Aqua satellite images tornado damage path

Mike Smith of meteorological musings writes:

Brown Gashes on an Otherwise Green Earth

You’ll want to click to enlarge this image.

This from the AQUA earth-monitoring satellite. These tornadoes were so large they left visible brown gashes on the Alabama countryside. To help you find the gashes, storm chaser Aaron Kennedy put yellow lines parallel to the tornado’s tracks. I have added the arrows.  The city of Tuscaloosa is between the “a” and my first arrow. The path across Birmingham was largely covered by clouds when the satellite passed over.

Mike also poses an important question.

I’m changing planes at O’Hare at the moment and just saw that the death toll is up to 250 per The Wall Street Journal and 272 per CNN. It is difficult to write this due to the shock that so many were killed when the forecasts and warnings were so good. That dichotomy is the question of the day.

Read his answer here

About these ads

66 thoughts on “Aqua satellite images tornado damage path

  1. Man’s socalled destruction of nature is nothing compared to the fury of nature against man. Throughout time nature has waged a war against mankind and nature usually wins.
    I will try to do something to help these people in need. Neighbors helping neighbors gets things done.

  2. Unfortunately, meteorologists have done as much as they can do. Thanks to people like the Severe Storms Center in Norman and weatherman Gary England in OKC, the prediction and warning system is about as good as it can practically get.

    The problem is in housing, and the solution is reinforced concrete. Survives everything. Tornado, fire, straight wind, quakes, heavy snow, termites.

  3. Balloon housing (current US practice) with a fascia and then wood construction behind it, is subject to severe problems in winds over 150 mph, whether straight line, or rotational. Gluing structural members together improves things significantly, but anything which gives a serious pressure delta between the outside and the inside of the house will cause an effective explosion. I’m ignoring the problems which arise because the wooden structure isn’t properly bolted to the foundation or slab.

    Hurricane Ike showed many in Houston that lower winds are survivable, provide proper construction techniques are used. There was a development on Galveston Island that survived the winds and the water. It was built way above current standards.

    Re-bar concrete is about the only repeatable, reliable, construction which can survive a tornado. The windows are another matter, even roll shutters aren’t effective there.

  4. Above ground reinforced concrete won’t survive an F-5 and will be severely damaged by an F-4. An F-5 won’t even leave plumbing sticking up from the slab a house was sitting on and they peel up asphalt roads leaving just bare dirt behind and actually remove plants and soil up to 18 inches deep. I was in an outbreak which included one F-4 and one F-5 in 1997. I was about 50 miles from the F-5 and 20 miles from the F-4 and within a few miles of some lesser ones. See here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1997_Central_Texas_tornado_outbreak

  5. The real dichotomy is why we seem so willing to spend gazillions of dollars to ward off some uncertain climate future, but not to heed clear warnings of imminent and actual threats.

  6. Joe Bastardi had predicted storms across the South last week and said this was the end of winter patterns and the change to summer and hopefully the end of most dangerous storms. He also said Wednesday would be the end date. He seems to be on the mark with his predictions often.

  7. Having seen some of the videos and photos, I’m glad we don’t get these here in the UK and my thoughts are with the people affected. As for Mike’s answers, this one is a growing technology risk

    There are reports that because of the multiplicity of tornadoes, the power had been lost in the first wave of storms and so TV, internet, etc., were not available when the second wave occurred. These people likely did not get the warning.

    This affects a lot of emergency warning systems with a combination of more vulnerable comms and social changes. A shift from old fashioned line powered phones to VoIP can make the problem worse, if those rely on domestic power and don’t have batteries or UPS. In the good’ol days you could make every phone off an exchange ring and play a warning, now that’s much harder. You can try doing it with mobiles to everyone in a cell coverage area, assuming the cell mast is intact, powered and still connected. You could transmit to radio or TV, assuming they have power and assuming people watch or listen. If they’re online, they may not get the warning.

    Assuming they are warned, then what? Do tornado prone areas in the US have community shelters people can go to?

  8. Some news about the destruction in Smithville, MS. About 5 miles from my house. http://www.cdispatch.com/news/article.asp?aid=11064 . It even broke tombstones in the cemetery!

    Smithville was in ruins. Pieces of tin were wrapped high around the legs of a blue water tower. The Piggly Wiggly grocery store was gutted, with wires and insulation dangling from the ceiling. In one part of town, not a structure was left standing as far as the eye could see. The police station, the post office, city hall and an industrial park with several furniture manufacturing facilities were among the dozens of structures ripped apart. Neighborhoods resembled the Mississippi coast after Hurricane Katrina.

    White said a group of residents from a nearby trailer park knocked on the Smithville Baptist Church door just before the storm hit, asking for shelter. They went to a sturdy section of the red brick church where they hung onto one another and anything they could grab “like a mass of humanity” as the building disintegrated, he said.

    The red Jeep Wrangler that some of mobile home residents drove to the church was left on its side inside the church office. The second story was gone. Walls were collapsed. Entire sections of the church were flattened, but the choir robes remained in place.

  9. The problem is in housing, and the solution is reinforced concrete. Survives everything. Tornado, fire, straight wind, quakes, heavy snow, termites.

    As others have written reinforced concrete will not survive an F-5. I have personally seen where the very asphalt on the road was ripped up and there are pictures from some of my friends on facebook of reinforced concrete structures destroyed in Alabama. (this is my home town area).

    What we have seen throughout our lives in Alabama is that the older home constructions survive the winds much better than modern ones. The older homes were built with 4×4’s, 2×4’s and 1×6′ wood planks rather than the particle board construction of modern homes. Particle board and its variants have nearly zero structural strength compared to a house built with 1×6’s but are considerably more expensive. I have personally reviewed where three homes were side by side and two modern homes destroyed while the home in the middle, built in 1930 survived with the windows blown out.

    The old people in Alabama taught us that when a tornado is bearing down, open all of your windows to assist in pressure equalization. That is very good advice that I have seen no one in the modern age give.

    As for the global warming aspect, bah humbug, this kind of thing happened all the time during the cooling interlude in the 60’s and early 70’s. I was personally involved as a boy scout when the city of Jasper Alabama was almost wiped off the map in the early 70’s and we rescued the books from the Library there that had been destroyed in the tornado. That storm lifted a four story reinforced county courthouse off of its foundations!!!!

  10. Another comment after looking at the tornado tracks.

    The tornado that hit Tuscaloosa left the ground just a few miles from my home town of Graysville Alabama. I have received several reports from friends as well as their pictures on facebook of detritus from the storm landing in our home town. This was everything from checks from local businesses, receipts, and pieces of homes, very small pieces of homes, all from Tuscaloosa. Tuscaloosa is roughly 60 miles as the tornado flies from Graysville.

  11. “Bill Junga says:
    April 29, 2011 at 4:32 am
    Man’s socalled destruction of nature is nothing compared to the fury of nature against man. Throughout time nature has waged a war against mankind and nature usually wins.
    I will try to do something to help these people in need. Neighbors helping neighbors gets things done.”
    ______________

    Bill,

    I’m guessing you read the Times article about these twisters? Perhaps you’ve osmosed the style of hyperbole they engaged in. IMO nature does not have fury, I understand that we puny humans have a tendancy to project our psyche on everything we come in contact with, and we are not at ‘war’. Our destructions of nature are simply bad housekeeping and self-destructive stupidity (and many times we just don’t/didn’t know any better at the time).
    The lives and property lost is certainly a tragedy but the fact of the matter is that nature did what nature has always done, and we couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. No need to invoke a sense of malevolance for an act of nature. In other words: we be small and nature be big.
    Kinda puts a little perspective of scale for those that insist man is big enough to critically harm this planet. Personally I think the worst we could do is drive ourselves to extinction. Engaging in some hyperbole of my own: the planet would then clear it’s throat, pass some gas (Co2?) and keep on rolling.
    Your closing statement I whole heartedly agree with and as they might say in Oz, “Good on ya mate”

  12. I do not think that Nature ‘Has It In’ for man. Nature does what it wants with man in the way. We must live with a dynamic planet.

  13. Mike also poses an important question.

    “I’m changing planes at O’Hare at the moment and just saw that the death toll is up to 250 per The Wall Street Journal and 272 per CNN. It is difficult to write this due to the shock that so many were killed when the forecasts and warnings were so good. That dichotomy is the question of the day.”

    Well, perhaps total destruction (as in the Jarrel, Tx tornado in 1997 where structures were swept completely off their foundations and pavement was removed from the road surface) of the shelters ppl sought shelter in is one likely possibility …

    A quick survey of the damage aerially (visual helicopter overflight) by abc3340 (TV E.N.G. crew):

    Tuscaloosa Tornado Damage Aerials Part 1

    Tuscaloosa Tornado Damage Aerials Part 2

    B’ham Metro Tornado Damage Aerials Part 1

    Condolences and prayers to those caught up in this fury by mother nature.

    Ref: Jarrel, Tx 27 May 1997 tornado, NWS material: http://www.spc.noaa.gov/coolimg/jarrell/index.html

  14. >>Polistra
    >>The problem is in housing, and the solution is reinforced concrete

    Indeed. I have always been amazed that most Americans live in plywood and plaster-board shacks – and this is supposed to be the richest country in the world.

    In Britain we use a brick exterior wall with a lightweight concrete block inner wall, giving fairly stout houses with good insulation.
    In Alpine and many Nordic regions, they seem to use a huge terracotta-like brick that has many holes drilled in it, for insulation. I thought these looked flimsy until I handled one, and then saw what a tough construction they made. Quicker to construct too, than the UK’s small bricks, as you only need one wall instead of the UK’s double wall with internal cavity.
    In Israel they often use concrete, for speed and cost. Put up some shuttering, insert a pre-formed polystyrene core in the middle (for insulation and strength), and pour in the concrete. Job done in a few hours. Quick and strong, despite there not being much in the way of re-bar reinforcement in it, from what I saw.

    In short, the US has some of the worst housing I have ever seen, and so it is not surprising that many houses are destroyed and many people are killed by the tsunami of flying debris.

    Why do the US authorities not demand higher standards of housing? (Didn’t see much double glazing there either.) Even a simple cable tie-down, going from ground to roof, would stop the roof lifting (which destroys the structural integrity of the house and allows the walls to collapse).

    .

  15. >>Jim
    >>Pictures of destruction.

    With all due respect to the tragedy that has happened – but just because the wind has blown a few trees down does not mean that towns and cities should be destroyed too.

    This (below) was the 1987 hurricane in southern England, when some 15 million trees were felled in a few hours one October night. Note, however, that the farm and manor house in these images are untouched. You cannot blame nature for a disaster, if you don’t take adequate precautions.

    .

  16. Ralph April 29, 2011 at 7:17 am:
    >>Polistra
    >>The problem is in housing, and the solution is reinforced concrete

    Indeed. I have always been amazed that most Americans live in plywood and plaster-board shacks – and this is supposed to be the richest country in the world.

    In Britain we use a brick exterior wall with a lightweight concrete block inner wall, giving fairly stout houses with good insulation.

    There’s a term for that: Over Engineering (specifically it is costly with minimal returns considering the performance to cost ratio). Cheaper to carry insurance for an event that will never affect *most* of us (and I am in the southern end of Tornado Alley)

    BTW, cinder block walls were mowed down in this event too, so, it is doubtful your construction method would have withstood the tornadic winds either.

    MUCH cheaper to have constructed an interior reinforced ‘safe’ room, as has been the practice for some choosing this safety route in Oklahoma.

    Please see this page for an example of a safe room which did withstand a severe tornado:

    http://www.stormsaferoom.com/

    .

  17. Ralph How many tornados have struck the UK? This is from wikapedia but to compare the “hurricane of 1987 with an f-5 tornado is laughable. A hurricane has 74 mile an hour sustained winds, so your english farm house didnt even come close to withstanding the conditions that existed in alabama .

    In south-east England, where the greatest damage occurred, gusts of 70 knots or more were recorded continually for three or four consecutive hours.

  18. wsbriggs @ 5:40 am
    “. . . a serious pressure delta between the outside and the inside of the house will cause an effective explosion
    . . . ”

    A strong tornado will lift objects and carry them forward rapidly. The air begins to become dangerous with grit and small items at about 80 to 100 mph; a speed at which you will not be able to stand and walk. Items such as trash cans and lawn furniture are simple items easily lifted and sufficiently heavy to damage a house and along with the wind tear things apart. Buildings torn apart by the storm provide additional pieces to continue the process of destruction. There is no need, nor justification, to blame the damage on pressure differences between the inside and the outside of buildings.

  19. Jim says:
    April 29, 2011 at 6:59 am
    =============================================================

    Jim, thanks for posting the aerial video. I had to stop watching after about 5 minutes – the destruction was too terrible. We can be thankful more people were not killed. In fact my question is not: given our warning system why were so many killed? But rather, how many would have been killed without the warning system we have? Of course, one death is too many from a natural disaster, especially if it’s your family or friends. But still, only 300 dead after distruction of such magnitude! It is appropriate to ask if we could have done more to save lives. but at the same time we should count our blessings.

  20. From the times article:
    “If scientists cannot be sure — or trusted, as doubters of climate change might say — then where should an ordinary person on the ground turn for solace or strength in the raging maw of a storm?”

    Seems to me if you listened to a skeptic such as Joe Bastardi, one would have been prepared as best possible.

    The ones who truly can’t be trusted are the Times reporters

  21. Jim says:@ April 29, 2011 at 7:48 am

    The “yard bunker” looks like a darn fine life insurance policy.

  22. From http://www.rmets.org/weather/phenomena/tornadoes.php

    “The UK has around 35-40 tornadoes a year and experiences more than any other European country.

    Many tornadoes last for only a few minutes, but in 1950 a tornado swept across southern England with a path that was at least 66 miles long and lasted for more than two and half hours.”

    Two people died in the latter – both were struck by lightening while running for cover.

  23. Ralph says:
    April 29, 2011 at 7:17 am

    As a retired civil engineer who’s specialty was in building construction, I can assure Ralph that the light wood frame platform style construction that he decries is actually very strong and can be very wind resistant if properly detailed with consideration for wind uplift and racking resistance. The construction that he lauds, traditional unreinforced masonry, does not perform particularly well under seismic and wind loading. The code required insulation values in masonry construction are not as easily and practically achieved as in the typical stud framed walls of the “plasterboard shacks”. Britain doesn’t have significant seismic problems and the climate is more moderate than the North American climate meaning that the masonry construction that works well in Britain does not necessarily work well in North America.
    As for my experiences, I have witnessed the swathes of destruction of some tornadoes in our region and observed that stud framed houses even without detailing for wind loading withstood damage much better than masonry commercial/industrial buildings with roofs constructed of open web steel joists and corrugated steel roofing. These were F2 tornadoes. No practical building is going to stand up to an F5 tornado.

  24. It very well may be that one of these tornadoes will be designated the largest , energy wise, ever recorded in history.

  25. The 03 May 1999 tornado in the OKC metro (Moore and Eastern OKC/Del City were hit hardest here) split the distance between my house and my work. I lived about 1.5 miles from work, and the tornado was over a half-mile wide as it tracked through. We were fortunate, with no damage and power out for less than a day. The tornado was at F4 level near us. It had been F5 earlier. It was over a mile wide for a while. Seeing the images of Alabama brings back memories. It is hard to tell the difference. That tornado was the strongest recorded. Theoretically, it will remain, as it was (approximately) as strong as possible (highest winds). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_Oklahoma_tornado_outbreak

    http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/

    I recall Gary England (mentioned above) exclaiming “Get below ground” and indicating survival was unlikely if you were stuck above ground. The neighborhoods were swept clean. Only below-ground structure was left. It is unimaginable until you see it yourself.
    We were across town at the time. It was surreal. We drove home in the dark. Everyone was polite and cooperative at intersections. Tempers were a little less mild starting the next day, but everyone pulled together. We made it through.

  26. Being from the general area . . . I will tell you my opinion on why so many casualties . . . When the new technologies arrived during the dot.bomb era . . . All old technologies like a boob tube with antenna reception disappeared . . . and so did the communication that went along with it . . . I have elderly relatives that live in an area where there is no television at all anymore . . . unless they want to spring for a dish or pay for dial up service . . . . they are in an area so remote that there are no towers . . .

    They now have only limited radio service and a land line phone they have had since phone service arrived out there . . .

    The economy has crashed for many . . . including me . . . . I go to my public library to use a computer as that is the only way I could even be online . . . we no longer have television at all as the cable and dish is too expensive and so there is no such thing as basic communications any longer . . . Many people I know . . . in my little world are in the same situation . . .

    And many of the elderly and young that are out in “the country” are now isolated communications wise as even cell phone service is not cheap, and the learning curve for the old is large . . .

    They say it is bad because of 12% unemployment . . . but I tell you true . . . it is a whole lot worse than the stats indicate . . .

    and that has been the situation in the “deep south” for a very long time . . .

  27. Here in Illinois where basements are the norm we strongly recommend to our builder clients that they design and build the front stoops on new homes as storm shelters. Added costs for taller concrete foundation walls, a little extra basement floor, a sturdy steel door, and a reinforced suspended concrete cap typically ranges between $2K and $3.5K. About 1 in 5 new homes here have this feature. It’s a very small price to pay for peace of mind.

    As an added bonus they also make great wine cellars, safe rooms and vaults for valuables.

  28. Apparently these poor folks were just getting what they deserved, at least according to the donk at Think Progress.

    http://thinkprogress.org/2011/04/28/tornado-global-warming/

    “Storms Kill Over 250 Americans In States Represented By Climate Pollution Deniers”


    ““Given that global warming is unequivocal,” climate scientist Kevin Trenberth cautioned the American Meteorological Society in January of this year, “the null hypothesis should be that all weather events are affected by global warming rather than the inane statements along the lines of ‘of course we cannot attribute any particular weather event to global warming.’”

    The congressional delegations of these states — Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia, and Kentucky — overwhelmingly voted to reject the science that polluting the climate is dangerous. They are deliberately ignoring the warnings from scientists.”

  29. BTW, the only above-ground structures I am confident can withstand full F5 tornadoes are the ones we build around our PWRs.

  30. Had the opportunity to fly over southern Alabama and Mississippi in late 1979 after Hurricane Frederick passed thru. The pine forests rode out the storm winds fine. But the tornadoes in the storm lawn mowed lots of trees. From the air, it looked like a bunch of drunks with lawn mowers went thru the forests. There were no straight lines. And this went on for miles and miles. Prayers for everyone involved in this.

  31. Since some are talking about rememberings . . . . It used to be when there was a natural disaster the “hucksters” would move in . . . .stuff like ice suddenly cost 300% more . . . etc . . . Florida now has a law and consumers report these people to law enforcement now. . . This activity was considered smart and enterprising by many who profited from it. . .

    But, many got kicked to the curb. . . after they were already down . . . so you can see why catastrophic predicting was/is so important . . . when it comes to “carpet bagging” and every other activity of this nature . . .

    It’s what I call . . . a behavioral cycle . . . by some . . .

  32. >>cheapsmack says: April 29, 2011 at 8:14 am
    >>to compare the “hurricane of 1987 with an f-5 tornado is laughable.
    >>A hurricane has 74 mile an hour sustained winds … in south-east England
    >>>gusts of 70 knots or more were recorded continually for three or four
    >>consecutive hours.

    Those 70kt winds in the UK equate to 80mph for several hours, and the winds were strong enough to fell 15 million trees, but no houses. A comparison with an F5 may be unfair, but we always see similar widespread damage to USA housing in the wake of hurricanes too. And why are there no cable-ties on these plywood houses in the US, to stop the roof from lifting?

    .

    >>Robert Austin says: April 29, 2011 at 9:00 am
    >>I can assure Ralph that the light wood frame platform style construction
    >>that he decries is actually very strong … The construction that he lauds,
    >>traditional unreinforced masonry, does not perform particularly well
    >>under seismic and wind loading.

    If you look at the Fujita scale, it definitely places the destruction of timber frame houses before brick houses. And a concrete house would be better still at resisting lateral loads and therefore tornadoes. Here are two images of concrete reinforced houses that survived a tornado, while all the others were wiped of the face of the Earth. You call then ICF over there, apparently.

    If you had a whole town of ICF houses (or the Israeli houses, where the concrete is external, rather than internal) you would not only have survivable housing, but you would also prevent tonnes of debris from battering everything in sight. Now that makes a storm much more survivable for humans, and it makes it more survivable for houses downwind too.

    .

  33. It wouldn’t seem to be much of a stretch to add a tornado/sever storm tracking application to cell phone networking software that interfaces with NWS radar feeds to warn cell phones within a given warning area of an impending situation.

    Additionally, if the phone network could somehow be given the speed and direction of a tornado, it could warn individual cell phone users who are located along that path and even advise them which way to move to avoid it.

  34. Ralph says: “And a concrete house would be better still at resisting lateral loads and therefore tornadoes.”

    Not to mention a bigger problem with wooden houses down south that costs over $2 billion a year to repair/defend against – termites.

  35. Mike M . . .

    The “experts” are/were trying to do exactly that here . . . in my neck of the woods . . . but because of “capitalistic competitions” . . . there is no co-operations . . . . In my research of this years ago I found out there is not enough co-ordinations . . .

    We had a better EmergencyBroadcastSystem in WWII than we do now . . . . Now it’s how much $$$$ can we squeeze out of our citizens . . . that’s “capitalizm” you know!!! Right!!!

    I can get a weather alert over my phone . . . but look how much more expensive a phone is now . . . . and quite frankly it’s not always appropriate . . . to many “bugs” in the systems . . . .

    I understand why there where National TV Networks and then Local Affiliates that carried the National Network . . . You bought your box your antenna and advertising paid for the rest.

    Now, I spend half my time reading terms of service for “huckster” minimization . . . even WordPress is not SAFE!!! You have fake phone calls, fake web sites, etc . . .

  36. Ralph April 29, 2011 at 12:08 pm:

    And why are there no cable-ties on these plywood houses in the US, to stop the roof from lifting?

    Erecting your share of straw-man args today Ralph?

    Are you familiar with Mr. Tim P. Marshall’s work by any chance?

    Tim Marshall – civil engineer and meteorologist concentrating on damage analysis, particularly that from wind .. . He is also a pioneering storm chaser and was editor of Storm Track magazine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_P._Marshall

    Tim has done work in the area of ‘beefing up’ home construction through improved joining, anchoring and attaching sections together between ‘pad’ (foundation) and roof trusses. The general category of his work being http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_engineering

    Some of his work is embodied here: http://www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=1423

    (Click on: View/Download /Print (pdf 4245K) link in the above page to download a document showing some of the analysis and recommendations for improving wood-stick/frame structures to withstand some amount of ‘wind’)

    .

  37. I’ve just heard on Australian ABC radio, a morning presenter permit a climate scare monger called Morantz? to rave for ten minutes on the basis that the recent tornadoes are directly the result of ‘Carbon’ emissions.
    No historical context, no balancing scientific views, even from ‘their own side’ such as the statement issued by the NOAA scientist distancing the event from what they still call ‘climate change’.
    Pure filthy exploitation of the tragedy for their own purposes.
    At the end she even plugged his book…published of course by ‘Footprint Press’.
    I keep vowing never to tune in again…but in a country where the news media is thin on the ground and of fairly poor quality it’s hard to avoid the ABC and its embedded greenies.

  38. Ralph says: “And a concrete house would be better still at resisting lateral loads and therefore tornadoes.”

    Not to mention a bigger problem with wooden houses down south that costs over $2 billion a year to repair/defend against – termites.

    One word ends this discussion about concrete construction in homes in the American south.

    Mold.

    Concrete encourages the growth thereof.

  39. Mike M April 29, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    It wouldn’t seem to be much of a stretch to add a tornado/sever storm tracking application to cell phone networking software that interfaces with NWS radar feeds to warn cell phones within a given warning area of an impending situation.

    Nice idea, but, not all tornado warnings originate via RADAR identification; man is still ‘in the loop’ taking input from spotters and LE agencies (and the public) …

    Still, nice idea. One that *will* come to pass (come to fruition, be realized) no doubt.

    .

  40. Those 70kt winds in the UK equate to 80mph for several hours, and the winds were strong enough to fell 15 million trees, but no houses.

    =======================================

    15 million trees. Big deal.

    80 MPH for three hours.

    Big deal.

    We’ve been there, done that….many times over

    What about 260 MPH in 30 seconds?

    OK City. Xenia. Jarrell. Tuscaloosa. [Go Crimson Tide!]

    Kind of changes the equation, no?

    Kind of doubt your side of the pond has ever seen anything so violent, no?

    You have no (not even rudimentary) understanding of the extreme violence and INSTANTANEOUS destruction of the most violent atmospheric phenomenon on Earth.

    And EF5 is, no doubt, the atmospheric equivalent to the ocean’s more widespread destructive tsunami…in the sense that they both obliterate in seconds.

    Next time, I would advise you to hold your fire in the wake of such a tragedy.

    To quote the book of Proverbs: “Even a fool, when he is silent, is considered wise.”

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  41. Ralph says:

    If you had a whole town of ICF houses (or the Israeli houses, where the concrete is external, rather than internal) you would not only have survivable housing, but you would also prevent tonnes of debris from battering everything in sight. Now that makes a storm much more survivable for humans, and it makes it more survivable for houses downwind too.

    ================

    The United states is 3.75 Million square miles and the chances to be hit by an EF5 are geographically limited….to many, many orders of magnitude below that.

    The chances of being hit by one are so low, they are almost non existent.

    When a disaster like this happens everybody notices…but few notice the other 99.999% of the time when it doesn’t happen.

    The point being…your suggesting that we engineer against the ephemeral and extremely rare EF5 winds which produce not only winds up to 300 MPH but extreme turbulence which rips everything apart in seconds…is like the how the Japanese thought they were tsunami-ready with the 10 meter walls.

    But then the earth fell a meter and the displaced ocean rushed in.

    Point is…you have no good frame of reference of understanding…to the extreme and instantaneous, and unavoidable [if you are in its path] of an EF5 tornado.

    It is complete, and absolute destruction of everything recognizable…including shearing of structures from their slab, and removal of topsoil and slab and pavement itself, in some cases.

    80 MPH for three hours and 15 million trees.

    Oh…the apocalypse! Give me a break.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  42. >>Savethesharks
    >>The point being…your suggesting that we engineer against the
    >>ephemeral and extremely rare EF5

    Not at all. I’m suggesting you engineer against F3s and tornados, which are relatively common and cause a great deal of destruction. If you look at the pics in this site, you will see that concrete homes are not only safer in F3s but better insulated too – saving all that energy and CO2 … ;-)

    http://correctgcd.com/ster.htm

    And no, I do not work for ‘Big Concrete’. However, I do travel a lot and I have noticed that each nation adapts its housing to meet local needs.

    Eastern European housing has fences on the roofs to stop avalanches, and triple glazing against the cold.
    Nordic housing is often wood, as wood is plentiful there and a great insulator. But these are not like US plywood houses, these use huge great timbers and are well suited to large snow-falls and cold temperatures. Our B&B in Norway had quadruple glazing.
    An alternative European design has very steep roofs, to prevent the snow from settling in the first place.
    Swiss housing has thick brick walls and massive roof timbers and great eaves, that allows the snow to settle but stops the snow falling around the base of the house.
    Mediterranean housing is white and built around courtyards, for maximum cooling, with a flat roof for sitting out in the evening.
    Eastern Mediterranean housing is concrete, because concrete resists seismic activity (if built correctly), is cool in the summer and resists rot (the bane of wood houses). Also, wood is limited as a resource in the eastern Med.
    British housing does not have a flat roof, because to do so would be crazy. We go in for rain deflectors and draught proofing – although in the 1960s to 80s we got very lazy about such things.
    Australian housing has a tin roof, because tin was very cheap and the climate is dry and the tin does not rust, and there are no great winds to rip this lightweight roof off. (Not talking about Darwin here.)

    The only place that bucks this trend, in my experience, is the US. The US can be very cold and very windy, but they still build flimsy wooden shacks and insulation is minimal. The porch is a nice adaption, but results in a very spread out town that does not have the community feel and vibrancy of a densely packed Mediterranean town. How do you meet the neighbours, when you are always in the car to go to the shops?

    .

    And by the way, if you look at the Fujita scale, the UK’s 1987 hurricane was an F3 equivalent. The ‘most trees felled in a forest’ category does not come until the F3 mark, and that is exactly what we had in 1987.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fujita_scale

    I think the difference in wind speeds was caused by the gusts and the bernoulli effect of our rolling hills. When flying over the destruction the next day, you could see the downdraught blast patterns in the forests, where a huge gust had ripped every tree down, and the trees fanned out from the gust’s central point (in a fan shape). One large forest had a dozen fan-shapes in it, which comprised 80% of the forest. These gusts were not necessarily recorded anywhere – our airport’s anemometer, for instance, gave up and died at 70kts. The clubhouse, which was timber frame, was completely demolished.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernoulli's_principle

    .

  43. The Native American tribes, (and many early European pioneers who adopted the same), had the right idea. They built a heavy wooden structure then made a dirt revetment around and over it to defend themselves against nature. It protected them against extreme temperatures, wild fires and tornadoes, (and maybe they grew flowers on top of them?). Probably not a good place to be in an earthquake but we should consider adopting such ancient ideas and improving on them…

  44. Ralph ,trees in the US are much hardier than thier UK counterparts. The fujita Scale refers to american trees that typicaly withstand up to an f-2. You have to refer to your wiki links you sent. The maximimum wind gusts were only 70 knots barely an F-1 while wiping out practically the whole english forest. The English learned long ago not to use their inferior trees for building as they would have to rebuild often.
    As to the quality of the English anemometers you said it best, “gave up and died at 70″
    See link to illustrate my point.

  45. Ralph April 30, 2011 at 1:27 am:

    Not at all. I’m suggesting you engineer against F3s and tornados, which are relatively common and …

    We’re at the point where we are “talking past each other”; we HAVE done the enginneering, it’s the CONSTRUCTION of, the IMPLEMENTATION of those things that need doing (you didn’t read the PBAT/FEMA report I linked to above did you? I can only take SO much from thick-headed know-it-alls before I snap.)

    Good day sir.

    .

  46. Mr. Moderator,

    I am having trouble inserting links, I went to the test page (link at the top of this page) and tried to test my link language ? but found no place.. like this leave a reply box . Thank you in advance for your help on this matter.

    Sincerly Cheapsmack

    [Reply: Just cut the link from the address bar, and paste it in the comment box with a space before and after the link, and it will become active. ~dbs, mod.]

  47. Ralph that is a wonderfull post I know you are tounge in cheek , but I really like the part where you have use trees as a proxy for wind speed .

  48. >>cheapsmack says: April 30, 2011 at 8:12 am
    >>The English learned long ago not to use their inferior trees for building
    >>as they would have to rebuild often.

    I think you should learn how to use the /sarc tag. There is not much that comes in hardier and stronger than the English oak, the tree that built Elizabethan England. And these were 300 year old trees that were felled in the 1987 hurricane, which demonstrates that this was a once in several centuries event.

    >>Ralph that is a wonderfull post I know you are tounge in cheek ,
    >>but I really like the part where you have use trees as a proxy for
    >>wind speed .

    Again, where is your /sarc tag. How do you think they estimate tornado wind speeds, for the many occasions when there was no doppler radar to measure them?

    .

  49. Ralph says:

    And these were 300 year old trees that were felled in the 1987 hurricane, which demonstrates that this was a once in several centuries event.

    ======================

    “Once in a several centuries even for you”, maybe, not for us.

    We have them all the time….as demonstrated in tornadoes and hurricanes every year.

    You don’t!

    And even EF3 tornados are not that common….nor are they that widespread.

    NOR WAS THAT EVENT IN 1987 WAS NOT A HURRICANE.

    Hurricanes are warm core systems and tropical in origin. So….stop calling that once in a 300 year event in the UK….a hurricane.

    It was not.

    Extratropical cyclones or not, the UK just does not have the volume of extreme severe weather that the USA does.

    Absolutely not.

    Your argument here is a complete red herring and you have no idea or concept about which you are talking.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  50. Ralph says:

    And these were 300 year old trees that were felled in the 1987 hurricane…

    ===============================

    Cite your evidence the tree trees felled were 300 years old…

    You are hijacking this thread as you obviously have never been exposed to…or even remotely understand….instantaneous tornado damage.

    Here is what it looks like in action:

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  51. Hi,

    I’m from the Bahamas and during hurricanes, we have waterspouts that mount land as EF5 tornadoes during hurricanes. They aren’t reported as we attribute most damage to straight line winds and storm surges.

    Reinforced concrete specifications are different int he US than in the West Indies, I think, correct me if I’m wrong.

    After Hurricane Andrew, foundations are poured about eight feet(min depth) deep to accommodate connections to ground water wells. The above ground foundation is about 6 feet above sea level. Also, the outer walls are now required to be two cinder blocks thick with steel beams running through the blocks. Cement is poured through. This is a nightmare for cooling sometimes but it works. The two story buildings do the best because the second story’s floor is also concrete and steel beams. We do this to avoid the noise pollution you normally hear between floors of buildings. We have lost “many a roof” as we say but the strongest structures, those built during the colonial period have survived storm surges, straight line winds in excess of 200mph, and tornadoes. Hurricanes are dangerous in themselves but add violent tornadoes and spin-ups to the recipe and you have a very dangerous situation. Nothing can compare to a storm cellar, but I do believe that to save as much of the structure as possible, returning to some of the old construction techniques even though it may cost more, will help.

    Oh yeah, you have something in the US that we don’t have in the Bahamas… Doppler radar systems that will warn you ASAP of any suspected rotation. We just listen for the train.

  52. Golden says:
    April 30, 2011 at 10:41 pm
    Hi,

    I’m from the Bahamas and during hurricanes, we have waterspouts that mount land as EF5 tornadoes during hurricanes. They aren’t reported as we attribute most damage to straight line winds and storm surges.

    ===============================

    No you don’t….and no they don’t.

    The EF5 is the most violent atmospheric beast on the planet, and they do not even come close to the Bahamas….ever.

    They are a continental phenomenon…and most specifically largely within the USA part of the North American Continent….and are caused by extreme differences in air mass, humidity, and wind shear

    You do not have waterspouts that mount land with wind speeds in excess of 260 MPH.

    Nor do you have straight line winds in excess of 260 MPH nor anything close.

    You do not have extreme vorticity in 260 MPH plus winds that in a matter of 30 seconds, can suck the topsoil off the ground, and the pavement, too.

    The closest phenomena like that in a hurricane, was the one that tore through the Florida Keys in 1935, but still even there, is not even close at those velocities reached in an EF5.

    Storm surge is a completely different animal, and can not be included [or even remotely attributed] here.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  53. Golden says:

    Oh yeah, you have something in the US that we don’t have in the Bahamas… Doppler radar systems that will warn you ASAP of any suspected rotation. We just listen for the train.

    ====================

    Doppler radar systems are not fail safe in their indication of tornadoes.

    As a matter of fact, many a wasted tornado warnings cloud the airwaves with cry wolfers, thanks to the invention of “doppler indicated radar.”

    No….you don’t listen for the train….and you have no idea what the train is like. I have never seen one of these filmed over the Bahamas.

    And neither have you.

    ALSO….From the Bahamian….

    http://news.thebahamian.com/

    “A new Doppler Radar system was commissioned yesterday at The Nassau International Airport. The new system will significantly improve the accuracy of weather reporting in The Bahamas. The new Doppler system will assist in the monitoring of major rain bands, provide vital information on the location, intensity and movement of both thunderstorms and tropical typhoons. As a result of the installation of this new system, meteorologists will now be able to monitor weather up to 300 miles from its base in New Providence.”

    You don’t have doppler radar?

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  54. Re Mike M says: April 29, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    It wouldn’t seem to be much of a stretch to add a tornado/sever storm tracking application to cell phone networking software that interfaces with NWS radar feeds to warn cell phones within a given warning area of an impending situation.

    Additionally, if the phone network could somehow be given the speed and direction of a tornado, it could warn individual cell phone users who are located along that path and even advise them which way to move to avoid it.

    It’s one of those things that could be technically feasible, but has issues around it. Typical cell sizes range from <1km to 50km radius depending on frequency and power, so may not be appropriate for directional warnings. General warnings would be more feasible.

    The emergency warning centre, say NWS would then need to have a cell map overlaying the storm track(s) and decide which cells to warn. The type of warning message can be limited by the technology, so a cell base station won't have enough channels to play a warning message to everyone simultaneously so may have to stagger calling or just send text messages which could be delayed or ignored. If it has to use SMS texts, that limits the amount of information communicated. People in affected cells may also try to make calls, which could limit capacity but in emergencies cell networks can restrict calls to emergency or authorised phones only. But for an emergency service, it would need humans in the loop to decide which cells to warn, which may take time and in a fast developing/moving event like this may not be enough time.

    It also assumes people have cell phones, and as Bowen points out, not everyone has access to technology. It also assumes the cell network is operational. Given they rely on transmitter masts, those may be blown down or damaged early on. They may lose power, or connection to the rest of the network, especially if they're using microwave or caternary cabling for backhaul. In a big event, the network providing the backhaul may also go down. Mobile networks are pretty vulnerable to disruption and damage. Post event, there's stuff like this-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cell_on_wheels

    to restore service but they take time to deploy if access is limited by damage. The bigger problem is still how to warn as many people as possible when technology means they may not be watching TV, listening to the radio, or have any reliable connection to a network. In population centres, lo-tech solutions like PA systems or sirens, but that's not feasible in rural areas.

    There are also political and economic issues, like who pays for it and liability concerns. I've also encountered other political problems. I worked on ways to improve emergency comms for fire management and one problem was trying to protect mast sites. We wanted scrub cleared 10m around the sites for firebreaks, but couldn't because the scrub was protected. Go figure.

  55. Many of the areas that were affected by tornados had already lost power so the residents didn’t have television or radio (unless battery powered) to warn them. Also, in some areas the tornado sirens actually were not working due to the storms before the tornados even hit so their warning system was destroyed.
    A few previous commenters mentioned housing being a problem. Since Tuscaloosa is home to the University of Alabama there are tons of apartment complexes in the area that are occupied by students. Apartments are obviously not the safest place to be during a tornado so that made the situation more dangerous for residents; however, from seeing the damage first hand in numerous of the hit areas- it would not have made a huge difference if you were in an apartment or house.

Comments are closed.