Friday, March 02, 2007


Tornadoes were spawned in southern Alabama yesterday as a warm front moved through the southeastern United States. The above picture shows the destruction of the high school in Enterprise, just west of Fort Rucker. Students were trapped under rubble. At least seven people are dead, five at Enterprise High School alone.

Alabama has a high frequency of tornadoes, particularly during the months of March and April. The National Weather Service has done an excellent job of compiling the state's statistics1 and gave the following general warning yesterday, as posted by the Tuscaloosa County Emergency Management Agency:

SCATTERED THUNDERSTORMS DEVELOPED OVERNIGHT...ALONG AND AHEAD OF A WARM FRONT THAT WILL SURGE NORTHWARD ACROSS CENTRAL ALABAMA THROUGH THE DAY. THESE STORMS ARE EXPECTED TO CONTINUE THROUGH THE MORNING HOURS...AND A FEW MAY PRODUCE HAIL UP TO ONE INCH IN SIZE.

AN ENHANCED SEVERE THUNDERSTORM AND TORNADO THREAT WILL OCCUR LATER TODAY...AFTER THE WARM FRONT HAS MOVED THROUGH AND CONDITIONS CONTINUE TO WARM DUE TO LIMITED SUNSHINE. A COLD FRONT APPROACHING THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING WILL SET OFF MORE THUNDERSTORMS. WITH UNSTABLE CONDITIONS AND SUFFICIENT WIND SHEAR IN PLACE...MANY OF THESE STORMS ARE LIKELY TO BECOME SEVERE. IN FACT...THE COMBINATION OF INSTABILITY AND WIND SHEAR COULD LEAD TO NUMEROUS SUPERCELL THUNDERSTORMS...CAPABLE OF PRODUCING STRONG OR LONG-TRACKED
TORNADOES.


The National Weather Service may have been a tad late in coming, however. The tornado touched down on the Enterprise High School at 1:15 PM. Enterprise is in Coffee County in southern Alabama, which does experience tornadoes but not with nearly the same frequency as the "tornado alley" further north in the state. Coffee County had 26 tornadoes sightings between 1950 and 2002, compared to over thirty each for five counties in the northern part of the state. The most tornadoes actually occurred in Baldwin and Mobile counties, right along the Gulf Coast bordering Mobile Bay.



1Peters, Brian E., 2007, Tornado Statistics for Alabama. Birmingham, Ala.: National Weather Service.

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5 Comments:

At 12:39 PM , Blogger Phoenix71011 said...

What do people do to avoid a tornado?....seems to me, if you or your home is in it's path, you're done for! Do you just hang on and say your prayers?
Do you get much warning or can they sneak up on you?
Like most people I find tornado's fascinating, but never having experienced one, I have no real idea as to how they manifest, although their effects are pretty obvious!

 
At 5:34 PM , Blogger Don Thieme said...

Many people do survive them. You go down in the basement or hunker down along an interior wall. Take candles or other light source as the power almost always goes out.

The Enterprise high school was actually very well organized and insisted that all of the students stay at school and move into the interior. It is unfortunate that the five students died, but more might have been lost had they been driving home on the roads at the time.

 
At 1:30 PM , Blogger MrsDoF said...

I about forgot about the tornado at the high school because I kept searching sites for news about the Bluffton ball team's bus accident.
One of the kids who perished is a relative of a friend of mine, and a neighbor is an alumnus of Bluffton.

I also have a cousin who lives in Lawrenceville, so I called to bend his ear about some details.

Seems like March came in like a lion for many people.

 
At 1:39 PM , Blogger MrsDoF said...

In response to the first comment, we who live in 'Tornado Alley' on the prairie of central Illinois, have drills at our jobs every month, and tornado warning sirens throughout the county which are tested and maintained routinely.
Our children get lessons from a very early age about weather and going to the door frame of an inside hallway, to to the basement.
Houses and factories are built with shelters.

I've helped with clean-up after at least two tornadoes, one for a family at church which lost everything except their lives. Their college age son went to the basement, and climbed back upstairs to open air.

Wherever we live, there are hazards. Earthquakes in California, flood plains in Mississippe, 8 feet of snow in upstate New York.
I guess it depends on what we're willing to tolerate/ trade-off.

 
At 3:12 PM , Blogger Don Thieme said...

I remember when we first moved to Tennessee from Washington, D.C. that my family would get very frightened everytime a "Tornado Watch" was posted on television. Soon we came to realize that there would be four or five on average every year, days when "conditions were favorable" for a tornado to form.

 

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