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Tuscaloosa/B’ham Tornado Rated EF-4

| 6:28 am May 2, 2011 | Comments (25)

Was on the ground for 80 miles…

TORNADO 8…TUSCALOOSA/BIRMINGHAM (GREENE/TUSCALOOSA/JEFFERSON
COUNTIES)

PRELIMINARY DATA…
EVENT DATE: APRIL 27, 2011
EVENT TYPE: EF-4
ESTIMATED PEAK WINDS (MPH): UP TO 190
INJURIES/FATALITIES: OVER 1000 INJURIES/AT LEAST 65 FATALITIES.
EVENT START LOCATION AND TIME: 33.0297/-87.935 AT 443 PM
EVENT END LOCATION AND TIME: 33.6311/-86.7436 AT 614 PM
DAMAGE PATH LENGTH (IN MILES): APPROXIMATELY 80.3 MILES
DAMAGE WIDTH: 1.5 MILES CROSSING I-65.
NOTE: MORE DETAILS ON THIS SURVEY TO COME.

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS HAVE SURVEYED THE MASSIVE
DAMAGE ASSOCIATED WITH THIS LONG TRACK VIOLENT TORNADO…BY GROUND
AND AIR. THE START POINT IS BASED ON AERIAL SURVEY…WHILE THE END
LOCATION WAS DETERMINED BY A GROUND CREW. DETAILED DAMAGE INSPECTION
HAS REVEALED A MAXIMUM OF EF-4 DAMAGE FROM EAST OF HOLT…NEAR
CONCORD…AND THE PLEASANT GROVE AREAS. CASUALTY INFORMATION IS
BASED ON THE LATEST OFFICIAL RELEASES FROM THE ALABAMA EMERGENCY
MANAGEMENT AGENCY. THIS TORNADO WAS PRODUCED BY A SUPERCELL
THUNDERSTORM THAT BEGAN IN NEWTON COUNTY MISSISSIPPI AT 254 PM
CDT…FINALLY DISSIPATING IN MACON COUNTY NORTH CAROLINA AT
APPROXIMATELY 1018 PM CDT. SO…THIS SUPERCELL EXISTED FOR ABOUT 7
HOURS AND 24 MINUTES…TRAVELING APPROXIMATELY 380 MILES PRODUCING
SEVERAL STRONG TO VIOLENT TORNADOES ALONG THE WAY. ADDITIONAL
EVALUATION OF THE DAMAGE IN TUSCALOOSA AND JEFFERSON COUNTY WILL
CONTINUE TODAY TO DETERMINE IF THE RATING NEEDS TO BE INCREASED.
MORE DETAIL ON THE SURVEY RESULTS WILL BE UPDATED WHEN THEY BECOME
AVAILABLE.

For the full tornado survey information, go here.

Comments

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Category: Severe Weather

Comments (25)

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  1. Aaron says:

    Does that storm not continue into the shoal creek valley area? I know it lifted up off the ground for a ways before it got to Shoal Creek Valley. Or will that area get whole different ratings?

  2. James Spann says:

    This tornado lifted north of Birmingham… the St. Clair/Calhoun tornado will be a different one on the books, but from the same parent thunderstorm.

  3. Rob says:

    I live around Chalkville/Clay…what was it that caused it to lift up briefly and spare all of Center Point? From what I saw, it would have demolished Jeff State and right through the middle of Center Point. We were sooo lucky!

  4. Aaron says:

    Ok, i wasnt sure how that worked. Thanks for the response. And keep up the good work. Im your biggest fan!!!!!!! Oh and i was going to ask you, i live in Odenville, off of pleasant valley rd. On pleasant hills, we had a small spin up over here at 6am that morning, nothing major, but i was watching you on the news before it came, and got no warning, no sirens, no alerts or anything. Did that storm show up on radar?

  5. Aaron says:

    Ok i wasnt sure how that worked. Question… I live off of pleasant valley rd in Odenville and a small spin up came through that morning at 6am. But there were no sirens, no alerts, and min. before you wasnt showing anything on radar for here, could you check if that ever came up and email me a still shot? Exact location is hardwick station rd. and Pleasant hills rd. Odenville. Thanks for all you do

  6. Jason in Helena says:

    After seeing EF-4 damage first hand in Tuscaloosa yesterday, I simply can’t imagine what EF-5 damage would look like.

  7. Darren says:

    On Wednesday morning around 6:00am a tornado hit Mountain Woods Lake in Hayden. Homes were completly destroyed (down to the foundation), huge alumunium piers were uplifted and smashed into yards or were turned over and submerged. The boats on the lake seemed nothing more more than plastic pool toys to this weather event. We received power late Saturday and I may have missed the announcements but I was wondering the rating and path of this storm. I’m sure it was a small rating compared to the damage seen on television from the EF4 and EF5 tornados. However,it is still hard to see the devastation on a lake that I have called home for over 30 years.

  8. Peggy says:

    does anyone know the current number of fatalities for alabama?

  9. Dana says:

    James, hope you can round up someone who participated in this survey for Weather Extreme tonight and have them explain why they haven’t pulled the trigger on it being an EF5.

  10. Dana says:

    Weather *Brains*, sorry…

  11. Matt says:

    Seems odd the deadliest tornado is rated weaker than some of the others?

  12. Erick says:

    The EF Scale is based on damage caused, it has nothing to do with how many people died. I’ve spoken to friends who helped with the NWS survey, and they have said that the damage in Tuscaloosa is exclusively EF-4 with some pockets of high-end EF-4 damage, but nothing to conclusively merit an EF-5 rating. But, I think there will be some more evaluation on the pockets of higher damage.

    But really, regardless of the final rating, it was clearly a very significant tornado that created a ton of damage and altered thousands of lives forever.

  13. Chad says:

    My son and I came up to Tuscaloosa on Saturday and helped in the Alberta area. It was a blessing to see people from all over helping. The amount of supplies was mind boggling and what surprised me the most was the people I met from Tuscaloosa who had damage to their house but were there helping. Through this tragedy God is working miracles.

  14. John gunter says:

    Well it really doesn’t matter EF4 or EF5 or smaller if your house
    or someone you know is hit. They aren’t concerned with the scale
    they are concerned with the recovery. I have spent last three days
    at my sister house in fleetwood community helping and everyone there
    are just doing best they can to get their lives back somewhat on track.

  15. Monica (Pleasant Grove) says:

    I’ve never seen anything like this. Thank God we survived but many in my hometown did not, and many lost everything. I’ve come back to work today but my heart is at home. Thank you for all your help and prayers to everyone.

  16. Discrepencies says:

    There seems to be some discrepancies with these numbers.

    I took the Tuscaloosa / BMH aerial survey video, opened it and opened Google Earth beside it and followed it- dropping pins on the map on specific landmarks along the way- you can follow the Tornado path in this way relatively easily.

    I started this when the videos started being published. Then they released the initial Tornado Tracks Map. So I did an overlay of the Tracks Map on my Google Earth and it lined up exactly with the pins I had placed following the Videos of the damage path.

    The Hackleberg path is on the NOAA Tracks Map and I also found a satellite image of the path from space.

    The Hackleberg path is exactly 296 miles as the crow flies- without adding miles from slight deviations along the path. I saw no breaks to damage.

    The Tuscaloosa/BMH Tornado path is exactly 265 miles as the crow flies – etc. I didn’t see any breaks to damage at all

    I really don’t understand these survey numbers when it is clear there were much longer paths with these.

    I also don’t understand the Tuscaloosa EF4 rating as, clearly, in areas along this path there are completely debarked trees, portions of pavement removed from the ground and damage as bad or worse as in Smithville.

    I survived the Super Outbreak of ’74, the May 1995 outbreak driving through Tenn and Kentucky on the 18th, the Cardington Oh. Tornado and a few hurricanes – and so I have been educating myself in meteorology for a long time. If someone could enlighten me on what seems to be a minimizing of the numbers, I would really appreciate it.

  17. Mark Purser says:

    Rating it an F4 is an insult to the people who lost their lives. If an F4 can blow away foundations…what would an F5 do? Awaiting answer.

  18. Mike says:

    As surprising as the EF4 for Tuscaloosa was i was equally shocked at only EF3 for the Ohatchee tornado.

  19. PatrickInAltadena says:

    These crews aren’t SEC refs are they?

    I could see this on residential structures but the damage was to major commercial districts that are brick/commercial-grade concrete and I saw most of them flattened to the foundation. The area, Alberta, was leveled. I saw nothing different than the Oak Grove tornado from 1998 and if anything, even more devastation.

  20. EL DC says:

    What is the difference in payouts from Insurance companies for an EF4 compared to an EF5? Or federal assistance amount? Anyone from the insurance business or familiar with Federal emergency assistance know if there is a monetary difference?

  21. Something is very fishy about the NWS surveys of the two tornadoes from Tuscaloosa to Piedmont. Dr Gregory Forbes is one of the most highly respected tornado experts alive; he flew over the entire damage path from northwest Georgia to Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. Afterwords, I heard him remark the tornado path from B’ham to Tuscaloosa was extreme, with mostly EF4 to EF5 intensity damge. Dr. Forbes also stated it was among the MOST INTENSE tornadoes he’d ever seen; this from a man who worked alongside Dr. Ted Fujita surveying the aftermath of the 1974 Superoutbreak. That speaks volumes…

  22. Erick says:

    It’s important to remember that the current EF Scale is not the same as the old F Scale. The current EF Scale takes into account that significant damage (such as well-constructed homes being completely swept from their foundations) can occur at considerably lower wind speeds than previously thought, especially depending on the forward speed of the tornado.

    There are 28 damage indicators on the EF scale, and wind speeds are estimated based on varying degrees of damage for each damage indicator. For instance…someone here mentioned trees being debarked…according to the EF Scale, a hardwood tree being completely debarked and large limbs broken off would occur with lower bound winds of 123 mph and upper bound winds of 167 mph. Going by just that damage indicator, you are talking about a low-end EF-4 tornado.

    Back to the original example of a home being completely swept from it’s foundation, this could occur with lower bound winds of 165 mph (high-end EF-3) and with upper bound winds of 220 mph (EF-5). But, this is commonly expected with winds of around 200 mph (high end EF-4, low-end EF-5)…BUT, it all depends on how well-constructed this home is. If the survey teams noticed wood rot or other damage or even lower quality forms of construction, this can cause a lower EF rating. This is why some of the pockets of EF-4 damage will need further evaluation.

    Dr. Forbes should be well aware of all of this, since he was part of the committee that created the new Enhanced Fujita scale several years ago.

  23. Michael says:

    Tim Marshall’s fingerprints are all over these ratings.He is notoriously conservative on southern tornadoes.

  24. nonws says:

    The nws here in our area has always been screwy.Why do our local weather guys see tornados that nws dont see at the time of events?I hope they do cut the office out here and our local stations cover the storms.Reports from the very start out of Norman Ok stated ef5 for ttown with ef4 damage in pockets.Any person can clearly see the ef4 damage and the ef5 damage.The storm in Ms rated ef5 looked like a ef4 but rated ef5.Its time to clean house in the nws better yet shut it down and let huntsville office cover half and mgomery cover the other half.Better yet save our taxes and let the local tv weather guys cover it all.How many can say the nws is more useful than our local team.

  25. Okie says:

    We had an F5 here in OKC on May 3rd 1999. This tornado left a mile wide swath in some places and had some winds reaching 318 mph. That was a bad day for us Okies. We lost many lives, some classes and finals were canceled at our Universities. This Tuscaloosa tornado was bad from the videos I’ve seen. We are praying for the families as we know firsthand how destructive tornadoes are in Indian Territory.
    Oklahomans are praying for you.

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