On the brink of an Alberto

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SUMMARY

Our tropical depression in the northwest Caribbean has become much better organized and we are likely only hours away from having our first named storm of the 2018 season. This will be Alberto. Hurricane hunters are scheduled to fly out and investigate the system this afternoon. We’ll know a lot more as soon as that mission is complete. This is a bit early for a tropical system to be forming, with hurricane season beginning June 1. That just puts us a week away from the official start to the season, but we often go all the way through June and even July before we get a named storm.

At this time, Alberto is expected to begin impacting the Gulf Coast on Sunday. There will likely be some influence as soon as tomorrow but it won’t be anything worth changing anyone’s plans for. Rip currents will be bad today but that’s about the extent of the near-term influence. By Sunday, Alberto should start to spread widespread, heavy rainfall along the coast. The severe weather threat, including that of tornadoes, will depend on how strong the storm gets. I also want to emphasize that we do not expect this to become a hurricane. It’s not impossible, but not expected.

As for us, we’ll see a lot of humidity come before this system. Normally, our rain chances drop really low ahead of these systems, as all the energy focuses on the storm and gets drained away from surrounding areas. However, this one is a bit different and there is a very sufficient moisture plume preceding the system. This will bring scattered mainly afternoon showers and storms to the plateau beginning this afternoon.

As of now, I don’t see any reason to cancel outdoor plans for this weekend around here. Just know that there is a very likely chance that you will get an afternoon shower or storm, so be prepared to deal with that. As soon as the sun sets, most activity will dissipate. This is just like the stuff we’ve been dealing with over the past couple of weeks. More widespread, heavier rain could come by Tuesday or Wednesday, but that all depends on Alberto’s track.

We’ll have to keep an eye on Alberto and see where it goes after landfall on the Gulf Coast. The latest guidance suggest a stronger tropical storm making landfall near Mobile on Monday and then very slowly moving northward. The influence on our area wouldn’t arrive until Tuesday or Wednesday. The latest guidance also has us getting 3-5 inches of rain for next week. That’s the total from Monday to Friday. Stay tuned.

Below is this morning’s satellite view of what will likely become Alberto within the next 24 hours. The system is moving slowly north.

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DISCUSSION

Before I talk about the tropical storm any more, I wanted to mention that last night I noticed a growing cloud in the distance. Remember, we had that 10% chance of rain and so someone, somewhere was going to get a shower. I just knew a shower was going to slide right over downtown Crossville during the Taste of Crossville that was going on. Thankfully, it stayed west of all that. But, if you got rain yesterday evening you won the 10% jackpot! ha

Having our first named storm so early in the hurricane season leads to speculation that this will be one of the worst seasons we’ve seen in some time. That would be like us getting a tornado in February and saying the whole spring is going to be filled with tornadoes. That’s just not how this works. There is a forecast for an active season, but it may actually be quieter than the 2017 season. Believe it or not, last year was one of the most active seasons we’ve seen in many years. Don’t remember that? You’re not alone. People only remember the ones that make landfall. As long as they stay out at sea no one remembers them (and for good reason). Thankfully, most of last year’s storms stayed off shore.

Just don’t forget that it only takes one storm to make a bad hurricane season. I always remind folks of 1992. We got our first named storm on August 16, 1992 and on August 24 a category 5 Hurricane Andrew slammed into south Florida. One storm. In the middle of August. That’s all it takes.

So, even if the forecast is for a below normal season that still means at least one will form. And if that one storm heads to Miami, New Orleans, Mobile, Houston, etc., then we have an unforgettable disaster on our hands.  It’s actually just like us with tornadoes. We can have a tornado outbreak and as long as they all just churn across open fields we forget it happened within a month’s time. But, if we have one big tornado roar across the middle of the county we never forget it.  It just takes one.

I’ve always wanted to experience a tropical storm but never have made it down for one. I’m certainly not going to try to catch this one during a holiday weekend though! I think the best part would be watching the waves get kicked up. They can get quite impressive when these systems move in!

There sure are a lot of tornado records in the books for today’s date. We are in prime tornado season for many folks on the Plains. Heck, we’ve seen some nasty tornado outbreaks this time of year around here. But, not this year. I wrote an article for the Fentress Courier about the first ever documented tornado in Tennessee and that’s the story they ran this week. I’m including it below and I hope you enjoy it.

You all have a great day and be thankful for this summer-like weather, where all we have to worry about is an afternoon thunderstorm.

The First Tornado

The first documented Tennessee tornado was recorded 188 years ago this spring. The tornado hit the city of Charlotte, located just west of Nashville, on May 30, 1830.

Tennessee’s history with tornadoes got off to a rough start with this one. The city of Charlotte was forever changed and weather on this May day changed Tennessee history.

The first courthouse to be built in Tennessee was built in Charlotte in 1810. The original courthouse was built from logs, but just a few years later the log structure was replaced with a two-story brick one, a symbol of the thriving local economy.

Twenty years later, the courthouse would find itself right in the path of a very destructive tornado. By the time the storm had moved on, nearly every building in Charlotte was in ruin, including the courthouse.

In fact, the roof of the courthouse was found 13 miles away! Every public record for the county lay across the countryside, and most of the courthouse’s documents were never recovered. Books that were in the courthouse were found for miles away.

This was not the only destructive tornado in this event. Shelbyville was also hit very hard by a separate violent tornado and the city was described in newspapers as being “a heap of ruins.” Nearly every home, business, and church was destroyed in the center of Shelbyville. A book from the town was found seven miles away.

In the days following the Charlotte storm, the city ordered the courthouse to be rebuilt and by October 1830, a new brick courthouse was standing tall in Charlotte. The courthouse is still in operation today, making it the oldest operating courthouse in the state of Tennessee.

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