I remember coming to work early that morning knowing it was going to be a bad day for Alabama, but I had NO idea how bad…
Several days before the main event, the Storm Prediction Center had been issuing statements, and highlighting Moderate Risk areas for tornadoes and strong winds. Moderate risk areas are less common than Slight Risk areas, and to see one a few days ahead of the system red flagged me immediately.
Then, on April 26th, they highlighted an area in Northeast Alabama for High Risk for Tornadoes and severe weather. This meant BAD news, and a day that undoubtedly would produce life threatening tornadoes.
Watching the weather so closely, yet knowing that the Wiregrass would not face this distruction, was one of the most unique weather experiences I have ever had. I couldn’t help but feel helpless that day, so I did my best that morning and noon to alert people in Southeast Alabama about what was going on to our north, since our weather really did not matter at that point. Several people in this area had children at The University of Alabama, and I knew they would be fearful for their children.
The first string of severe weather that day broke out on my shift. A large Mesoscale Convective System with powerful straightline winds and even some EF3 tornadoes moved through the Birmingham area.
This first system knocked power out for a half million people. Had that been the only event that day, April 27th would still have been viewed as a tremendous day for severe weather.
From a meteorologist’s perspective, it was an ominous feelings because I knew the main event would not be until later that day, and many people may not know this because they had lost power.
You can refer to my previous blog on the April 27/28th Outbreak if you would like statistics on the storms, but, hands down, this was one of the worst severe weather days you will ever see in your lifetime.
I was glued to the TV all that afternoon, flipping between The Weather Channel, WTVY - where Connor and Oscar were double teaming the event – and my lap top, where I watched Newstations in Birmingham streaming live coverage of the tornadoes.
Hundreds of people died that day, and it’s nearly impossible to believe that it did not somehow effect everyone Alabama, as well as parts of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia. Now, 6 months later, I am proud of how this state has worked hard to restore normalcy to decimated communities.
I also realize there is still a lot of work to be done. There are still lives being mourned.
I also commend first responders, the National Weather Service, and local broadcast meteorologists. I think they did an especially outstanding job getting the word out for people to seek shelter.
Take a moment today, and remember the lives lost. Also, take it as a reminder to always take weather seriously, and be dilligent in protecting your life, and those of your loved ones, in any severe weather event.