Deadly tornadoes rip Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri
A powerful storm system that brought heavy snow, flooding, high winds, ice storms, and deadly tornadoes yesterday continues to sweep across the Eastern U.S today. Tornado warnings have already been issued for coastal North Carolina this morning, and tornado watches are up for much of eastern Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland. However, the front that brought dozens of tornadoes to the Southeast yesterday has lost much of its punch, and only weak tornadoes are likely today.
Hardest hit yesterday was Enterprise, Alabama, where a strong tornado 200 yards wide hit the high school, killing at least eight teenagers, according to preliminary reports. According to the Tornado Project, this is one of the ten most deadly tornadoes to hit a U.S. school. The last tornado to kill so many school children occurred in 1967 when an F-4 tornado hit Belvidere High School in Illinois. The storm hit while high school students were boarding sixteen buses already containing elementary school students. Twelve of the buses were overturned or thrown. One bus driver and 12 students were killed after being "tossed like leaves" into adjacent fields. Students and teachers used school doors and plywood from nearby houses as stretchers for the injured students, of which there were 300. In nearby Harvard, a school bus was ripped in half and thrown into power lines as the driver and 20 students hid in a ditch.
The Enterprise tornado was an EF-3--Enhanced Fujita Scale 3--with winds of 136-165 mph. Radar imagery of the Enterprise storm (Figure 1) shows a classic hook echo characteristic of a strong or violent tornado. The Doppler radar winds (Figure 2) shows the classic signature of a strong tornado--blue colors right next to red colors, indicating winds moving towards and away from the radar in a tightly rotating storm. I've also saved a radar animation of the tornado as it passed over Enterprise.
Figure 1. Radar reflectivity image of the Enterprise, AL tornado ten minutes before it hit.
Figure 2. Doppler winds image of the Enterprise, AL tornado ten minutes before it hit.
A confirmed EF-3 tornado hit Howell County, Missouri, killing 7-year old girl and injuring four people at 6:33am Thursday. This tornado had a 15 mile long path up to 1/4 mile wide.
Preliminary reports indicate that at least 15 tornadoes hit Georgia last night, killing eight and injuring many more. Americus, Georgia, where two people died, was particularly hard hit. The twister struck a hospital, destroying its fleet of ambulances and forcing closure of the hospital. I've also saved a radar animation of this storm.
Here is a sampling of all the NWS damage reports from suspected tornadoes for Georgia as of 8am EST today (Friday):
03/01/2007 0922 PM
Americus, Sumter County.
*** 2 fatal *** possible tornado. Significant damage to
homes and the hospital. Numerous trees and power lines
down. Gema confirmed two fatalities.
03/01/2007 0810 PM
4 miles ENE of Warrenton, Warren County.
*** 3 inj *** possible tornado. Numerous homes damaged
with a few injuries. Significant damage to Briarwood
Academy on Highway 278.
03/01/2007 0820 PM
Thomson, McDuffie County.
Possible tornado. Houses damaged...along with trees and
power lines down near the intersection of GA 150 and
Dallas drive. Structural damage near the intersection of
GA 150 and Old Washington Road. Numerous trees down near
the National Guard Armory.
6 miles S of Gray, Jones County.
Possible tornado. Numberous trees and power lines down
along Highway 49.
03/01/2007 0535 PM
Potterville, Taylor County.
*** 1 fatal *** possible tornado damaged unkn number of
homes and buildings and downed numerous trees and power
lines on bear Road. Rolled a Mobile home. One fatality.
03/01/2007 0550 PM
4 miles NW of Macon, Bibb County.
Possible tornado has knocked over traffic lights...power
poles and business signs. A gas station was damaged near
Zebulon Road near Interstate 475.
03/01/2007 1045 PM
12 miles SE of Irwinton, Wilkinson County.
Tornado reported by the public. Law enforcement has
confirmed at least one home damaged near Nickelsville.
03/01/2007 0630 PM
2 miles N of Columbus, Muscogee County.
Several commercial buildings with structural damage in
2400 block of Brookstone Parkway. Windows blown out...
large AC units tossed aside...porch poles missing...
power poles twisted and down...and trees down across
03/01/2007 0855 PM
Weston, Webster County.
Possible tornado. Tractor trailer was overturned on
03/01/2007 0230 PM
5 miles N of Fort Gaines, Clay County.
Apparent tornado approximately 5 miles north of Fort
Gaines, GA. Numerous trees down and homes damaged.
03/02/2007 1218 am
3 miles S of Isabella, Worth County.
Numerous trees down. Just north of Bridgeboro 2 houses
were destroyed. Significant damage has been reported off
Sumner Lakes Road. Only minor injuries reported but
information remains in the preliminary stages. One 18
wheeler jackknifed in the median of U.S. Hwy 19.
03/02/2007 0100 am
3 miles NNE of Tempy, Worth County.
*** 1 inj *** home leveled.
03/01/2007 1150 PM
11 miles N of Mitchell Co A, Baker County.
Mobile homes damaged just north of Newton in Baker
County. Estimated time of tornado touchdown is 1150 PM
EST. Report of 6 fatalities at the Mobile Home Park is
now confirmed from GEMA as of 730 am EST...March 2.
03/02/2007 1204 am
2 miles NE of Baconton, Mitchell County.
Tornado on the ground in Baker County moved into Mitchell
County at 1204 am EST. This tornado stayed on the ground
across the northern portion of the county for 7 miles
until crossing into Worth County. 13 structures were
damaged in the Baconton and Pleasant Grove communities.
No injuries or fatalities reported.
Thursday's wild weather made it the second busiest day ever for the wunderground.com web site. The 17 million web pages we served from our public site was second only to the 18 million served during Hurricane Rita on September 23, 2005.