|The elementary school in Goodman, Missouri was trashed by|
a tornado Tuesday evening, marking the start of the latest
tornado outbreak. Photo via Twitter, Fox 23 News.
The High Risk zone extends through central Georgia into part of South Carolina. Large, destructive tornadoes are quite possible in this area.
Already, a large, catastrophic looking tornado was already reported on the ground in southwestern Georgia as of 12:45 p.m.
As of 1 p.m., there was reports of extensive damage in a half mile to mile wide path with this tornado, so this is about as big as they come. Extremely dangerous, too. And with this type of weather setup, this tornado,and others like it, could stay on the ground for a long time. Which of course is really, really bad.
This extremely dangerous tornado was headed toward Plains, Georgia as of 1 p.m. That's Jimmy Carter's home town. It was also heading for the bigger town of Americus, Georgia, population 16,000+.
Areas surrounding the high risk area are also in danger of powerful, deadly tornadoes for pretty much the rest of the day.
It's also beginning to look like there will be a tornado risk extending up the East Coast to as far as Virginia tonight.
As of early this Wednesday morning, there was already a tornado watch up for a most of Alabama, western Georgia and the Florida panhandle.
That they would issue tornado watches this early in the day is an ominous sign that this could be a particularly destructive day in the Southeast and parts of the Tennessee and Ohio river valleys.
Forecasters are definitely worried there could be numerous tornadoes today, and some of them could be quite strong.
The power of a particular tornado outbreak is hard to pinpoint even a few hours in advance. Sure, you often know a day or two in advance whether there's potential for lots of strong tornadoes, or just a couple weak spinups.
The potential is certainly there today for some carnage, but tornadoes are all a matter of luck.
Maybe we'll get lucky and the atmosphere won't come together quite perfectly enough to produce a lot of dangerous tornadoes.
Or, a few very strong tornadoes will develop, but they'll go over rural and forested countryside and not hit any towns or cities.
We could also get unlucky, and a tornado could maraude through a population center, like in April, 2011, when a super outbreak trashed Tuscaloosa, Alabama and other populated towns in the South, killing more than 300 people, injuring nearly 2,800 and causing over $10 billion in damage.
I'm sure today's outbreak won't be as bad as the cataclysm of 2011, which was arguably the worst tornado outbreak in U.S. history.
There won't be as many tornadoes this time, the dangerous weather won't last as long, and we'll probably be luckier than in 2011.
Still, in one respect, our nation's luck with tornadoes seems to have run out this year.
After the very tragic tornado year of 2011, each of the five years from 2012 to 2016 were relatively quiet in terms of tornadoes. Those years had their share of tornado deaths and destruction, but not on par with how bad it often gets in the United States in the spring.
However, this year, we're on a near-record pace for tornadoes. As of a couple days ago, U.S. Tornadoes says that the United States has had a reported 474 tornadoes so far in 2017, with 27 deaths.
And the season is still young. Tornado season usually peaks in May.
What will become this latest outbreak of tornadoes actually started in Missouri last night, when the town of Goodman was hit by a twister that badly damaged its elementary school, a fire station and part of downtown. Luckily, no deaths with that one, but there were two injuries.
People in the Southeast are taking few chances with their luck today. The governor of Alabama has already declared a state of emergency, and many schools are closed across Alabama, Georgia and other states.
Everybody in the region is being told to know where to go very quickly to a basement or a tornado shelter within a moment's notice.
The latest anticipated tornado outbreak will end Thursday when dangerous thunderstorms exit the Mid-Atlantic coast. After a brief break, there's a chance of more tornadoes in the Midwest Sunday. After that, who knows?
Maybe we'll get lucky and the season will quiet down. Don't bet on it, though.