Thoughts On The Recent Tornados
Posted on May 2, 2011 at 6:22 PM
The recent outbreak of tornadoes, both here and even more significantly in the Deep South continues to boggle my mind.
It now appears that the tornado outbreak in the south last week was the biggest on record for a 24 hour period with 312 tornadoes counted (so far).
You may have heard of the “super outbreak” in April 1974 when there were 148 tornadoes in 24 hours. We hadn’t had anything close to that since and I personally didn’t think I’d see anything worse in my lifetime. Boy was I wrong.
334 were killed at last count, more than 1974’s total. That’s the most fatalities since a 1936 outbreak which killed 454.
I didn’t think it was possible to surpass the death count of 1974 given the technology and advanced warnings of today. That got me thinking “why?” I don’t think anyone knows the answer yet as this will be something that’s studied for a long time.
How on earth can an EF4 go through Bridgeton, MO and not produce a single serious injury but the same strength storm can go through Alabama and produce multiple deaths? The first obvious answer is basements. They’re not very common in that part of that country. Also several of these tornadoes were on the ground for a really long time and were quite wide. I’ve seen 80 mile tracks and 1.5 mile widths reported. That’s insane. Not to mention MANY communities took direct hits.
As of now, 2 of the tornadoes have been classified EF-5s, the first in three years. One was in Smithville, MS and the other in NW Alabama. The one in Alabama was 1.25 miles wide and winds were estimated as high as 210 mph (holy cow!). The track was 132 miles long and killed 75. Some of the damage reports I’ve seen just blow my mind. Vehicles tossed upwards up to 150-200 yards with one car wrapped around a tree. Foundations weren’t just wiped clean, in some cased they were destroyed with large pieces of pavement sucked up by the tornado.
So the next question is what the heck is going on? The month of April had a record breaking number of tornadoes. One early suggestion is La Nina. This is an ocean cycle we’re currently in that cools the water off South America (the opposite of El Nino) and can impact weather globally. It’s interesting to note that the 1974 outbreak happened during a La Nina as well.
Like I said earlier, this will all be studied for years to come. I’m eager to hear what kind of answers are come up with.