The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
-Psalm 19:1

Do you know that God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash?
-Job 37:15

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The CALM before the Storm...

I received a comment from a dear friend, where she referenced a tornado warning in her area (outside of Atlanta) that was issued on Sunday. She was confused by the warning because conditions didn't seem "bad" enough for a tornado. Please don't ever be fooled by clear or less than severe conditions. If your weather radio, TV station or tells you to take shelter immediately, please act accordingly! It could be nothing (great, then you can laugh about it later), but it's really not worth taking the risk. SEEK SHELTER! A lot of times the worst part of a storm is on the leading edge of a squall line event. In fact, sometimes, isolated cells form well ahead of the line where instability and available energy is ideal for tornadogenesis, and those are the most dangerous because, as she said, conditions usually appear fine and then WaPOW!, there is this doozy of a supercell that drops a tornado seemingly out of nowhere. Such was the case on February 17th, where an isolated supercell formed ahead of the squall line causing an insane amount of damage when it eventually dropped the EF3 tornado in Prattville, AL. It actually started as a very isolated and powerful (destined to be a long lived) supercell, well ahead of the main squall line that ended up dropping an EF1 in Molino, FL, then dropped an EF2 in Dixie, AL, then an EF1 in Covington County, AL. The preliminary storm report is available from the National Weather Service in Pensacola/Mobile here. The supercell actually then seemingly merged with the squall line as it tracked north, maintaining its distinction as a discrete cell with tremendous energy and potential, eventually dropping 6 tornadoes in the Birmingham county warning area, including the EF3 tornado in Prattville, AL, which injured 50 people and damaged over 240 homes and businesses. The preliminary report is available here. I am disappointed that there don't seem to be preliminary storm reports for the Tallahassee and Atlanta (I did hear, just now, that yesterday, while Meso Mike was photographing some of the damage from the Rebecca, Georgia, tornado, that he came across the Peachtree City, National Weather Service assessment crew, so maybe reports soon--Mike should have those pics up soon on his blog. He has been having some technical difficulties.) CWA portions of this outbreak, but perhaps those will come with time. It is clear in the map of storm reports that there were two lines of clear tornadic activity, one with that long lived supercell that dropped all those tornadoes on its track through 3 states, then along the leading edge of the main squall line. It looks like the tornado near Whigham and Cairo, GA, was most likely another one of those isolated cells ahead of the line that dropped a tornado. Of course, the line later fired back up when it interacted with the moisture feed off the Atlantic Ocean over in eastern North Carolina, which, by the way, has not posted a preliminary report either. The number of tornado reports is currently at 46. I have not heard how many tornadoes have been confirmed.

When I chased in the plains during my chasetunity with the Twister Sisters, the supercell that I was watching in South Dakota was isolated, the weather around it was relatively clear, and I stood and watched as a funnel cloud dropped from the wall cloud... I repeat, clear conditions where I was, and I was looking at what could have potentially become a tornado... see how relatively clear the weather is... well, in this shot, I am looking at a huge mesocyclone with a large rotating wall cloud with a rope funnel descended from it.

I found this link to James Spann's site that has some pictures of the damage from the tornado in Prattville, AL. Thought I would share.

Also, in looking for damage reports, I came across this NWS Warning System Simulator on the Peachtree City site that basically puts you in the "Hot Seat" during a severe weather outbreak. Your job is to watch radar and issue warnings. Watch out, it's addictive. Follow this link to play ---> LINK.

God bless,


  1. Great post, Dew! I think everyone should always take tornado warning sirens seriously until they know that they know there is no bad weather approaching. In fact, just this past Saturday here in Dallas, we had a pretty hefty squall line come through. Well, a couple of hours after the storms left the area the warning sirens near our house went off and my first thought was, "I gotta check the radar and see where this thing is comin' from!", and I told everyone to get ready to take shelter, just in case. As luck would have it, it was a false alarm. But, you can definitely never be too careful.

  2. Thanks, Ken. I felt like I needed to stress the importance of those warnings. My thoughts go to Greensburg, KS, where an EF5 in May 2007, wiped out an entire city, but thanks to advanced warnings, deaths were minimal.

    Of course, I'd probably be a complete fool and grab a doggone camera. jk

  3. I second that; it was a great post, and something that we should talk about more. People who are not weather geeks do not always realize that sometimes the weather is actually pleasant right before a tornado strikes, under the rain free cloud base. This especially true with mesos out ahead of the squall line.

    By the way, the supercell that travelled from the Alabama coast, through SE AL, and then into GA, travelled 320!

  4. Thanks, Mike, for reiterating that. I think people, unfortunately, become complacent with warnings and lock on the notion that "it won't happen to them". I can't tell you how many victims I have seen on the Weather Channel that have said "I didn't think it would happen here... or to us..." It happens. Weather doesn't discriminate. Not to mention there is that whole misconception that there will be green skies, hail and a frieght train sound preceeding a tornado. All you need is lift, instability, moisture and sheer... you don't have to hear or see any of that.

    I know... 320 miles for one supercell!!! Amazing!

  5. I linked your post on my blog...

  6. Thanks for Dewing that, Mike!

  7. Living in south Louisiana I am fascinated by the story of the tornado that destroyed much of Amite LA and wiped out Purvis MS in 1908. It started very close to where my house is built today. We are coming up on the 100th anniversary of this terrible tragedy. My grandmother was 4 years old at the time and lived in Amite when the tornado came through.

    I found an article in the Fort Wayne Ind paper dated Apr 25, 1908 and the quote here is very relevant to your post ...

    "The tornado appeared out of an apparently cloudless sky. It was followed by heavy rains."

    Its even more interesting for weather history fans to note that the official summary of the event was written by Isaac Cline. He was based in New Orleans at the time of the tornado outbreak.

  8. Ggoose, Thanks so much for sharing the story about the devastating tornado of 1908, especially for emphasizing the the point that it can come from "out of the blue". I appreciate your visit and comment.

  9. I read your blog every time you post something actually. I am one of those hidden RSS feed reading types ...

    I'll try to actually click on the posts :) and comment more

  10. Awesome! I am glad you enjoy my blog enough to feed it. Thanks for commenting, and I hope you'll comment more often! Coolness.


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