Friday, April 15, 2011

A Tornado Outbreak in Dixie Alley

It has been a dangerous and even deadly day for residents living in Dixie Alley, which includes the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

In addition to large hail and damaging winds, numerous tornadoes were reported today, making it one of the most active days (tornado wise) we have seen so far this spring.

One string of tornadoes occured in Jackson, Mississippi earlier today. These two photographs are courtesy of our sister station, WLBT, in Jackson, Mississippi. This wedge tornado started in Clifton, a western suburb of Jackson, and then plotted along eastward, affecting the northern half of Jackson around the midday hours. The pictures tell the story of how volatile this tornado was. So far, there have been several injuries reported and widespread damage in the greater Jackson area.

And while this particular tornado was strong, it was not the only significant tornado we saw today.

Take a look at the map above. All those cutouts represent severe weather reports from around the country in just the past 24 hours. The one thing that stands out is not just the total number of reports, 341, but rather, the number of twisters we saw today. As of this blog entry, there have been 55 tornadoes across the country, most of which occured in the Southeastern United States, also known as Dixie Alley.

Usually when we get severe weather outbreaks across the country, we see lots of wind and hail reports, with just a few tornadoes. Today, however, was far different. The reason why there were so many tornadoes today was due to the wind shear (changing of the wind direction and speed with height) that was present. The rotating winds resulted from the jetstream being situtated right ont top of the Deep South, allowing for any updrafts to rotate and produce tornadoes.

And while we only got limited rainfall last night, in hindsight, it might have been a good thing. After all, would we have been better off dealing with just another day of no rain, or would you rather have received a little rain and lots of hail, high winds, and tornadoes?