Tornado Update from Alabama

April 28th, 2011 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

The power is out here in Huntsville and over much of northern Alabama. Everything is shut down. Only cell phone service is up, and since I have Verizon broadband on my laptop, I’m spend some of my last 40 minutes worth of battery power to update everyone.

As a meteorologist, I must say that yesterday here in North Alabama was simply amazing. Virtually every thunderstorm that formed was rotating, and I hear we had 50 tornadoes just in the Huntsville area and surrounding communities. It lasted all day long. Here’s a map of the SPC’s storm reports from yesterday…Huntsville is under the big red blob of tornado reports.

By evening, all the tornado sirens had lost power, one local TV station’s weather radar was blown away, and the NWS Hytop radar also went down. There were still tornado warnings, yet there was no way to warn people. Callers into the few radio stations that had backup power were letting people know where the storms were as they arrived.

Late yesterday afternoon I rushed down to a small town just south of Huntsville only a few minutes after a tornado went through. I helped to see if there were people trapped in homes along the road. All the trees were snapped off, one home was entirely gone and the woman who lived there said her husband was in the house at the time. A very large oak tree about three feet in diameter was snapped off at the trunk. The large metal utility poles that are pretty weather proof were also snapped off.

I drove to Athens early this morning because my car was on empty and I heard they still had power. Along the way on I65 there were emergency crews helping to offload gasoline from an overturned tanker truck that got caught in one of the tornadoes. This was near Browns Ferry nuclear power plant, which is now shut down after the 500 kV lines out of the plant were taken out, probably by the same tornado. That damage path was quite wide, about a half mile.

They are saying maybe 4 or 5 days before power is restored here, since those lines feed Huntsville. Please pray for those who were not as lucky as me and my family.


19 Responses to “Tornado Update from Alabama”

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  1. Liz Nuby says:

    Thank you so much for keeping us informed of what is going on in Alabama. I will continue checking your site to see if there are any updates. What is happening in Mississippi? I pray with you that the Lord will keep you and your family safe and ask that he protects those who have survived this tragedy and that he gives comfort to those whose lives have been devastated by these events. In Jesus Name I pray this. Amen.

  2. Jacob C says:

    Glad to hear you and your family are ok. Will keep the others who aren’t as lucky in prayer and I hope the region recovers quickly. Good luck to you guys and be careful – still a few months of La Nina left.

    Best wishes,

    Jacob

  3. Bruce P says:

    You guys and everyone else down there are in our thoughts.

  4. Ted Gilles says:

    Dr. Roy: I was wondering about you after I heard the Huntsville area was hit. Glad you came through O.K. The prognasticators will probably claim AGW to blame. Thanks for the March global temperature update.

    Ted Gilles, P.E. (retired) Dallas, TX.

  5. I am glad you and your family are okay. What a storm, what an outbreak,it could be the worst ever. take care

  6. wayne says:

    Being from OK I can just imagine what you are going thru. So glad you and family are alright. Maybe all can talk in a day or two about this. Prayers to all.
    -wayne

  7. Sigmund says:

    Thanks for the first hand report, so glad you are safe. The scale of the destruction is terrifying, I feel lucky to live in a part of the world where tornadoes just dont happen on this scale.
    Hopefully the worst is over and the reamining season is calm.

  8. Joe Bastardi says:

    I am thanking God you are safe, along with your family., I have nothing I can say as far as people who lost so much. It is a reminder that this is not heaven here on earth, but such things leave me speechless.

    JB

  9. Caleb says:

    I’m so glad you are safe. May the college be swift to mend. Thank you for all your hard work. I’m one damn Yankee praying for Alabama today.

  10. al says:

    Be safe Dr. Spencer.

    btw, if you have Sprint avail for mobile broadband in your area, try Millenicom – ~50 GB/mo data limit for $70/month. much better than the typical 5 GB/$60/month plan from Verizon/Sprint/ATT and no 2-yr contract baloney either.

  11. Martin says:

    I cant help myself but I think that USA will be facing very harsh tornado season, regarding this http://weather.unisys.com/surface/sst_anom.gif
    look at that yellow spot near Panama, Its almost like a El Nino condition forming, which, along with cool PDO, would lead to strong north to south circullation. I hope Im wrong.

  12. Dr. Spencer,

    Im relieved you and yours are well. Im very sad many people in Alabama are mourning or destitute because of the tornados.
    Wishing you all a prompt recovery, I hope soon all the people there will have tornado shelters in their immediate vicinity.

  13. Anthony Watts says:

    Dr. Spencer, I echo the sentiments expressed above.

    Real Climate decided, that today, of all days, to write a hit piece about your book, months after it was published.

    I’ve intervened on your behalf, since you are unable to do so, and they have at least suspended comments.

    Details here:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/04/28/real-climate-on-spencer-bad-timing-or-just-bad-judgement/

    Godspeed sir.

  14. Anne Belley says:

    In looking for news from Alabama I came across your post. Thank you for the update. I have friends in Huntsville, and now understand why I was not able to reach them, seeing that the power is out. We will continue praying for them and so many others.

  15. Robin Pittwood says:

    I’ll be praying for you all. Robin

  16. Orson says:

    THANKS for your message, Dr Spencer. I have a buddy in Tuscaloosa – he teaches 20th C American history there – also devastated by the same tornado swarm, or even worse. (No word from him yet.)

    In fact, one spring break in the 1990s, when planes from Denver to B’ham were full (because of the party-bound crowd), I flew to Nashville and drove through Huntsville. It was dark, but made memorable because the impact of NASA and an engineering and science tradition on Northern Alabama was palpable. That and the scenic southern reach of the Appalachians.

    Good luck and Godspeed with the rebuilding. We rebuild because we are Americans. We don’t give up.

  17. kathy matthews says:

    I have some dear friends in madison county, al that I have not been able to contact. Is there a way to get in touch with people? I know law enforcement is very busy. Could not get through to the sheriff dept there.

  18. Devin says:

    I am praying for you, I hope you get power back soon.

  19. Freddie says:

    I thought dem badbwoys at RC only suspended comments in case it would look bad fi dem if Master Roy was dead. Nice to know it was AW was covering yuh back.

    Respect!