Remembering April 3, 1974…

| April 3, 2010 @ 12:44 am | 1 Reply

Weather maps on the morning of Wednesday, April 3, 1974 gave clear indications that a major outbreak of severe weather was likely across a wide part of the United States. About 4 a.m., the forecaster at the Severe Local Storms Center in Kansas City issued the 24 hour severe weather outlook. It was a masterful forecast. It called for “scattered” severe thunderstorms. This was a higher category than the usual “few” severe storms listed in the forecast. It would be the equivalent of a moderate risk outlook today.

It was warm and muggy when I awakened that morning. Oh, no. Tornado weather. Again. I was quite weary of severe weather events back then. Weather was definitely a very real fear, not a fascination for this 12 year old that was growing up in Huffman. We had just dodged a bullet on Monday night as April Fool’s Day tornadoes ripped through the state, killing a Huntsville man.

At 7 a.m. on that Wednesday morning, it was 71F with a dewpoint of 70F. Skies were cloudy. There was a southerly wind gusting to 15 mph already. My aneroid barometer read 29.75. All bad signs for early April. The Today Show broadcast the SELS Severe Thunderstorm Forecast each morning, calling it the SKYWARN map. It looked ominous.

The sun made occasional appearances through the morning hours, even as temperatures soared into the 80s and winds gusted to over 30 mph. I was in the 6th grade, and my wonderful teacher JudyThornton, decided we should have class outside. She caught me standing off to the side watching the low cumulus clouds racing northward in the strong winds. She commented that it was a beautiful day. I shook my head. It was going to be bad, I told her. How so, she asked. Tornadoes, I said. She chided me for being a worrier. It wasn’t going to do anything, she said. I felt those gusting winds and knew better. My dad brought my lunch that day, and he told me that a tornado watch had been issued. I had a strong feeling of foreboding.

My mom picked us up from school at 3 o’clock. Storms were building. By the time we got home, tornado warnings were being issued for Jefferson County. A tornado did touch down near Concord, west of Birmingham, but the storms passed our home in northeastern Jefferson County and I breathed a sigh of relief. But that relief would be short lived. A new tornado watch was issued at 5:45 p.m. for a large part of Alabama. It looked like it was going to be a long night of severe weather in Alabama. We had no idea…

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Bill Murray is the President of The Weather Factory. He is the site's official weather historian and a weekend forecaster. He also anchors the site's severe weather coverage. Bill Murray is the proud holder of National Weather Association Digital Seal #0001 @wxhistorian

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