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Historic Tornado Outbreak April 27, 2011


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First of likely many violent tornadoes:

This is a very high-end EF4.

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MEMPHIS TN

111 PM CDT THU APR 28 2011

...PRELIMINARY EF-4 TORNADO IN MONROE COUNTY MISSISSIPPI...

SMITHVILLE TORNADO

* COUNTY/COUNTIES: MONROE

* LOCATION/TIME OF EVENT: DAMAGE AT SMITHVILLE 344 PM CDT

* BEGINNING POINT: UNKNOWN

* ENDING POINT: UNKNOWN

* RATING: EF-4

* ESTIMATED PEAK WIND: 190 MPH

* PATH LENGTH: UNKNOWN

* MAXIMUM WIDTH: 1/2 MILE

* FATALITIES: 13...5 STILL MISSING

* INJURIES: 40

* SUMMARY OF DAMAGES: DOZENS NEWLY CONSTRUCTED TWO STORY FULLY

BRICK HOMES LEVELED. TREES DEBARKED. PROFESSIONAL BUILDINGS DESTROYED.

A MAJOR CONTRIBUTION TO THE SUCCESS OF OUR SEVERE WEATHER WARNING

PROGRAM IS THE RECEIPT OF STORM REPORTS FROM ALL OUR CUSTOMERS AND

PARTNERS ACROSS THE MIDSOUTH. IF YOU WITNESSED OR ARE AWARE OF

ANY STORM DAMAGE DUE TO HIGH WINDS OR TORNADOES...PLEASE CONTACT

YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT OFFICE...OR FOLLOW THE LINK AT THE

TOP OF OUR WEB PAGE AT WEATHER.GOV/MEMPHIS.

I have never heard of NWS rating a tornado an EF4 with winds of 190 mph before. It sounds right to me although by the description of the damage (180-190 mph winds).

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Well, I hope you're correct. I'd like to get a decent handle on the survival rate but the 50% was an approximate number I got from a met but that doesn't mean that its necessarily accurate. This is a most important point, though. The survival rate for a violent (EF4+) tornado for people suffering a direct hit and who are sheltering in an interior room on the lowest floor of a standard wood-frame house is really a key point. If it's something like 90%+, then you would be correct in saying that sheltering in place is probably the best thing to tell the population in the path to do. However, if it's more like 60% or less, there is probably something viable that could be done for those in the path...because those types of probabilities are unacceptable.

60% still means you're more likely to survive than not, sheltering in place. While getting in the car still doesn't guarantee you escape the tornado and brings into the equation traffic accidents, etc.

There is too much room for error if you advocate people taking their lives into their own hands on the road.

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60% still means you're more likely to survive than not, sheltering in place. While getting in the car still doesn't guarantee you escape the tornado and brings into the equation traffic accidents, etc.

There is too much room for error if you advocate people taking their lives into their own hands on the road.

I'm sure some of the people that died while hunkered down would disagree.

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Per TWC, death toll now 267.

Also, I find it hard to believe that anyone would advise mass evacuations in the path of a violent tornado. If you are in a very weak structure, mobile home, etc. than of course. But in an average subdivision? Hell no. Unless it is somewhere like Fargo in 1957 when they could see if for miles and see the roads and all and have plenty of time to drive to sturdy shelters.

In this case..around rush hour in crowded cities full of sprawl, traffic lights, other vehicles, with vision obscured by trees, and with violent tornadoes moving very rapidly and capable of making erratic jogs and movements left or right at any time? No.

I would say that even more people would have died if everyone tried to evacuate from regular average subdivisions and such. Some people probably would have 'evacuated' right into the path of the storm-while their home was untouched.

Look at the Bridge Creek/Moore/OKC tornado 1999-thousands of homes were severely damaged, and numerous homes had f4/f5 damage, yet only several dozen people died in homes. Same with Wichita Falls 1979, even Xenia in 74- a total of 11 people died in the worst hit subdivisions, Windsor Park and Arrowhead-with over 300 homes wiped out there.

Sending panicked people out of their subdivisions onto the roads in a situation like this would be disastrous. If anything, maybe evacuate to a very sturdy building with a basement or strong interior room, like a bank building or civic building or such-but only if there is time and you live in a crappily built home or mobile home.

One thing you see in nearly every pic shown of this outbreak is demolished cars. Imagine those cars having been filled with people trying to evacuate.

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60% still means you're more likely to survive than not, sheltering in place. While getting in the car still doesn't guarantee you escape the tornado and brings into the equation traffic accidents, etc.

There is too much room for error if you advocate people taking their lives into their own hands on the road.

Yeah, it's not a great policy for the general public on the whole (especially in highly populated areas), but if you're weather savvy and can evacuate, why not?

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Rosedale Courts images on a Facebook page

http://www.facebook....204116842941936

Oh my word. The image of the man crying and cuddling his injured baby boy just ripped my heart out. As a momma, that just kills me and makes it so incredibly real. The safety of my own sons is my top priority when we are in severe weather here, so I can only imagine how relieved that poor man is that his child is alive.

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From Brent Adair's FB (I'm hoping someone can falsify this statement, please):

Just got information from a search team member in Pleasant Grove, AL....well built homes are no where to be found and people died in there basements. Some basements even damaged or "gone". This tornado may do things to the EF scale we never thought imaginable.

Currently, my boss is looking for someone in Pleasant Grove...a long-time friend and colleague...who lived in Pleasant Grove and had a basement. No one he has talked to in BHM has heard anything from this person, but, if anyone heres anything that contradicts or verifies this statement, please let us know. Thanks.

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Well, I hope you're correct. I'd like to get a decent handle on the survival rate but the 50% was an approximate number I got from a met but that doesn't mean that its necessarily accurate. This is a most important point, though. The survival rate for a violent (EF4+) tornado for people suffering a direct hit and who are sheltering in an interior room on the lowest floor of a standard wood-frame house is really a key point. If it's something like 90%+, then you would be correct in saying that sheltering in place is probably the best thing to tell the population in the path to do. However, if it's more like 60% or less, there is probably something viable that could be done for those in the path...because those types of probabilities are unacceptable.

I think you're forgetting one major point. Even in large tornadoes, there is a fairly small area that will be impacted by violent tornadic winds. There are a lot of people that will be impacted, but by lesser tornado winds that are easily survivable in a structure. As I mentioned, real-time forecasting of exactly where in a city or town a tornado is moving is not exact. As a result, we cannot pinpoint who is going to be impacted by violent winds and who is not. Mass evacuation, then, must send people from low mortality locations outside of the violent winds into their cars. If those people are impacted by the same winds (strong, but not violent), their probability of injury or death has increased because cars are so much more dangerous than structures. If those people are impacted by violent winds because the tornado changes path or they get confused, their probability of injury or death has spiked. Either way, more people away from the strongest winds are dying. I doubt that real-time forecasting is sharp enough, evacuation plans clear enough, and mortality rates high enough that such a plan makes sense.

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Rosedale Courts images on a Facebook page

http://www.facebook....204116842941936

Hard to look at.

From Brent Adair's FB:

Just got information from a search team member in Pleasant Grove, AL....well built homes are no where to be found and people died in there basements. Some basements even damaged or "gone". This tornado may do things to the EF scale we never thought imaginable.

......no words

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I think you're forgetting one major point. Even in large tornadoes, there is a fairly small area that will be impacted by violent tornadic winds. There are a lot of people that will be impacted, but by lesser tornado winds that are easily survivable in a structure. As I mentioned, real-time forecasting of exactly where in a city or town a tornado is moving is not exact. As a result, we cannot pinpoint who is going to be impacted by violent winds and who is not. Mass evacuation, then, must send people from low mortality locations outside of the violent winds into their cars. If those people are impacted by the same winds (strong, but not violent), their probability of injury or death has increased because cars are so much more dangerous than structures. If those people are impacted by violent winds because the tornado changes path or they get confused, their probability of injury or death has spiked. Either way, more people away from the strongest winds are dying. I doubt that real-time forecasting is sharp enough, evacuation plans clear enough, and mortality rates high enough that such a plan makes sense.

Evacuation might not be the only feasible alternative. I believe there is a feasible and cost-effective solution out there.

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Well, I hope you're correct. I'd like to get a decent handle on the survival rate but the 50% was an approximate number I got from a met but that doesn't mean that its necessarily accurate. This is a most important point, though. The survival rate for a violent (EF4+) tornado for people suffering a direct hit and who are sheltering in an interior room on the lowest floor of a standard wood-frame house is really a key point. If it's something like 90%+, then you would be correct in saying that sheltering in place is probably the best thing to tell the population in the path to do. However, if it's more like 60% or less, there is probably something viable that could be done for those in the path...because those types of probabilities are unacceptable.

If you're unlucky enough to be directly in the path of an EF4+ tornado, I think you could live (pun intended) with 60% survival odds...especially compared to potentially lower odds if you try to flee on foot or by car.

The fact is, no one knows exactly what path a tornado will take, so telling people to stay in place and take shelter is certainly no more dangerous than telling them to leave their homes and try to flee.

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I'm sure some of the people that died while hunkered down would disagree.

Since the majority of storms aren't F-4 or F-5, and the NWS or TV station met is probably not an expert on traffic patterns in the area, the standard advice is the best, and a TV met who ad libbed and caused a massive traffic jam that was then hit with mass fatalities, I don't know if he/she'd be legally/civilly liable or not, but her or his career as a TV met would be over.

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I'm sure some of the people that died while hunkered down would disagree.

What's your point? In a scenario like this, all you can do is go with the best odds...some people are going to die no matter what, sadly. Telling people to flee a tornado when you don't know exactly where it's going to go or how long it will take to get there is not a viable option.

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a tornado shelter?

Not cost effective for everyone. It's just not. People spend $5k on a shelter and end up needing the money for medical problems so I don't think it's simply a matter of values. I do think, however, that having a community shelter is a great idea. I think it's a great idea for organizations like HOAs (homeowners associations). It's a lot cheaper to build one big one that everyone in a reasonably-sized neighborhood can get to than building one small one for every family. The cost per family would be fairly inexpensive.

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I think you're forgetting one major point. Even in large tornadoes, there is a fairly small area that will be impacted by violent tornadic winds. There are a lot of people that will be impacted, but by lesser tornado winds that are easily survivable in a structure. As I mentioned, real-time forecasting of exactly where in a city or town a tornado is moving is not exact. As a result, we cannot pinpoint who is going to be impacted by violent winds and who is not. Mass evacuation, then, must send people from low mortality locations outside of the violent winds into their cars. If those people are impacted by the same winds (strong, but not violent), their probability of injury or death has increased because cars are so much more dangerous than structures. If those people are impacted by violent winds because the tornado changes path or they get confused, their probability of injury or death has spiked. Either way, more people away from the strongest winds are dying. I doubt that real-time forecasting is sharp enough, evacuation plans clear enough, and mortality rates high enough that such a plan makes sense.

Exactly. Well said.

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Meteorologically, yesterday, to me, still does not compare to 1974. Yes I know the deaths may, which IS more impressive given the technology of today, but from a meteo perspective, while yesterday looked like the best setup I have ever tracked, it doesn't quite measure up to something that could spawn simulaneous F5s 1000 miles apart. That is something that is even harder to fathom in my view, again just from the met perspective.

This is not a met perspective.

F5 in the 1970s is to '_____' on the Enhanced Fujita scale? How much knowledge did those folks surveying damage in 1974 have compared to what they have now? In every industry, we are light years ahead of where we were in 1974. To say an F5 tornado in the 70s has any relevance to how a tornado is rated today (if comparing intensities), is short-sighted - and irrelevant.

I would think the met point of view here would actually argue opposite your point.

Unless you can run a GRLevelx scan of the 74 outbreak using today's Doppler's and computer technology, and THEN go survey the damage with homes built exactly the same, from the same building materials...Why even bring up the Fujita intensity rating of something that happened over 35 years ago and relate it to how well the two systems stack-rank met-wise against one another?

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I'm sure some of the people that died while hunkered down would disagree.

Yeah, it's not a great policy for the general public on the whole (especially in highly populated areas), but if you're weather savvy and can evacuate, why not?

Weather savvy is one thing, but the vast majority of the public cannot be included in that category. A number of good reasons for not advocated mass evacuations of towns/cities have been listed already (obstructions to visibility, unpredictability of short term storm evolutions, nighttime tornadoes, traffic, etc.).

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ABC News just interrupted programming. President is about to speak about the outbreak.

Looks like he wants to use this a reprimands for the gov. response for Katrina...

He gave thanks to the firefighters and EMTs and police forecs on the scene (who obviously deserve it), but no mention of the NWS or SPC, who I think did a phenomenal job yesterday....but I guess that's to be expected...

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Since the majority of storms aren't F-4 or F-5, and the NWS or TV station met is probably not an expert on traffic patterns in the area, the standard advice is the best, and a TV met who ad libbed and caused a massive traffic jam that was then hit with mass fatalities, I don't know if he/she'd be legally/civilly liable or not, but her or his career as a TV met would be over.

What if.... what if....

Well the fact remains that the TV personalities told people they would be safe if they 'hunkered down' and now it appears that was bad advice as the death toll rises. "You'll be safe if you get to the lowest level in an interior room" may have stopped people from actually being safe by getting out of the way.

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Not cost effective for everyone. It's just not. People spend $5k on a shelter and end up needing the money for medical problems so I don't think it's simply a matter of values. I do think, however, that having a community shelter is a great idea. I think it's a great idea for organizations like HOAs (homeowners associations). It's a lot cheaper to build one big one that everyone in a reasonably-sized neighborhood can get to than building one small one for every family. The cost per family would be fairly inexpensive.

That might be an option for some neighborhoods. But even if it's a small neighborhood (30-50 residences), you're going to need a huge shelter. And you'd have to be able to get everyone in the neighborhood there within a few minutes of the tornado siren going off. This could be difficult, especially with elderly or disable people. Finally, you'd still be asking people to go outside in potentially dangerous situations...even if the tornado doesn't get there, hail/wind/lightning would all pose a threat.

I'm just not sure it's a feasible option.

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This is not a met perspective.

F5 in the 1970s is to '_____' on the Enhanced Fujita scale? How much knowledge did those folks surveying damage in 1974 have compared to what they have now? In every industry, we are light years ahead of where we were in 1974. To say an F5 tornado in the 70s has any relevance to how a tornado is rated today (if comparing intensities), is short-sighted - and irrelevant.

I would think the met point of view here would actually argue opposite your point.

Unless you can run a GRLevelx scan of the 74 outbreak using today's Doppler's and computer technology, and THEN go survey the damage with homes built exactly the same, from the same building materials...Why even bring up the Fujita intensity rating of something that happened over 35 years ago and relate it to how well the two systems stack-rank met-wise against one another?

Even if some of the tornadoes in 1974 were off by one Fujita category, you're still talking about violent tornadoes from Indiana/Ohio all the way southward into Alabama. We didn't have that yesterday.

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