A taste of spring continues and reflecting on a tornado that changed my life

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Main threats

Widespread hazardous weather is not expected this week.

Summary

Normally, when we see temperatures this mild in February we are on the lookout for severe t-storms or flooding. Such is just not the case with this pattern. I’ve been carefully watching for any indications that we might see such weather, but the atmospheric dynamics are just not supportive of widespread severe weather this week. These systems are weak enough and moving fast enough to spare us significant flooding issues, as well. Interestingly, models struggle to even get us any t-storms. The jet stream energy is just so far north of us that storms don’t have access to that energy. When the big cold front does arrive Thursday night, all the jet energy lags behind the front. If that energy were in front of the cold front we’d be in big trouble.

If I had to sum up the forecast for this week I’d say, “Keep the rain gear handy.” We could get a shower at just about any time. It’s not impossible that the sun could peak through from time to time, but don’t count on it. This pattern heavily favors cloud cover.

By week’s end, many of us will have accumulated 1-2 inches of rain. The rainfall amount keeps trending downward but I think 1-2 inches is a safe bet. That’s not enough to cause major flooding issues, especially since it’s spread out over several days, but it is enough to keep our ground good and wet.

The cold front pushes through Thursday night and that brings an abrupt change to our spring-like weather. We may even see some flurries on Friday, especially in the morning.

Saturday is looking quite nice, albeit a bit chilly compared to the temps we’re experiencing now.

Looking ahead…. another system arrives Sunday night and it looks to be quite the rain-maker. It is expected to bring a surge of warmer temps that will keep the precip liquid. That wet pattern may stick with us through all of next week. Thank goodness we love clouds and rain, right? Whew….

Records

Today is the anniversary of one of the worst tornado outbreaks in Middle Tennessee history. During the evening of the 5th, into the early morning of the 6th, 14 tornadoes would ravage Middle Tennessee. An EF-3 touched down and moved across Sumner, Trousdale, and Macon Counties, taking 22 lives. This was the deadliest tornado to hit the Midstate in 75 years. This outbreak is the sixth largest in Middle TN history.

By the time this tornado outbreak was over, 58 people had been killed by tornadoes across the South. It the deadliest outbreak for our nation in nearly a quarter century and was the deadliest outbreak in the age of Doppler radar. Tennessee suffered most, losing 32 people across the state.

This outbreak is referred to as the Super Tuesday tornado outbreak. We were heading to the polls that day to vote in the presidential primary. At least 87 tornadoes touched down with this outbreak across the South.

Below is a map of the path of the tornadoes. The dashed line across southern Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky was a potent squall line that moved east, leaving a trail of wind damage in its wake.

Noaa-outbreak-graphic

This tornado outbreak impacted me like no other. It would be the outbreak that would land me my first tornado. My storm chasing buddy Ross Livingston and I intercepted an EF-4, with winds of 175 mph, just outside Jackson, Tennessee. The tornado would pass us on it’s way to the campus of Union University. At one point, Ross and I had our hands on the ground, trying to stay upright in the winds. I saw a sign on the interstate move back and forth so violently that it snapped off it’s metal pole and flew straight up into the sky, disappearing into the ink jet funnel that was about a quarter of a mile wide.

The tornado sounded like 10,000 waterfalls. All you could hear was the rush of wind. This has since been named the “waterfall effect” by storm chasers. You know you’re close to the tornado when you hear the “waterfalls.” (I don’t know why people say tornadoes sound like a freight train?).

The sun had just set and the storm made things very dark. Never the less, the jet black tornado could still be seen against the darkness, swirling about like nothing I had ever seen before. It was surreal and I’ve never looked at storms the same since. I never will. It’s hard to even look at life the same again, when you’ve been so close to something that could have easily ended it.

There a million stories I could tell that all come from the minutes leading up to the tornado and in the minutes following. I could tell stories all day. It’s hart to believe how much can happen in only a few minutes; how much you can change. But, in the middle of all the craziness I’ll never forget one very odd thing that happened. A bird was singing in a nearby tree. It just kept singing and singing the whole time. It wast the only thing you could hear after the tornado passed. Just that bird, singing its heart out. Strange, huh?

This outbreak demonstrated that tornadoes can occur at any time of year in this part of the country. Any time it warms up in the winter we have to be especially vigilant about the weather. A lot of lives were lost on this day in 2008 and many of them likely never even thought about tornadoes occurring in February.

Almanac

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Record high: 67 (2008)

Record low: -16 (1996)*

Today’s sunset: 5:11

Tomorrow’s sunrise: 6:35

Today’s day length: 10 hrs 35 mins 20 secs

Tomorrow’s day length: 10 hrs 37 mins 18 secs

*That record low for this date is one of the coldest temperature readings ever recorded for the Cumberland Plateau. 

One year ago today

After the cold front that moved through late into the previous day’s evening, the high on this day only reached 37 degrees. The morning low was a very chilly 21 degrees. There was no precipitation recorded, despite skies being cloudy until about noon. After that, fair skies and light winds were reported for the rest of the day.

Astronomy

Sky viewing conditions tonight: POOR

Moon phase: waxing crescent, 0% illumination

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News

Today is National Weather Person’s Day! My favorite day of the year! (haha) I’m just kiddin’ ya. It is a day for all of us to reflect on those who provide critical weather info each day to keep you safe. We sure do appreciate our National Weather Service personnel and all those who go to work each day to give you the best weather info they know how. And where would we be without these folks telling us where the storms are and how bad they’re going to be? You used to ask us how much it was going to snow but since it doesn’t snow here anymore that’s out the window. (HA).

I’m just hoping that someday I can forecast several sunny days in a row. With warm temps. ….Eh, who am I kidding? I’d die of boredom! LOL

You all have a great day!

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