Tornadoes, floods, and fires continue to pound U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:13 PM GMT on April 27, 2011

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The nation's unprecedented April tornado-fest continued full force last night, with NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logging 57 tornado reports, 295 cases of damaging thunderstorm winds, and 254 reports of large hail. The 2-day tornado count from this latest huge April tornado outbreak is already 102. With another "high risk" forecast for tornadoes today, the tornado total for this week's outbreak may rival the April 14 - 16 tornado outbreak (155 confirmed tornadoes) as the greatest April tornado outbreak in history. It is unprecedented to have two such massive tornado outbreaks occur so close together, and the April preliminary tornado count of 654 is truly stunning. Even adjusting this number downwards 15% (the typical over-count in preliminary tornado reports) yields a probable April tornado total of 550. This easily crushes the previous April tornado record of 267, set in 1974. An average April has "only" 163 tornadoes, so we are already 300% over average for the month, and may approach 400% after today's outbreak. According to a list of tornado outbreaks maintained by Wikipedia, only two other tornado outbreaks have had as many as 150 twisters--the May 2004 outbreak (385), and the May 2003 outbreak (401). One positive note--there has only been one violent EF-4 or stronger tornado this year, despite the fact we've already had about 2/3 of the 1200 tornadoes one typically gets for the entire year. Over the past 20 years, we've averaged 7 violent EF-4 or EF-5 tornadoes per year, so we should have had 4 or 5 of these most dangerous of tornadoes so far this year.


Figure 1. Satellite image of last night's storm at 8pm EDT April 26, 2011. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Fortunately, no one was killed in last night's tornado frenzy, but four twisters caused injuries, with 7 injuries in Hesterman, Mississippi, and 3 in Beekman, Louisiana. Over 100 homes were damaged when a tornado struck Edom, Texas, approximately 75 miles East of Dallas. One woman was injured when her mobile home was destroyed. The only killer tornado of the current outbreak occurred on Monday night at 7:30 pm CDT when a 1/2 mile-wide EF-2 tornado struck the small town of Vilonia, Arkansas. Four people died in the town, where 50 - 80 buildings were destroyed. Tornado warnings were issued 30 minutes before the storm hit, contributing to the relatively low loss of life.


Figure 2. Storm chaser video of a tornado yesterday in Ben Wheeler, Texas.

Another very dangerous tornado outbreak expected today
The busiest April in history for tornadoes continues full-force today, as NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has issued their highest level of severe weather potential, a "High Risk" forecast, for Northern Alabama, Southern Tennessee, and adjoining portions of Georgia and Mississippi. This is the second day in a row, and third time this year, that SPC has issued a "High Risk" forecast. The devastating North Carolina tornado outbreak of April 16, which generated 52 confirmed tornadoes that killed 24 people in North Carolina and 2 people in Virginia, was the other "high risk" day. Numerous tornado warnings have already been issued in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Ohio, and Alabama this morning, but today's main action is expected to erupt late this afternoon as the cold front from a low pressure system currently over Arkansas moves eastwards over the "high risk" area. Strong daytime heating in a very moist, unstable airmass will allow a tremendous amount of energy to build up ahead of the front. The arrival of the cold front will force the warm, moist air upwards, allowing the pent-up energy to burst out and fuel supercell thunderstorms.

Related post: Are tornadoes getting stronger and more frequent?


Figure 3. Severe weather threat for Wednesday, April 27, 2011.

Unprecedented flooding predicted on Ohio River
This week's storm system, in combination with heavy rains earlier this month, have pushed the Ohio River and Mississippi River to near-record levels near their confluence. The Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois is expected to crest at 60.5 feet on May 1. This would exceed 100-year flood stage, and be the highest flood in history, besting the 59.5' mark of 1937. Heavy rains of 10 - 15 inches have inundated the region over the past few days, and one levee breach at Black River levee near Poplar Bluff, Missouri, has resulted in the evacuation of over 500 homes. Poplar Bluff has received 15.45" of rain since Friday morning. The greatest rain gauge-measured precipitation from the storm occurred in Springdale, Arkansas, where 19.70" inches has fallen since Friday morning.


Figure 4. The latest River Flood Outlook from NOAA shows major flooding is occurring over many of the nation's major rivers.

Extraordinary intentional levee breach of Mississippi River halted by lawsuit
In a sign of just how extreme this flooding situation is, yesterday the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for flood control efforts on the Mississippi River, announced plans to intentionally destroy a levee protecting the west bank of the Mississippi River in Southwest Missouri. The destruction of the levee is intended to relieve pressure on the levees at Cairo, Illinois, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Cairo is currently under a voluntary evacuation order. The levee to be destroyed, located at Birds Point, is called a "fuse-plug" levee, and was designed to be destroyed in the event of a record flood. The levee protects 132,000 acres of prime farmland along the New Madrid Spillway, which is designed to take 550,000 cubic feet per second of water flow out of the Mississippi and redirect it down a 3 - 10 mile wide, 36 - 56 mile long path along the west side of the Mississippi. An 11-mile long section of the levee upstream at Birds Point, and 5-mile long stretch at the downstream end, are set two feet lower than the surrounding levees and filled with holes to accommodate dynamite. These levees will be destroyed if the Army Corps has its way, but a lawsuit by the state of Missouri is currently blocking the way. The Army Corps has now agreed to wait until Saturday to decide whether or not to blow the levee. The Army Corps' website has an unofficial damage estimate of $100 million for destroying the levees and flooding the New Madrid Spillway. At least 100 people live in the spillway and have been evacuated, and it would likely take many years for the farms to recover after flooding. The levees have been blown and the spillway opened only once before, back during the record flood of 1937.

Midwest deluge enhanced by near-record Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures
The deluge of rain that caused this flood found its genesis in a flow of warm, humid air coming from the Gulf of Mexico. Sea surface temperatures (SSTs )in the Gulf of Mexico are currently close to 1 °C above average. Only two Aprils since the 1800s (2002 and 1991) have had April SSTs more than 1 °C above average, so current SSTs are among the highest on record. These warm ocean temperatures helped set record high air temperatures in many locations in Texas yesterday, including Galveston (84°F, a tie with 1898), Del Rio (104°F, old record 103° in 1984), San Angelo (97°F, old record 96° in 1994). Record highs were also set on Monday in Baton Rouge and Shreveport in Louisiana, and in Austin, Mineral Wells, and Cotulla la Salle in Texas. Since this week's storm brought plenty of cloud cover that kept temperatures from setting record highs in many locations, a more telling statistic of how warm this air mass was is the huge number of record high minimum temperature records that were set over the past two days. For example, the minimum temperature reached only 79°F in Brownsville, TX Monday morning, beating the previous record high minimum of 77°F set in 2006. In Texas, Austin, Houston, Port Arthur, Cotulla la Salle, Victoria, College Station, Victoria, Corpus Christi, McAllen, and Brownsville all set record high minimums on Monday, as did New Orleans, Lafayette, Monroe, Shreveport, and Alexandria in Louisiana, as well as Jackson and Tupelo in Mississippi. Since record amounts of water vapor can evaporate into air heated to record warm levels, it is not a surprise that incredible rains and unprecedented floods are resulting from this month's near-record warm SSTs in the Gulf of Mexico.


Figure 5. Departure of sea surface temperature from average for April 25, 2001. Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS.

Fierce winds fan Texas, New Mexico fires
Fierce winds fanned raging fires across eastern New Mexico and Western Texas yesterday, thanks to a powerful flow of air feeding into the Midwestern storm system. Temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s combined with humidities less than 10% combined to make yesterday a nightmare fire day for firefighters attempting to control the worst springtime fires in the history of the region. At 3:53 pm MDT yesterday in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the temperature was 87°F, winds were 38 mph gusting to 46, and the humidity was 8%--a perfect storm for extreme fire weather. In Fort Stockton, Texas near the huge Rock House fire, the temperature was 91°F, winds were 35 mph gusting to 44, visibility was reduced to 5 miles due to haze and smoke, and the humidity was 5% at 5:53pm CDT. According to the Interagency Fire Center, wildfires in 2011 have already burned nearly 2.3 million acres in the U.S. This is the greatest acreage on record so early in the year, and is more area than burned all of last year. The largest U.S. acreage to burn since 1960 was the 9.9 million acres that burned in 2007, so we area already 25% of the way to the all-time record fire year--with summer still more than a month away. The fire weather forecast for today is better then yesterday, with winds not expected to blow nearly as strong.


Figure 6. Major wildfires and smoke plumes as visualized using our wundermap with the "fire" layer turned on.

For those who want to lend a helping hand to those impacted by the widespread destruction this month's severe weather has brought, stop by the portlight.org blog.

Jeff Masters

Rare Sight (Freakofnature1)
I haven't seen a storm like this in quite some time. Still no rain in Seguin, Tx. Pic taken in Seguin storm near Martindale.
Rare Sight
Mississippi @ Burlington (BURGuy)
Seating along the shore
Mississippi @ Burlington
Base of Anvil Cloud 4/26/11 (HuskerMama)
Taken within minutes after the storm cell had passed directly overhead.
Base of Anvil Cloud 4/26/11
Southern Lightning (WeatherRose)
This is a shot of a lightning strike associated with some severe storms moving through this evening in Southaven, MS.
Southern Lightning

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Reporter on scene chasing the tornado reports commercial building totally gone. University mall clipped. Trying to get live stream up now
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1952
"Oh Birmingham
I'm wishing you all of my best"

-Ani DiFranco

Wow. I go to a dentist appointment on a beautiful spring day in Colorado and when I get back and sit down at my computer I see violence being wrought on my countrymen and women by severe weather. With at least one friend in the path of at least one tornado (Greensboro, NC), I hope that this day (this week!) is a noisy start to an otherwise quiet season.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54858
A new PDS watch as the move to the east:



WWUS40 KWNS 272252
WWP1

TORNADO WATCH PROBABILITIES FOR WT 0241
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0552 PM CDT WED APR 27 2011

WT 0241 PDS
PROBABILITY TABLE:
PROB OF 2 OR MORE TORNADOES : 80%
PROB OF 1 OR MORE STRONG /F2-F5/ TORNADOES : 70%
PROB OF 10 OR MORE SEVERE WIND EVENTS : 50%
PROB OF 1 OR MORE WIND EVENTS >= 65 KNOTS : 60%
PROB OF 10 OR MORE SEVERE HAIL EVENTS : 60%
PROB OF 1 OR MORE HAIL EVENTS >= 2 INCHES : 50%
PROB OF 6 OR MORE COMBINED SEVERE HAIL/WIND EVENTS : >95%

&&
ATTRIBUTE TABLE:
MAX HAIL /INCHES/ : 2.0
MAX WIND GUSTS SURFACE /KNOTS/ : 60
MAX TOPS /X 100 FEET/ : 500
MEAN STORM MOTION VECTOR /DEGREES AND KNOTS/ : 24045
PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION : YES

&&
FOR A COMPLETE GEOGRAPHICAL DEPICTION OF THE WATCH AND
WATCH EXPIRATION INFORMATION SEE WOUS64 FOR WOU1.

$$
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11683
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
Quoting aquak9:
looks like university of alabama at birmingham is gonna be ok

huge complex plus a hospital


The University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35487

Tornado reported went right over the
University
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1952
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A new view:

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Reports of homes leveled along the path of this Wedge Catastrophic Tornado.

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Quoting ADCS:
http://www.twitvid.com/4W6PU

Tuscaloosa amateur video


Holy....

This is terrible.
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It's big.

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NEXRAD Radar
Columbus AFB, Velocity Azimuth Display Wind Profile Range 124 NMI


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607. skook
cbs 42

Link
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606. ADCS
http://www.twitvid.com/4W6PU

Tuscaloosa amateur video
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NEXRAD Radar
Columbus AFB, Echo Tops Range 124 NMI

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
looks like university of alabama at birmingham is gonna be ok

huge complex plus a hospital
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 171 Comments: 26286
603. ADCS
That thing looks like the harbinger of the freakin' apocalypse.

Petrifying.
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SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BIRMINGHAM AL
555 PM CDT WED APR 27 2011

ALC007-065-105-125-272345-
/O.CON.KBMX.TO.W.0115.000000T0000Z-110427T2345Z/
PERRY AL-HALE AL-BIBB AL-TUSCALOOSA AL-
555 PM CDT WED APR 27 2011

...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR SOUTHEASTERN TUSCALOOSA...
BIBB...HALE AND NORTHERN PERRY COUNTIES UNTIL 645 PM CDT…

...TORNADO EMERGENCY CONTINUES FOR SAWYERVILLE...NORTH GREENSBORO...
HARPER HILL
...

AT 550 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR WAS TRACKING A
CONFIRMED TORNADO. THIS TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR SAWYERVILLE...OR 9
MILES SOUTHEAST OF EUTAW...MOVING NORTHEAST AT 45 MPH.

LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
GREENSBORO...BRENT...CENTREVILLE...EVANSVILLE...AK RON...MERTZ...LOW
GAP...HARRISBURG...EOLINE AND WEST CENTREVILLE.

TO REPORT SEVERE WEATHER...CALL 1-800-856-0758.

LAT...LON 3285 8783 3325 8709 3292 8688 3285 8689
3283 8701 3282 8701 3262 8773 3265 8775
3266 8774 3266 8775 3274 8781
TIME...MOT...LOC 2255Z 242DEG 39KT 3277 8773

$$

17
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something wicked comes
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New "super-cell" S6 appears to mean business also... and the southern part of Birmingham, or Hoover, Al appears to be in its' sights!
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That has to be over a mile wide! Holy smokes!!
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
I have been watching WCBI News out of Tupelo, MS, and Rob Smith (the met) said that the couplet was at 290 mph over Tuscaloosa. *NOT SFC MEASUREMENTS*
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Large tornado now seen on livestream in Downtown Birmingham.
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Take Shelter now if in Birmingham..


go to your Safe Haven if in a Mobile home..




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That does not look good...

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592. srada
Reporter on TWC standing in front of a large glass window..smart!
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Still under the gun...

SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BIRMINGHAM AL
551 PM CDT WED APR 27 2011

ALC073-117-272330-
/O.CON.KBMX.TO.W.0114.000000T0000Z-110427T2330Z/
SHELBY AL-JEFFERSON AL-
551 PM CDT WED APR 27 2011

...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR JEFFERSON AND NORTHERN
SHELBY COUNTIES UNTIL 630 PM CDT…

...TORNADO EMERGENCY CONTINUES FOR HUEYTOWN AND BIRMINGHAM...TAKE
COVER NOW!!!
...

AT 542 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR AND STORM
SPOTTERS WERE TRACKING A LARGE AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO. THIS
TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR NORTH JOHNS...OR 7 MILES SOUTHWEST OF
HUEYTOWN...MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH.

LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
HELENA...FAIRFIELD...PELHAM...HOOVER...HOMEWOOD... VESTAVIA HILLS...
BIRMINGHAM...MOUNTAIN BROOK...CHELSEA AND FULTONDALE.

THIS INCLUDES...
INTERSTATE 65 EXIT NUMBERS 246 THROUGH 282...
INTERSTATE 459 EXIT NUMBERS 1 THROUGH 33...
US 78 EXIT NUMBERS 81 THROUGH 91...
INTERSTATE 20 EXIT NUMBERS 104 THROUGH 140...
INTERSTATE 59 EXIT NUMBERS 130 THROUGH 143...

TO REPORT SEVERE WEATHER...CALL 1-800-856-0758.

LAT...LON 3384 8676 3376 8666 3376 8655 3366 8653
3356 8655 3355 8649 3351 8649 3351 8640
3336 8636 3326 8701 3327 8705 3345 8723
3351 8723 3355 8719 3360 8718 3364 8709
3366 8709 3384 8681
TIME...MOT...LOC 2251Z 243DEG 49KT 3345 8698

$$

17/KLAWS
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589. srada
Watching TWC and they are actually showing the debris falling from the sky in birmingham, al..reporter said he never seen anything like it..
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The tornado seems to have taken a more NE turn... Hopefully it will miss the more populated areas of the city....
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ABC 33/40 Main


Live video by Ustream
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SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HUNTSVILLE AL
549 PM CDT WED APR 27 2011

ALC049-095-272315-
/O.CON.KHUN.TO.W.0098.000000T0000Z-110427T2315Z/
MARSHALL AL-DEKALB AL-
549 PM CDT WED APR 27 2011

...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 615 PM CDT FOR
SOUTHWESTERN DEKALB AND SOUTHEASTERN MARSHALL COUNTIES…

...THIS IS A TORNADO EMERGENCY...INCLUDING THE CITY OF
ALBERTVILLE
...

AT 547 PM CDT...LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT REPORTED A TORNADO. THIS
TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR NIXON CHAPEL...OR ABOUT 11 MILES SOUTHEAST
OF ARAB...MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH.

OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO
DOUGLAS...HORTON...HIGH POINT...MOUNTAIN VIEW...RABBIT TOWN...
ALBERTVILLE...BOAZ...HUSTLEVILLE...ARONA...MCVILL E...KILPATRICK...
RODENTOWN...PAINTER...LATHAMVILLE...WHITON...CROS SVILLE...HOPEWELL...
GERALDINE...SKIRUM AND CHIGGER HILL.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A TORNADO HAS BEEN CONFIRMED. TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY! DO NOT RUN
OUTSIDE TO FIND THE TORNADO...THIS IS A DANGEROUS AND POTENTIALLY
LIFE THREATENING SITUATION!

A TORNADO WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 1000 PM CDT WEDNESDAY EVENING
FOR NORTHERN ALABAMA AND CENTRAL TENNESSEE.

&&

LAT...LON 3423 8643 3448 8607 3448 8606 3424 8588
3420 8600 3420 8609 3419 8612 3418 8619
3410 8631
TIME...MOT...LOC 2248Z 237DEG 53KT 3420 8638

$$

BCC
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birmingham southern college in the path
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Reports of debis from Tuscaloosa falling into Birmingham. Report is from www.abc3340.com in Birmingham.
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Second funnel forming near Dumfries, VA.
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debris falling in Birmingham from the tornado
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Quoting 1900hurricane:
This is what is headed for Birmingham!!!


oh my god.
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Quick prayer for everyone. The most disturbing thing I did not hear was when the Mayor was questioned by ABC about damage and injuries at UA, He said he did not want to comment because he had just only got reports. Wanted to confirm them. THATS SCARY but the right thing to do
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Quoting HarryMc:


Levi... I just got back from there... that northern area of BHM is densely populated. On top of that, my daughter lives there!


what part of birmingham?
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Debris falling in Downtown Birmingham
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Quoting HarryMc:
We will pray for you and those people.Hopefully the tornado does some mirical stunt and then dodge the city.Like what Charley did to Tampa.Or else we knew what that would've been like.....
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Another tornado emergency for another densely populated area. This time it is Birmingham...

SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BIRMINGHAM AL
542 PM CDT WED APR 27 2011

ALC073-117-125-272330-
/O.CON.KBMX.TO.W.0114.000000T0000Z-110427T2330Z/
SHELBY AL-TUSCALOOSA AL-JEFFERSON AL-
542 PM CDT WED APR 27 2011

...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR JEFFERSON...EAST CENTRAL
TUSCALOOSA AND NORTHERN SHELBY COUNTIES UNTIL 630 PM CDT…

...TORNADO EMERGENCY CONTINUES FOR HUEYTOWN...BESSEMER...
FAIRFIELD...AND THE CITY OF BIRMINGHAM AND ALL SURRONDING AREAS
...

AT 538 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR AND STORM
SPOTTERS WERE TRACKING A LARGE AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO. THIS
TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR NORTH JOHNS...OR 11 MILES SOUTHWEST OF
HUEYTOWN...MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH.

LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
BESSEMER...HUEYTOWN...HELENA...FAIRFIELD...PELHAM. ..HOOVER...
HOMEWOOD...VESTAVIA HILLS...BIRMINGHAM AND MOUNTAIN BROOK.

THIS INCLUDES...
INTERSTATE 65 EXIT NUMBERS 242 THROUGH 282...
INTERSTATE 459 EXIT NUMBERS 1 THROUGH 33...
US 78 EXIT NUMBERS 81 THROUGH 91...
INTERSTATE 20 EXIT NUMBERS 97 THROUGH 140...
INTERSTATE 59 EXIT NUMBERS 130 THROUGH 143...

TO REPORT SEVERE WEATHER...CALL 1-800-856-0758.

LAT...LON 3384 8676 3376 8666 3376 8655 3366 8653
3356 8655 3355 8649 3351 8649 3351 8640
3336 8636 3324 8702 3324 8715 3344 8735
3352 8730 3355 8719 3360 8718 3364 8709
3366 8709 3384 8681
TIME...MOT...LOC 2241Z 244DEG 49KT 3338 8712

$$

17
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.