Thunderstorms are a common occurrence in the Spring and Summer seasons here in the Tri-Cities. These storms can often times produce damaging winds, torrential rain, vivid lightning and hail.
However when the perfect combination of warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico clashes with the cold dry air from the northern plains and a strong wind field is present that is a recipe for disaster, as the chance of tornadoes being spun up increases.
Tornadoes occur when the winds near the ground change direction and speed with height. This is known as “windshear”.
Windshear creates a horizontal twisting motion in the atmosphere, which is then lifted up into the storm by the rising air of the storm’s updraft. The storm begins to rotate. These rotating thunderstorms are called “Supercells” and can possibly produce nature’s most violent display, a tornado.
The central part of the nation or “Tornado Alley” is considered the bullseye of where tornadoes occur, but tornadoes have been reported in every state of the union.
The myth that tornadoes don’t happen in the mountains was literally blown away after April 27, 2011, when 13 tornadoes tore through the region. In fact almost every county in the viewing area has reported at least one tornado since 1950. Greene county and Washington county Virginia have reported the most tornadoes.
In Glade Spring, Virginia the landscape is still scared from when an EF3 tornado ripped through the town around 1am on April 27, 2011. Residents still recall the horrific memories.
Pat Rowe recalled seeing debris, dead animals, trucks and trailers in the road. “Everything was just destroyed,” added Rowe.
After the storm has passed, the local National Weather Service office staff will then conduct a survey of the damage and strength of the twister based on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
This scale rates tornadoes starting from EF0 which the weakest whirlwind and produces minimal damage up to an EF5. An EF5 tornado is a rare monster, which packs winds of over 200 mph and is devastating leaving nothing behind.
Here is an interesting fact, the tornado outbreak of April 2011 produced several EF3 tornadoes in Greene and Washington counties in Tennessee.
Fortunately, there has only been one EF5 tornado in Tennessee, which occurred in 1998 in Waynesboro located in South Middle Tennessee
Tornado season begins in March and last through June, but a tornado can happen in any season, even in the winter.
Now is the time to have a tornado safety plan.
Pat Rowe says what she learned from that is to “pay attention to the news, listen and don’t take it for granite.”
What is the difference between a WATCH and WARNING?
A Tornado Watch means that storms that develop could produce tornadoes, so be viligant of rapidly changing weather conditions, have your NOAA weather radio on, keep it tuned to News Channel 11, and be prepared to seek a safe place if a Tornado Warning is issued.
A Tornado Warning means that a tornado has been spotted and dual pol doppler radar is indicating rotation on the radar and a tornado could spin up at any time. Seek a safe place immediately.
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