ALERT and the Alabama Tornadoes

Richard Barth
Fri, 10 Apr 1998 13:46:46 -0400

>Date:     Fri, 10 Apr 1998 00:02:26 -0500
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>Date:    Thu, 9 Apr 1998 08:05:51 -0500
>From:    John Oldshue <JohnO@ABC3340.COM>
>>From John Oldshue, Weekend Meteorologist, ABC 33/40, Birmingham Alabama
>Words cannot begin to describe the destruction and devastation in
>Western Jefferson County...a few of the things we know this morning
>18 People have been killed...16 in western Jefferson County, 2 in St.
>Clair County...
>167 people are injured.
>15 mile damage path, about 3/4 mile wide....damage looks like an F4 ,
>possibly F5 tornado....
>Oak Grove High School was completely destroyed......
>Some communities that were hit....Oak Grove, Pleasant Grove,
>Birmingport, Edgewater...
>The last tornado to cause this type of damage was an F5 tornado in
>Smithfield Estates (Northern Jefferson County) in April 4, 1977....
>Please take a few seconds this morning to send an e-mail to Brian Peters
>( ) at the National Weather Service in Birmingham
>and tell him how much we appreciate the staff and all the hard work they
>did last night. The warning process worked perfectly last night. As I
>interviewed people last night almost every one of them said they had
>gotten the warning about the storm and were able to get to a safe place.
>A tornado watch was in place hours ahead of time and a tornado warning
>was in effect for Tuscaloosa, Jefferson and St.Clair counties long
>before the tornado ever hit, giving people the precious time they needed
>to prepare for the storm. The efforts of the National Weather Service in
>Birmingham last night could have easily saved 500 lives if not a

Lotsa stuff snipped here...

>Date:    Thu, 9 Apr 1998 08:33:04 -0500
>From:    Chris Novy <chris@LIB.SIU.EDU>
>Subject: History-making night in Alabama
>David Black <> asked me to post the following...
>                        Alabama's night of deadly supercells
>                                By David Black, KB4KCH
>(Birmingham, Alabama) -- A major severe weather outbreak that caused
>heavy damage, at least seven deaths and dozens of injuries in central
>Alabama April 8th drew immediate response from radio amateurs and praise
>for their efforts from the National Weather Service.
>Rescue crews worked into the night, searching for victims feared
>trapped after a powerful tornado spawned by a supercell thunderstorm
>ripped through a residential area about five miles west of downtown
>Skywarn teams went into action during the early afternoon hours
>and were on the air more than ten hours later, continuing to relay
>reports of storm damage, hail, injuries and relief operations.
>Skywarn nets were on the air across much of the northern half of
>Alabama, including Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Talladega, Gadsden,
>Huntsville and other areas.
>One of the busiest centers of action was the National Weather
>Service Forecast Office in Birmingham, which issues warnings for
>the northern two thirds of the state.
>Members of the Alabama Emergency Response Team (ALERT) were activated
>during the afternoon when tornado watches were issued for northwest
>and south Alabama.  Net Control teams began relaying severe weather
>reports from across the northern half of the state to Birmingham
>forecasters.  The strongest storms erupted quickly and violently
>during the early evening, producing tornadoes, deaths and damage
>across a large part of central Alabama.
>At one point, fourteen Alabama counties were under tornado warnings
>at the same time.
>At least one death was reported when a large tornado hit a residential
>area in the Edgewater community west of downtown Birmingham.  At least
>150 homes were damaged or destroyed, according to reports from the
>Edgewater and Maytown areas, and two fire stations were reported
>destroyed.  An elementary and high school were heavily damaged.
>Power was knocked out to 20,000 customers.
>In the nearby Sylvan Springs community, cars were overturned and many
>roads were blocked by trees.  One car was spun into the air and landed
>200 feet away.  Police issued a plea to stay away from the affected
>areas so that rescue crews could work unhampered.
>The tornado was also blamed on causing heavy damage in western Tuscaloosa
>and St. Clair counties.
>In St. Clair county, east of Birmingham, unconfirmed reports indicated
>at least two deaths with scores of injuries from tornado or storm damage.
>In Birmingham, amateur radio operators were asked to provide
>communications assistance at shelters set up for residents who lost
>their homes in addition to staffing the Weather Service.
>Numerous repeaters throughout west, central and east Alabama were
>pressed into service, providing emergency communications.  In the
>Birmingham area alone, at least five VHF and UHF repeaters were being
>used for emergency messages.  Repeaters were busy with disaster
>relief and shelter information well past midnight, nearly twelve hours
>after storms began pounding the state.
>Scores of supercell thunderstorms erupted during the evening, dumping
>hail, triggering severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings and causing
>damage across a large part of central Alabama.  At least two churches
>were hit, including one that was occupied for a Wednesday evening service.
>People attending the service heard the warning and sought shelter in a
>hallway just seconds before the tornado hit.  The church sustained
>heavy damage with adults and children suffering what were believed to
>be non life-threatening injuries.  Television reports from the scene
>showed children and adults with bloody faces being carried to ambulances.
>One of the first reports of the Birmingham tornado came from ALERT member
>Mark Parmley, WA4UHC.  Parmley was on the air reporting the touchdown just
>moments after it occurred to Skywarn Net Controls at the National Weather
>Weather Service officials praised the response and information radio
>amateurs relayed.  "They were absolutely great," said Brian Peters,
>WD4EPR, a Weather Service meteorologist.  "We couldn't have done it
>without them."
>Peters said radio amateurs relayed numerous excellent severe weather
>reports.  Many of the reports the Weather Service received came from
>radio amateurs first and then from other sources, Peters said.
>Forecasters tracked the supercell thunderstorm that caused the
>Birmingham tornado as it moved from Mississippi across Alabama to
>the Georgia line, Peters said.  The storm was blamed for damage in
>Tuscaloosa, Jefferson and St. Clair counties.
>The Weather Service issued dozens of tornado and severe thunderstorm
>warnings during the afternoon and evening.  At one point, shoppers
>at a mall just south of Birmingham reported a funnel cloud directly
>The Weather Service was itself praised for its handling of the severe
>weather outbreak by issuing warnings early enough to allow citizens
>to take shelter.
>David Black is a broadcast journalist and President of ALERT.
>Chris Hayes Novy - WA9V   Internet:
>Southern Illinois Univ.   
>Sr. Systems Analyst          Phone: (618) 453-1683 (work)
>Morris Library                      (618) 457-6149 (home)
>Carbondale, IL 62901-6632      FAX: (618) 453-3440

Richard Barth, W3HWN          * Director, Office of Radio Frequency Management
Phone: 301-713-1853           *      U.S. Department of Commerce / NOAA
FAX:   301-713-1861           *               Room 2246, SSMC2
Email: *            1325 East-West Highway
                              *            Silver Spring MD 20910