28 February 2011
A busy day for me today. Lots of wind damage across North Alabama and a tornado just over the line in Tennessee. This is what the radar looked like at the time of the touchdown.
Damage is heavy across the north end of the county, and three mobile homes near Estill Springs are just gone. One of the fatalities occurred there. While on the air, the image below is what I saw over the area. This image is from the NOAA Doppler radar in Hytop, Alabama.
The radar was very close to the tornado and saw it very well:
You are looking at winds in this image. Blue indicates wind toward the radar (bottom of the picture), and red is wind away from the radar (top of the picture). The dark blue pixel next to the red one is a classic indication of a tornado.
It indicated high winds blowing toward the radar next to strong winds blowing away. In other words, a strong rotation. Doppler radar cannot see winds blowing perpendicular to the beam, only wind toward or away from it.
No matter how many times we say it on air, people will not leave a mobile home when storms approach. They always think it will happen to someone else. Today, one person in Tennessee became the “someone else.”
Take it from someone who has been forecasting severe weather for 31 years, keep a NOAA weather radio on hand, and always leave a mobile home when a tornado watch is issued.