Sunday, January 22, 2017

Deadly Southern Tornado Outbreak Getting Even Worse Today

Shines McMorris in the ruins of her Hattiesburg home.
She, her husband and two children were in the house
when a tornado tore it apart, but thankfully, they were
 not hurt. Photo by Rogelio Solis/AP
Tornadoes in the South continued last night as expected, but today could very well feature some, huge, very disastrous tornadoes that would make the ones over the past couple of days look like child's play.

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has placed northern Florida and southern Georgia under a high risk of severe weather. That's the highest level of alert on five level scale of alarm.

A high risk zone for severe weather is rather rare, maybe only happening a couple times a year anywhere in the nation, except in the odd years when tornadoes are unusually frequent.

A high risk zone in January is extremely rare since major tornado outbreaks are rare in the dead of winter. (April through June are the peak months for this sort of thing.)

Some of the tornadoes that break out today in southern Alabama, most anywhere in Georgia, the north half of Florida, and later, in South Carolina and southern North Carolina, could be intense, long lasting and have an incredibly fast forward motion.

This is obviously dangerous for several reasons. The area under alert is fairly highly populated. Cities in the high risk area include Tallahassee, Jacksonville and Gainsville, Florida and Savannah and Albany, Georgia.

A surrounding area of moderate risk, (the second highest alert level) might also get these super intense tornadoes. Some of the ciities in this zone are even more populous ones like Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida, and Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina.

When you're under a tornado warning, the safest place to be is in the basement, or if you don't have a basement, a first floor, interior room with no windows, like a bathroom or closet.
A dorm room at William Carey University trashed
by a tornado Saturday morning. Photo by Rogelio Solia/AP

For most tornadoes, you're safe if go to these places. But you're not necessarily safe in super intense tornadoes as homes would be completely leveled and things could actually be sucked out of basements.

Also, if a tornado is moving along at a very fast forward speed, as many of today's tornadoes will likely do, people won't have a lot of time to take shelter.

Already, there have been at least 30 reports of tornadoes in the past couple of days, with at least 15 fatalities reported. 

As noted yesterday, four people died in and around Hattiesburg, Mississippi as a strong early morning tornado tore through that region.

The Associated Press just had a breaking news alert that 11 people had died and 23 were injured this morning in central and southern Georgia tornadoes.

Many houses are in ruins. A church in Petal, Mississippi was destroyed two years after another tornado did the same.

As of 9 a.m. Sunday, tornado warnings were still up southern Georgia as a nasty band of supercell thunderstorms moved through. The Georgia storms are the second round of severe weather that developed with this storm system.

The first was the Saturday morning and afternoon round that caused the Hattiesburg tornado and spread damage from Louisiana to Georgia.

The second band, over south Georgia and northern Florida this Sunday morning, originated in east Texas and dropped tornadoes and severe weather from Texas, through the Gulf Coast states to Florida.

The third and most potentially most dangerous band, which I've already discussed, will fire up in southern Alabama and the Florida panhandle later this morning and spread northeastward into Georgia and the rest of northern Florida into the Carolinas. (There were signs this was already starting to happen as of 9 a.m. Sunday)

The severe weather will move off the coast tonight as the parent storm system will consolidate into a nor'easter and move up the coast.

While the effects of the storm won't be nearly as dire in the Northeast as they are in the Southeast, high wind warnings and flood watches are already up for parts of coastal New England for Monday as the storm heads in that direction.

Here's some videos:

Damage in Petal, Mississippi

Operation Chase filmed a large tornado and very big, damaging hail late Saturday afternoon near Vivian, Louisiana, close to the Texas border:

Here's drone footage of Hattiesburg by Sam McAlister. It includes views of severe damage to William Carey University:

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