An infamous day in weather history

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Main threats

No significant threats in sight.

Summary

The weather was vastly different on this day in 1974. The worst tornado outbreak the Upper Cumberlands has ever seen would occur that day. See the Records section for more info.

We certainly don’t have to worry about any storms today! We have a nice day in store. Enjoy that springtime sunshine!

Clouds increase tomorrow and those clouds may bring a shower or sprinkle to the plateau by late afternoon. Those showers increase in coverage and intensity for Friday, along with some scattered t-storms.

Saturday is looking pretty good. It will be very warm and humid, with an isolated shower or storm in the afternoon/evening. That shower and storm chance goes up on Sunday afternoon, so if you have any outdoor plans I’d get that in on Saturday, just to be safe.

We should remain in an unsettled pattern into early next week, with more scattered showers and storms.

WeatherTAP WeatherFACT

Lightning doesn’t just come down from the sky. In fact, positively charged particles “reach” upward from objects here on the ground, trying to make contact with downward reaching negative particles from the clouds. This is why people often feel their hair standing on end during a storm.

The shortest path is often chosen by lightning (but not always!). That means taller objects are preferred. That leaves less of a distance for the lightning to travel through inhospitable air.

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Records

A super outbreak of tornadoes produces 148 tornadoes across 13 states, beginning in the early afternoon and lasting on into the night. This was the worst tornado outbreak in U.S. history until the April 27, 2011 outbreak occurred. This remains the largest tornado outbreak in Middle TN history.

Twenty-four twisters touched down in Middle TN, with the plateau being the hardest hit area. Fifty-four deaths occurred in Middle TN alone, with another 655 injured.

The most powerful tornado to ever hit the Cumberland Plateau occurred during the evening hours. That was when an F-4 touched down south of Cookeville and made its way east, northeast. After wiping out subdivisions south and east of Cookeville, the violent twister lifted over the Wilder area. Then, as the storm moved through western Fentress County it hit the ground hard again, roaring through south Jamestown as a multi-vortex, large F-4 tornado. An F-4 has not occurred again on the plateau since April 3, 1974. This tornado killed several people near Cookeville and in south Jamestown.

Tennessee was lucky that we didn’t have any F-5s this day. TN has only had one F-5 in our state’s history and that was on April 16, 1998 in southern Middle TN. On April 3, 1974 Alabama, Kentucky, and Ohio were hit by F-5s. In fact, there were more F-5s on this day than in any other day in recorded weather history. For perspective, there have been times when the U.S. has gone 10 years without a single F-5.

In response to this outbreak, efforts were amped-up to get a national watch and warning system. Today, this system has saved countless lives.

Below is a map of all the tornadoes that touched down and that were mapped on April 3. Notice the numerous tracks right over the plateau. The NWS admits that many others may not have been mapped. Some of those may have even occurred on Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, where hunters found swaths of damage for years to follow.

The NWS in Alabama was so overwhelmed that at one point they issued a tornado warning for 15 counties at the same time.

The last significant (F-3) tornado of the outbreak actually occurred right here in Cumberland County. That was when a violent twister tore a path down Plateau Road. Miraculously, no one died but there were several injuries, some of which were quite serious.

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Almanac

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Record high: 80 (2012, 2010, 1963)

Record low: 27 (1992)

Today’s record high: 81 (2007, 1999) (NEW ADDITION TO THIS DATA!)

Today’s record low: 22 (1992) (NEW ADDITION TO THIS DATA!)

Today’s sunset: 7:03

Tomorrow sunrise: 6:21

Today’s day length: 12 hrs 41 mins 30 secs

Tomorrow’s day length: 12 hrs 43 mins 45 secs

One year ago today

The high was 75 and the low was 56. Quite spring-like, right? Nearly 3/4 of an inch of rain fell (0.71) but the flowers probably needed it after that warm afternoon! The strongest wind gusts was 39 mph from the northwest (probably after a frontal passage).

Astronomy 

Sky viewing conditions tonight:

Moon phase: Waning Crescent, 3% illumination

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What to look for in the night sky tonight

News

The NWS sent out some good info this week about making sure you THINK  before you SHARE.

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I also have a request from those of you on the plateau. Did any of you keep up with the thunder in February? Folklore says that thunder in February corresponds to frost on that day in May. I tested this last year and it failed miserably, but heck, I’m willing to give it another go! (haha) I only have May 6 marked down for frost. Did anyone else do a better job keeping up with the thunder? I know there was more than one day with thunder in February, but I didn’t write the other days down. Just email me your days if you’d like (mark@weathertap.com).

You all have a great day!

 

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