here but I remember an episode many many years ago of WKRP in Cincinnati that involved a tornado and Johnny Fever was scared because of a previous experience with them.  I had to look up the exact quote but he said--

Dr Johnny Fever--"My mother and I were in a tornado once. We were in a mobile home, and I think God must really hate mobile homes, Andy, cuz tornadoes always attack them first. They get very mobile"

That stuck with me because it seems to be true that tornadoes are drawn (?) to mobile homes..or at least it seems that way.  Dang and now I'm nostaligic for that show ;)


This has been a really bad slew of storms and the loss of life...staggering

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#71 Nonny

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 11:39 AM

View PostNikcara, on 01 May 2011 - 08:56 AM, said:

I never had a basement or cellar until I moved to OH.
I grew up in Ohio, and both houses I lived in as a child had large cellars.  The house we moved to when I was 8 had a three room cellar with a laundry room, rumpus room and root cellar.  The root cellar was also the storm cellar, and had just enough room to cram our whole family, Mom, Dad, seven kids.  Fortunately, we never had to.  We would sit in the kitchen with Dad's railroad lanterns, waiting.  Next morning we'd clean up the yard and the street, but never anything more than downed tree branches.  The West Side usually got the brunt.

edited to add that I just remembered it was a four room cellar, with Dad's tool room and workbench.  It was a big cellar.

Edited by Nonny, 01 May 2011 - 11:42 AM.

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#72 Cardie

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 12:59 PM

Basements and cellars are common in colder climates because it's harder to keep your first floor warm when it's below freezing and snowing and your living space is sitting on a slab on the ground.  So in warmer climates there are fewer basements. There is also the factor of elevation, as Nikcara mentioned, and the soil composition/rockiness you have to excavate to dig a basement. We had a fully furnished basement where I grew up in West Virginia that housed the furnace, a big laundry room and rec room. Neither of my SC houses had a basement.

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#73 FnlPrblm

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Posted 04 May 2011 - 07:15 AM

View PostTricia, on 01 May 2011 - 10:34 AM, said:

View PostNikcara, on 01 May 2011 - 08:56 AM, said:

I also read somewhere that Alabama has a very high percentage of people who live in mobile homes and trailers.  Obviously none of those are going to have basements, as well as being about the most dangerous building to be in when a tornado hits.


I thought that was what i had heard also...the high larger amount of people living in mobile homes...

Not making a joke here but I remember an episode many many years ago of WKRP in Cincinnati that involved a tornado and Johnny Fever was scared because of a previous experience with them.  I had to look up the exact quote but he said--

Dr Johnny Fever--"My mother and I were in a tornado once. We were in a mobile home, and I think God must really hate mobile homes, Andy, cuz tornadoes always attack them first. They get very mobile"

That stuck with me because it seems to be true that tornadoes are drawn (?) to mobile homes..or at least it seems that way.  Dang and now I'm nostaligic for that show ;)


This has been a really bad slew of storms and the loss of life...staggering

"Baby, if you've ever wondered..."  ;) It's not that storms are attracted to mobile homes or barns, it's that those structures are often in valleys and plains which are highly susceptible to tornadoes and often flooding.  The land is cheap for a reason and thus why mobile homes often rent it.
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"Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing." --- Ralph Waldo Emerson 'Art,' 1841

"Such welcome and unwelcome things at once, 'Tis hard to reconcile." --- Macbeth IV.III.138-9


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#74 Shoshana

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 05:02 PM

The Tuscaloosa/ B'ham tornado was rated a EF4 I think yesterday or the day before.

The safest place to be in a tornado is Jarrell TX. (abt half an hour north of Austin) Why? Because in 1997 they had 3 tornadoes, one a EF5 tornado came thru and wiped out an entire neighborhood. 27 people died. The difference between a EF4 and EF5 is, obviously intensity. When a EF5 hits, all that's left are slabs. The houses are totally gone. Plumbing can be ripped out, sidewalks yanked out of the ground. (as a side note, this tornado tracked north to south, extremely unusual here)

Pretty much the only people who lived thru the direct hit were the people who either took off in their car and got out of the way, or the people who were underground. One guy, after having his house blown away in a previous tornado, dug a hole thru the slab in his house and made himself a shelter. It saved his family and several neighbors in the F5.

A few miles away, in Cedar Park, a F3 tornado hit a grocery store and buzz sawed it in half. All the people were ok cause the manager got everyone into the walkin freezer in the back. (That day there were 20 confirmed tornadoes. 6 F0, 6 F1, 3 F2, 3 F3, 1 F4 and 1 F5)

Anyway, why this is such a safe place? People realized that hiding in a bathtub wasn't going to help in an F4 or esp an F5 and they went out and bought underground shelters or had tornado safe rooms built into their houses. They have the highest per capita tornado shelter ratio of anywhere.

Moore OK has been hit by 2 EF5 tornadoes within a few years. Almost the exact same path. I remember seeing one lady who had a tornado safe room built into her house. It was the only thing standing in the neighborhood.

The problem is, shelters are expensive. In an F4/F5 it doesn't matter if you are in a trailer home or a regular house. You have to be in a shelter or out of the way. It won't survive an F5 and will rarely survive an F4. But F4 and F5 tornadoes are thankfully pretty rare so people think, well, it won't happen to me. F0-F3 tornadoes tend to be pretty narrow and skip around enforcing that belief.

In Jarrell, there were people who were killed because they left their mobile homes to go to shelter in nearby houses. The tornado hit the houses.

I think, in Dixie Alley anyway, they should make it mandatory for trailer parks, RV parks and mobile home parks to have at least one common tornado shelter that can accommodate all the residents. And if families all live on a parcel of land in their own compound whether it's in mobile homes or houses they should build a common shelter.

I saw an article last night that said sales of tornado shelters is brisk in Texas right now - outlets are selling in days what they normally sell in several months.

As far as basements in Alabama - we had a walk out basement when we lived there. North Alabama is hilly - and rocky. Granite, so they have to use dynamite to blast out basements most places. The water table isn't the problem, it the granite. We lived there during a big outbreak. Not a record one but a bad one. I saw the sky turn green (usually means severe thunderstorm with hail) and then the clouds above our house started rotating. Freakiest thing. We were home alone and we didn't even know to go into the basement so we stayed upstairs in the living room watching the storm. We lucked out - nothing bad happened to us.

One last thing. In my experience, there is almost never just one tornado. You get a line of storms and multiple tornadoes. At least here anyway. I saw that Auckland NZ had one this week and it sounded like they just had the one.

Edited by Shoshana, 05 May 2011 - 05:11 PM.


#75 M.E.

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 05:16 PM

View PostShoshana, on 05 May 2011 - 05:02 PM, said:

As far as basements in Alabama - we had a walk out basement when we lived there. North Alabama is hilly - and rocky. Granite, so they have to use dynamite to blast out basements most places. The water table isn't the problem, it the granite. We lived there during a big outbreak. Not a record one but a bad one. I saw the sky turn green (usually means severe thunderstorm with hail) and then the clouds above our house started rotating. Freakiest thing. We were home alone and we didn't even know to go into the basement so we stayed upstairs in the living room watching the storm. We lucked out - nothing bad happened to us.

One last thing. In my experience, there is almost never just one tornado. You get a line of storms and multiple tornadoes. At least here anyway. I saw that Auckland NZ had one this week and it sounded like they just had the one.

That's what happened here, Shoshanna.  

In 1987.  The sky turned green the night before.  No one was prepared.  Thankfully we had very few deaths.

http://en.wikipedia....dmonton_Tornado

#76 Shoshana

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 11:08 PM

Living here in Texas I've seen the clouds go green a number of times. It doesn't always result in tornadoes (but I've seen hail every time), but there is always at least a tornado watch when there is a green sky.

When it's really really dark green it looks like dark pea soup. I was working in an aircraft hanger once when a line of storms went by - hail, tornadoes, flooding the works. The craziest part? The lightning was red. I was wishing I had a camera, but I worked in a security zone.

#77 Vapor Trails

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 09:47 AM

View PostShoshana, on 05 May 2011 - 11:08 PM, said:

Living here in Texas I've seen the clouds go green a number of times. It doesn't always result in tornadoes (but I've seen hail every time), but there is always at least a tornado watch when there is a green sky.

When it's really really dark green it looks like dark pea soup. I was working in an aircraft hanger once when a line of storms went by - hail, tornadoes, flooding the works. The craziest part? The lightning was red. I was wishing I had a camera, but I worked in a security zone.

Yes-a thunderstorm with green clouds is a thunderstorm filled with hail-meaning there is a violent updraft. Basically, a hailstone is a ball of ice that hs been blown up and dropped down many times inside a thundercloud. The more severe a storm is, the more a hailstone is blown up towards the top of the thundercloud-and severe thunderstorms can reach heights of 60,000 feet. Each time it is blown back up, a layer of ice forms over it-that's why when you cut open a large hailstone, it looks like an onion inside. They can grow to the size of softballs-and usually, any storm that severe is quite capable of putting down a violent tornado, if the conditions are right.

On rare occasions, hailstorms can seriously injure or kill people.
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#78 Shoshana

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 11:02 PM

View PostAnalog Kid, on 06 May 2011 - 09:47 AM, said:

View PostShoshana, on 05 May 2011 - 11:08 PM, said:

Living here in Texas I've seen the clouds go green a number of times. It doesn't always result in tornadoes (but I've seen hail every time), but there is always at least a tornado watch when there is a green sky.

When it's really really dark green it looks like dark pea soup. I was working in an aircraft hanger once when a line of storms went by - hail, tornadoes, flooding the works. The craziest part? The lightning was red. I was wishing I had a camera, but I worked in a security zone.

Yes-a thunderstorm with green clouds is a thunderstorm filled with hail-meaning there is a violent updraft. Basically, a hailstone is a ball of ice that hs been blown up and dropped down many times inside a thundercloud. The more severe a storm is, the more a hailstone is blown up towards the top of the thundercloud-and severe thunderstorms can reach heights of 60,000 feet. Each time it is blown back up, a layer of ice forms over it-that's why when you cut open a large hailstone, it looks like an onion inside. They can grow to the size of softballs-and usually, any storm that severe is quite capable of putting down a violent tornado, if the conditions are right.

On rare occasions, hailstorms can seriously injure or kill people.


MayFest 1995 Ft Worth. 10,000+ people at an outdoor event. No public warning and softball size hail... 2 billion dollars in damage.

#79 Vapor Trails

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 08:21 AM

Shoshana,

I think the ice in the hailstones is responsible for the green color; any light shining through it causes the hailstones to emit green. Why? I haven't a clue.

I've heard that hailstones on very rare occasions have grown to the size of grapefruits!!  :crazy: :eek3:

Read your link-not surprising at all, but still, horrifying. That's how I felt about the massive tornado outbreak last week. Incidentally, I have my new weather radio with me-I'm in Ramsey, New Jersey-I'm doing a charter run; the kids have track.

Have a good one!  :waves:

Edited by Analog Kid, 07 May 2011 - 08:22 AM.

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"We're relevant for $ and a vote once every two years. Beyond that, we're completely irrelevant, except of course to consume, and preach the gospel according to [insert political demigod here]."--Cait

#80 FnlPrblm

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 09:42 AM

I would venture a guess it's probably the same reason why we see the sky as blue for some reason.
"It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." --- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Beryl Coronet

The Boscombe Valley Mystery: "There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."

"Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing." --- Ralph Waldo Emerson 'Art,' 1841

"Such welcome and unwelcome things at once, 'Tis hard to reconcile." --- Macbeth IV.III.138-9


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Time to eat all your words, swallow your pride, open your eyes...Sowing the Seeds of Love - Tears4Fears



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