- Education and Science
Extreme Weather Events of 2011: Tornadoes
In my list of the Top Ten Weather Events of 2011, I mention three separate tornadoes that hit three different locations in the United States and all made a huge impact. Strangely all these tornadoes hit down towns and cities. Is this because populations are larger and more dense over a wider area or did these storms just hit the wrong places. The tornadoes in Joplin and Tuscaloosa are some of the strongest you can get. Mean while the Springfield tornado is a rarity. These storms are some of the most devastating of the top ten weather events of 2011.
A feel good video
Tuscaloosa Tornado April 27, 2011
The country experienced a number of deadly tornadoes this year and one of the first ones was the Tuscaloosa Tornado. The EF-4 tornado was apart what is now known as The 2011 Super Outbreak. This outbreak lasted from April 25-28th and produced 353 tornadoes, 207 tornadoes on April 27th alone. The Tuscaloosa, Alabama tornado hit a little after 5pm CDT on April 27th. The storm was a wedge tornado with peak winds of 190 mph, a path 80.7 miles long and at it's largest 1.5 miles wide! This tornado was so desttuctive and impactful because it went through the city of Tuscaloosa at a busy time when people were out and about. The storm killed 43 people in Tuscaloosa, 64 people in total.
Besides the extreme lost of life and the horrendous landscape left behind by this tornado, what surprised me most was the documentation of the storm. For the first time ever, at least the first time I noticed it, our mobile society put themselves in harms way to record the storm. I've collected some of these crazy videos from YouTube and placed them to the right. The videos are amazing but even for a weather geek like myself I can't help but think how stupid these people were! To pull out their phones and video cameras instead of taking shelter was a very dangerous decision. Although their actions were stupid the result was a piece of history and a reminder of how dangerous and powerful nature can be. I also added a feel good video of a survivor who finds her pet a month after the tornado. Finally the video below is one of many memorial videos on YouTube of those that died that day. So although the tornado was a beautiful meteorological event, it was a disgusting horror to human life. The lives that were cut short range from children, to grandparents, and college students at Alabama University, many who were set to graduate in a matter of weeks! It is disasters like this tornado that remind you of how precious life and how fast it can all change.
Joplin Tornado May 22, 2011
Not even a month after the deadly tornado in Tuscaloosa another city was devastated by a even stronger tornado. This time it happened further north in Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011, a late Sunday evening. This tornado moved through the southern part of the city as an EF5 tornado! This means it had winds of at least 200 mph or greater! As the powerful storm moved through the city it reached a size of a mile wide. The destruction was like a war zone. One of the local Red Cross locations estimated that 25% of the city was completely destroyed, while the National Weather Service estimated that 75% of the city was damaged! The estimated damage of this tornado is estimated to be at $2.8 billion.
However the damage was not the real cost, what was the real cost in this storm were the 159 lives lost that day. People of all ages from toddlers to grandparents, Iraq Veterans and even high school graduates who had just graduated that day. The stories of lost are heartbreaking and the stories of survival are astonishing. Like Tuscaloosa this storm scarred a city and it's patrons forever.
To the right are some videos of the storm from YouTube. The first one is pretty dark but as the title states is Terrifying! The video was taken of a group of people huddle in a store as the tornado strikes, the screams of fear and praying that goes on is just something I have never heard of before. Because the storm arrived close to sunset it is hard to see the tornado in many videos but the second one does have some footage of the actual beast. Finally like the Tuscaloosa tornado listed above I wanted to leave with a memorial video to the people lost in the storm, which is below.
The People that were lost
Springfield Tornado June 1, 2011
Following the two monsters of the south just over a week after Joplin the north was hit with a tornado. Although tornadoes are rare in New England they still do occur. However on June 1, 2011, many were taken by surprise when yet again the country saw a tornado form and drive through a city, this time it was Springfield, MA. This tornado was a surprise because it was so far north and yet so strong, reaching EF3 status. Although the damage and casualties are no match to the storms in Tuscaloosa and Joplin, the tornado still killed 2 people in Springfield. The tornado was apart of the 2011 New England Tornado Outbreak which stretched across three states Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. The Tornado in Springfield has come to be known as The Greater Springfield Tornado. The winds of this EF3 tornado reached 160 mph at its peak and caused millions of dollars in damage.
Like the other storms this one was highly recorded. I remember local television stations covering the storm live as it passed over the Connecticut River and Interstate 91 into downtown Springfield. Although not as strong as the ones in the south it was still amazing to see a tornado this size blowing over such a densely populated area of the country. Luckily the death toll was nowhere near that of Joplin or Tuscaloosa.
To the right are some videos of the storm as it moved through downtown Springfield. The ones that amaze me most are the videos of the tornado directly over the Connecticut River