Significant tornadoes possible in Mid-state today
By JENNIFER HORTON and PATRICK HALL
True to form, March is coming in a lion, as the old saying goes, with another round of potentially severe weather, including tornadoes, expected in the Mid-state today.
Regardless of whether you are home or at a different location such as a store or office or elsewhere, it would be a good idea to think about where you will go in the event of severe thunderstorms or tornadoes.
That was the word Thursday afternoon from Bobby Boyd, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Old Hickory, who said more than once that everyone in the area should have a plan on what part of your home, office, etc., you will go to take cover if threatening weather approaches.
People just need to heed the warnings, he said, noting were in a moderate risk for severe weather today.
Wilson County Emergency Management Agency Director John Jewell also urged everyone to plan for the possibility of tornadoes by talking with family members and discussing a plan of action.
Have a plan of where youre going to go or where youve going to be, Jewel said, in terms of seeking shelter and possibly meeting up afterwards if a tornado touches down in the area.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., on Thursday raised the severe weather risk for all of Middle Tennessee from slight to moderate, which means, Boyd said, there is a 45 percent chance of severe weather within 25 miles of any given location. Its a fairly high probability.
A Hazardous Weather Outlook issued early yesterday by the NWS said there was a moderate risk of severe thunderstorms developing today for all of the Mid-state, particularly this afternoon and evening. In addition to a passing squall line possibly causing wind damage, the outlook said, supercells producing significant tornadoes may also develop.
A supercell is a thunderstorm that can produce downburst or microburst damage and large hail. It consists of a quasi-steady to rotating updraft which can exist for several hours.
A warm front was expected to move north last night from the Gulf of Mexico bringing the chance of thunderstorms before daybreak and on into the morning. Once the front moves north this morning, the area should be rain-free for a time, but Boyd said thunderstorms should begin to develop again around noon and into the evening.
Supercell thunderstorms could develop ahead of a squall line that will move through the Mid-state from the west, meaning well have a double whammy of severe weather possible.
Its a pretty severe situation setting up. People really need to take precautions. I think we could be looking at some pretty strong tornadoes, long-track tornadoes, he said. It does look like a pretty good set-up for severe weather.
The projections right now dont look good, Jewell said, referring to the possibility of severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes.
The possibility of strong and long tornadoes, the WEMA director said, refers to the potential for tornadoes to form and have a long duration. He said they were expecting the weather to get pretty nasty during the early morning period of Friday, with hail, wind and rain possible.
Jewell said the worst weather is projected to be between noon and 3 p.m. today, and added that NWS meteorologists told him atmospheric conditions are ripe for tornadoes. He noted this could be the worst weather Wilson County has seen so far this year.
Along with the mention of significant tornadoes by the NWS, meteorologists with Accuweather.com said they are concerned that Fridays severe weather outbreak has the potential to be more substantial than the one that blasted through similar areas Tuesday night and Wednesday.
The severe weather outbreak on Tuesday night and Wednesday claimed the lives of 12 people, including three in Tennessee, and reports of 30 tornadoes from Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Nearby, a tornado was confirmed to have touched down in the Holiday Haven neighborhood of Smithville off Highway 56 which took the life of one person, a woman, who was trapped inside her home that was blown down a bluff. Some lots in the neighborhood overlook Center Hill Lake.
The storm survey team from the NWS traveled to the site yesterday where they confirmed the tornado but had determined its EF, or Enhanced Fujita, rating by late afternoon.
Boyd said the tornados damage path began near DeKalb County High School (some reports have said Smithville High School, but the correct name is DeKalb County High School) and traveled east across Center Hill Lake.
An EF-2 tornado was confirmed in the Rinnie Community of Cumberland County where two people died. The EF-2 tornado had winds of about 125 mph, Boyd said. The damage was along Highway 127, and its path of damage was 250 years wide. The storm survey team was expected to issue additional information on the tornadoes as soon it became available.
In addition, Boyd said, a microburst, or downburst, with winds of 85 mph was reported in Fentress County in the Grimsley Community on Wednesday and left a path of damage of about 2 miles in length.
As bad as Wednesdays weather was here, and with todays conditions expected to be worse, Boyd urged everyone to take precautions and plan ahead.
People who are in mobile homes should leave them and go to a sturdier structure such as a house or a motel, if possible, he said, noting even though theyre tied down, theyre still not safe in high winds or a tornado.
If you are in an office building, Boyd said go to the lowest floor possible and stay away from windows. If you are at home and have a basement, go there. If you do not have a basement, go the lowest floor in your home. You can also go to a center room such as a closet or a bathroom in your home, or get under a stairwell, if possible. You want to put as many walls between you and the outside walls of the structure you are in, he noted.
School officials pretty well know what to do, Boyd said, noting they sometimes have drills and move students and staff to hallways and have them crouch down and cover their heads.
If you are in a vehicle, get out, if at all possible and lay face-down in a ditch. Of course, use common sense and dont get in a ditch if it is raining, which is often the case around here, but do get to low area and cover your head.
If you are in an enclosed shopping mall, Boyd said go to restroom or to a storage room if possible.
Many people sustain head injuries in tornadoes as the result of being struck by flying debris, Boyd said, reiterating that wherever you go for safety, stay away from windows. Not only can head injuries result, but you can also be cut by flying glass.
The high today should be near 79. The record for March 2 is 80 degrees. Once the storm system moves through, the low tonight is expected to be about 42. The high Saturday will be near 55 and on Sunday about 57 with a low of 36.
There is no rain in the forecast for Saturday, he said, but there is a 20 percent chance of showers on Sunday.
The high Monday will be about 53 with a low that night of 32. The high Tuesday should be in the low 60s.
The weather services antenna for its NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts had sustained some damage recently making it difficult for some to hear updates on their weather radios. The antenna, which is on top of the Tennessee Tower in downtown Nashville, was replaced on Thursday, so everyone who has a weather radio should now be able to receive the latest information.
If you dont have a weather radio, pay attention to local TV stations or commercial radio or the Internet for the latest reports today and this evening.
Jewell said WEMA notified all local school officials and law enforcement agencies and put all of his agencys personnel on alert for this weekend.
Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at email@example.com.