It is hard to believe it’s been five years.
One of the deadliest severe weather days in our recent history occurred on the night of February 5th and the morning of February 6th of 2008. It was Election Day.
57 people from Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama were killed. Seven of those who died were from Allen and Muhlenberg counties here in South Central Kentucky.
It was the second largest February tornado outbreak since 1950 in terms of fatalities. Much like the severe weather that struck the region last week, these severe weather events act as a stark reminder that just because the calendar says it’s winter, tornadoes can happen anytime the atmospheric conditions are right.
Here are links to photos and data gathered by the National Weather Service from the Super Tuesday outbreak…
Mainly cloudy this morning with temperatures in the mild 40s.
After the last in a series of “clipper” systems brought some light rain to Southern Kentucky last night, skies will become partly sunny allowing for a little more sunshine today. Expect highs to top out around 50° this afternoon.
A MILD WEEK:
Temperatures will run a little above seasonal averages through the week with mainly quiet weather aside from a small shower chance late Thursday. Afternoon highs will be mainly in the low to mid 50s, with overnight lows in the 30s to near 40°.
The weekend starts off with fair and mild conditions Saturday before clouds and rain chances move in for Sunday. Highs will climb into the upper 50s late in the weekend with lower 60s for Monday. We’ll also have milder overnight lows through the period.
Becoming Partly Sunny & Mild…High 51, winds SW-7
Partly Cloudy…Low 36, winds Calm
Mostly Sunny & Mild…High 52, winds E-4
The airmass over Kentucky seems to be stabilizing thanks to clouds and an on-going MCS (mesoscale convective system) that’s rolling through parts of Mississippi and Alabama at the noon hour.
With higher stability numbers – despite lots of sunshine – it appears that any storms that fire ahead of a cold front this afternoon should stay under severe limits even though a few could be strong.
A better chance of rain and thunderstorms exists tonight as the cold front moves through the area. There may be some heavy downpours along with lightning and gusty winds but the SPC says any severe weather threat now appears limited or marginal at best.
The latest severe weather outlook from the SPC (Storm Prediction Center) shows a SLIGHT risk for severe storms this evening over southeast Tennessee, northern Mississippi, northern Alabama and northwestern Georgia. The outlook area goes as far north as Nashville and almost meets with the Kentucky border to our east along the Cumberland Plateau.
Bowling Green and Southern Kentucky are in the “general risk” area which means there could be a few strong storms overnight as warm, moist air and a warm front moves across the area.
While there is not a huge tornado threat with this system, there is always a risk with any severe storms and the wind shear environment that will be setting up. Notice the “2% probability” area does cross into the Cumberland Plateau.
Speaking of winds, the SPC believes the greater potential for any storm to produce damaging winds is mainly confined to the overall risk area further south but a “5% probability” exists with any storms that are over Southern and Southeastern Kentucky tonight.
With cold air aloft (which will result in more wintry weather to our north), a few of the stronger storms may produce small hail tonight. The probability is at 5%.
After Tuesday’s historic outbreak of 9 tornadoes in Kentucky and Indiana, I’m happy to see the SPC taking a more pro-active approach to this storm system and the one coming in for Sunday night. They were way off target on Tuesday. This is why it’s a good idea…no matter what the calendar says…to be prepared for severe weather anytime.
- Get a NOAA Weather Radio.
- Have more than one way to monitor the weather.
- Prepare a place of shelter where you and your family can stay safe.
- Never assume it won’t hit you.
Day 3 of the National Weather Association Conference in Birmingham was filled with reviews of the April and May tornado outbreaks. Many of the talks centered on the atmospheric setup for each event and how the National Weather Service handled the issuance of warnings on those days.
There was much discussion about the warning polygons themselves. Those are the boxes you see on top of the radar images that show where the potential tornado is located and the direction the storm is moving. One of the NWS mets from the Birmingham office suggested the possibility of extending the length of the polygon from the usual 30 minute warning time to 60 minutes. His thinking is by the time a 30-minute warning is issued, it’s already time to issue another warning after a 10 minute period in order to adequately warn the folks down the line. Therein lies the confusion to those watching TV or trying to keep up with “who” is under the current warning.
In the future, there is some discussion of issuing warnings by zip code. Who doesn’t know their zip code? Many have stated…even to me…that they just don’t understand things like “Northwestern Barren County” or “Eastern Hart County”. Just where are those places and is it going to affect me? Maybe if we started saying “the tornado will hit 42210, 42104 and 42221 in the next 20 minutes that would better grab the attention of those in danger? I don’t know.
The most compelling part of this day was my trip over to Tuscaloosa. My friend Brandon Robinson who does the weather at our sister-station WYMT in Hazard decided to take the 45-minute drive Monday afternoon and asked me to go with him. We were curious to see how much progress in recovery had taken place since the killer tornado struck there on April 27th.
It was eerie to still see the path the EF4 tornado took through one of the main business and residential districts of Tuscaloosa…just missing the hospital and the University. And while I saw damaged homes being rebuilt and a spirit of pride and strength of the people there, there were many homes still in ruin, businesses that will not return and 238 lives that cannot be replaced.
It was chilling to see up close even six months later.
Scenes like these not only motivate me to do my job better but leads me to pray we never have devastation like this in Southern Kentucky…or anywhere for that matter.
Well, I’ve got another full day of training ahead of me.
God bless y’all!