Tornadoes, floods, and fires continue to pound U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 15:13 GMT le 27 avril 2011

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The nation's unprecedented April tornado-fest continued full force last night, with NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logging 57 tornado reports, 295 cases of damaging thunderstorm winds, and 254 reports of large hail. The 2-day tornado count from this latest huge April tornado outbreak is already 102. With another "high risk" forecast for tornadoes today, the tornado total for this week's outbreak may rival the April 14 - 16 tornado outbreak (155 confirmed tornadoes) as the greatest April tornado outbreak in history. It is unprecedented to have two such massive tornado outbreaks occur so close together, and the April preliminary tornado count of 654 is truly stunning. Even adjusting this number downwards 15% (the typical over-count in preliminary tornado reports) yields a probable April tornado total of 550. This easily crushes the previous April tornado record of 267, set in 1974. An average April has "only" 163 tornadoes, so we are already 300% over average for the month, and may approach 400% after today's outbreak. According to a list of tornado outbreaks maintained by Wikipedia, only two other tornado outbreaks have had as many as 150 twisters--the May 2004 outbreak (385), and the May 2003 outbreak (401). One positive note--there has only been one violent EF-4 or stronger tornado this year, despite the fact we've already had about 2/3 of the 1200 tornadoes one typically gets for the entire year. Over the past 20 years, we've averaged 7 violent EF-4 or EF-5 tornadoes per year, so we should have had 4 or 5 of these most dangerous of tornadoes so far this year.


Figure 1. Satellite image of last night's storm at 8pm EDT April 26, 2011. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Fortunately, no one was killed in last night's tornado frenzy, but four twisters caused injuries, with 7 injuries in Hesterman, Mississippi, and 3 in Beekman, Louisiana. Over 100 homes were damaged when a tornado struck Edom, Texas, approximately 75 miles East of Dallas. One woman was injured when her mobile home was destroyed. The only killer tornado of the current outbreak occurred on Monday night at 7:30 pm CDT when a 1/2 mile-wide EF-2 tornado struck the small town of Vilonia, Arkansas. Four people died in the town, where 50 - 80 buildings were destroyed. Tornado warnings were issued 30 minutes before the storm hit, contributing to the relatively low loss of life.


Figure 2. Storm chaser video of a tornado yesterday in Ben Wheeler, Texas.

Another very dangerous tornado outbreak expected today
The busiest April in history for tornadoes continues full-force today, as NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has issued their highest level of severe weather potential, a "High Risk" forecast, for Northern Alabama, Southern Tennessee, and adjoining portions of Georgia and Mississippi. This is the second day in a row, and third time this year, that SPC has issued a "High Risk" forecast. The devastating North Carolina tornado outbreak of April 16, which generated 52 confirmed tornadoes that killed 24 people in North Carolina and 2 people in Virginia, was the other "high risk" day. Numerous tornado warnings have already been issued in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Ohio, and Alabama this morning, but today's main action is expected to erupt late this afternoon as the cold front from a low pressure system currently over Arkansas moves eastwards over the "high risk" area. Strong daytime heating in a very moist, unstable airmass will allow a tremendous amount of energy to build up ahead of the front. The arrival of the cold front will force the warm, moist air upwards, allowing the pent-up energy to burst out and fuel supercell thunderstorms.

Related post: Are tornadoes getting stronger and more frequent?


Figure 3. Severe weather threat for Wednesday, April 27, 2011.

Unprecedented flooding predicted on Ohio River
This week's storm system, in combination with heavy rains earlier this month, have pushed the Ohio River and Mississippi River to near-record levels near their confluence. The Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois is expected to crest at 60.5 feet on May 1. This would exceed 100-year flood stage, and be the highest flood in history, besting the 59.5' mark of 1937. Heavy rains of 10 - 15 inches have inundated the region over the past few days, and one levee breach at Black River levee near Poplar Bluff, Missouri, has resulted in the evacuation of over 500 homes. Poplar Bluff has received 15.45" of rain since Friday morning. The greatest rain gauge-measured precipitation from the storm occurred in Springdale, Arkansas, where 19.70" inches has fallen since Friday morning.


Figure 4. The latest River Flood Outlook from NOAA shows major flooding is occurring over many of the nation's major rivers.

Extraordinary intentional levee breach of Mississippi River halted by lawsuit
In a sign of just how extreme this flooding situation is, yesterday the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for flood control efforts on the Mississippi River, announced plans to intentionally destroy a levee protecting the west bank of the Mississippi River in Southwest Missouri. The destruction of the levee is intended to relieve pressure on the levees at Cairo, Illinois, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Cairo is currently under a voluntary evacuation order. The levee to be destroyed, located at Birds Point, is called a "fuse-plug" levee, and was designed to be destroyed in the event of a record flood. The levee protects 132,000 acres of prime farmland along the New Madrid Spillway, which is designed to take 550,000 cubic feet per second of water flow out of the Mississippi and redirect it down a 3 - 10 mile wide, 36 - 56 mile long path along the west side of the Mississippi. An 11-mile long section of the levee upstream at Birds Point, and 5-mile long stretch at the downstream end, are set two feet lower than the surrounding levees and filled with holes to accommodate dynamite. These levees will be destroyed if the Army Corps has its way, but a lawsuit by the state of Missouri is currently blocking the way. The Army Corps has now agreed to wait until Saturday to decide whether or not to blow the levee. The Army Corps' website has an unofficial damage estimate of $100 million for destroying the levees and flooding the New Madrid Spillway. At least 100 people live in the spillway and have been evacuated, and it would likely take many years for the farms to recover after flooding. The levees have been blown and the spillway opened only once before, back during the record flood of 1937.

Midwest deluge enhanced by near-record Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures
The deluge of rain that caused this flood found its genesis in a flow of warm, humid air coming from the Gulf of Mexico. Sea surface temperatures (SSTs )in the Gulf of Mexico are currently close to 1 °C above average. Only two Aprils since the 1800s (2002 and 1991) have had April SSTs more than 1 °C above average, so current SSTs are among the highest on record. These warm ocean temperatures helped set record high air temperatures in many locations in Texas yesterday, including Galveston (84°F, a tie with 1898), Del Rio (104°F, old record 103° in 1984), San Angelo (97°F, old record 96° in 1994). Record highs were also set on Monday in Baton Rouge and Shreveport in Louisiana, and in Austin, Mineral Wells, and Cotulla la Salle in Texas. Since this week's storm brought plenty of cloud cover that kept temperatures from setting record highs in many locations, a more telling statistic of how warm this air mass was is the huge number of record high minimum temperature records that were set over the past two days. For example, the minimum temperature reached only 79°F in Brownsville, TX Monday morning, beating the previous record high minimum of 77°F set in 2006. In Texas, Austin, Houston, Port Arthur, Cotulla la Salle, Victoria, College Station, Victoria, Corpus Christi, McAllen, and Brownsville all set record high minimums on Monday, as did New Orleans, Lafayette, Monroe, Shreveport, and Alexandria in Louisiana, as well as Jackson and Tupelo in Mississippi. Since record amounts of water vapor can evaporate into air heated to record warm levels, it is not a surprise that incredible rains and unprecedented floods are resulting from this month's near-record warm SSTs in the Gulf of Mexico.


Figure 5. Departure of sea surface temperature from average for April 25, 2001. Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS.

Fierce winds fan Texas, New Mexico fires
Fierce winds fanned raging fires across eastern New Mexico and Western Texas yesterday, thanks to a powerful flow of air feeding into the Midwestern storm system. Temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s combined with humidities less than 10% combined to make yesterday a nightmare fire day for firefighters attempting to control the worst springtime fires in the history of the region. At 3:53 pm MDT yesterday in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the temperature was 87°F, winds were 38 mph gusting to 46, and the humidity was 8%--a perfect storm for extreme fire weather. In Fort Stockton, Texas near the huge Rock House fire, the temperature was 91°F, winds were 35 mph gusting to 44, visibility was reduced to 5 miles due to haze and smoke, and the humidity was 5% at 5:53pm CDT. According to the Interagency Fire Center, wildfires in 2011 have already burned nearly 2.3 million acres in the U.S. This is the greatest acreage on record so early in the year, and is more area than burned all of last year. The largest U.S. acreage to burn since 1960 was the 9.9 million acres that burned in 2007, so we area already 25% of the way to the all-time record fire year--with summer still more than a month away. The fire weather forecast for today is better then yesterday, with winds not expected to blow nearly as strong.


Figure 6. Major wildfires and smoke plumes as visualized using our wundermap with the "fire" layer turned on.

For those who want to lend a helping hand to those impacted by the widespread destruction this month's severe weather has brought, stop by the portlight.org blog.

Jeff Masters

Rare Sight (Freakofnature1)
I haven't seen a storm like this in quite some time. Still no rain in Seguin, Tx. Pic taken in Seguin storm near Martindale.
Rare Sight
Mississippi @ Burlington (BURGuy)
Seating along the shore
Mississippi @ Burlington
Base of Anvil Cloud 4/26/11 (HuskerMama)
Taken within minutes after the storm cell had passed directly overhead.
Base of Anvil Cloud 4/26/11
Southern Lightning (WeatherRose)
This is a shot of a lightning strike associated with some severe storms moving through this evening in Southaven, MS.
Southern Lightning

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It seems those sirens haven't had a chance to turn off in Knoxville. They've been red all evening:

TORNADO WARNING
TNC009-093-105-123-155-280315-
/O.NEW.KMRX.TO.W.0078.110428T0249Z-110428T0315Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MORRISTOWN TN
1049 PM EDT WED APR 27 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MORRISTOWN HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
BLOUNT COUNTY IN EAST TENNESSEE...
KNOX COUNTY IN EAST TENNESSEE...
LOUDON COUNTY IN EAST TENNESSEE...
MONROE COUNTY IN EAST TENNESSEE...
SEVIER COUNTY IN EAST TENNESSEE...

* UNTIL 1115 PM EDT

* AT 1042 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO 6 MILES NORTH OF
MADISONVILLE. DOPPLER RADAR SHOWED THIS TORNADO MOVING NORTHEAST AT
50 MPH.
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Please post, e-mail, forward, etc.LinkThanks!!!
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how do u post a video on here?
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Quoting AllyBama:
Cyclonic Voyage - I am listening too...EMS people have their hands full..


I can't imagine...

I was PO'd tonight because the AC failed today in the house, 90 degrees today, and won't be fixed till tomorrow. Thermostat sits at 84 right now.

Not PO'd any more...
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Quoting shoreacres:
Ally - you must be listening to the Catoosa feed. It's terrible - and twitter's full of people reporting truly unbelievable damage and injuries there.


shores, yes I am...just horrible
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TWC Breaking
At 11p ET...Tornado warnings extend as far N as W. Va. Tornadoes reported as far north as Virginia earlier.
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Ally - you must be listening to the Catoosa feed. It's terrible - and twitter's full of people reporting truly unbelievable damage and injuries there.
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That's a long line of red.

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1115. hydrus
Quoting IFuSAYso:


TBH, leave them and continue rescue, recovery is after all heroic measures are exhausted.
Some of those bodies still may have a weak pulse...Its better to make sure they past before writing them off.
Member Since: 27 septembre 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21734
Quoting SavannahStorm:


I'm amazed, too. It's running over 3000-4500 ft mountains and still has a very strong echo.

This one deserves a name like a hurricane. It might have killed more than many canes.
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1113. Patrap
Member Since: 3 juillet 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129089
Wow, the latest radar image from Greenville shows an impressive hook echo and likely tornado still going...
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oh gosh cyclonic...multiple trapped...
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Ha...the beast is still chugging on Greenville Radar. As it gets more in range, it still looks very tornadic.

she's still looks alive and well
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1109. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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Quoting CyclonicVoyage:
Officer to dispatch. "Do we pick these bodies up or leave them here?" Sheesh.


TBH, leave them and continue rescue, recovery is after all heroic measures are exhausted.
Member Since: 8 Mars 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 161
Quoting MississippiWx:
Ha...the beast is still chugging on Greenville Radar. As it gets more in range, it still looks very tornadic.


I'm amazed, too. It's running over 3000-4500 ft mountains and still has a very strong echo.
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Quoting TomTaylor:
yep, which is unfortunate because those night time 'nados are the worst.

There was tornado report and warning from the NWS all through the night there. I was in disbelief that this system was so strong.
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Quoting srada:
I have a friend who just text me from huntsville, Al..said they had to shut the hospital down...city under water, buildings gone..waking up to the news tomorrow will be devasting..



Heartbreaking. Head bowed for all those suffering. :(
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Cyclonic Voyage - I am listening too...EMS people have their hands full..
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1103. Titoxd
The Cell is about to become a four-state tornado…

TORNADO WARNING
GAC137-241-NCC113-280330-
/O.NEW.KGSP.TO.W.0020.110428T0243Z-110428T0330Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GREENVILLE-SPARTANBURG SC
1043 PM EDT WED APR 27 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN GREENVILLE-SPARTANBURG HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
NORTHERN HABERSHAM COUNTY IN NORTHEAST GEORGIA...
RABUN COUNTY IN NORTHEAST GEORGIA...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF CLAYTON...
SOUTHERN MACON COUNTY IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA...

* UNTIL 1130 PM EDT

* AT 1039 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO 15 MILES WEST OF
BATESVILLE...OR 10 MILES NORTHWEST OF CLEVELAND...MOVING NORTHEAST
AT 50 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
BATESVILLE...
MOCCASIN CREEK STATE PARK AND LAKE BURTON...
LAKEMONT AND LAKE RABUN...
CLAYTON AND TIGER...
DILLARD AND MOUNTAIN CITY...
SCALY...

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TORNADOES WHICH OCCUR AFTER DARK ARE ESPECIALLY DANGEROUS. PEOPLE IN
THE WARNED AREA SHOULD PREPARE IMMEDIATELY FOR THIS TORNADO. MOBILE
HOMES AND VEHICLES SHOULD BE ABANDONED FOR STURDIER SHELTER.
OTHERWISE...GO TO AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST LEVEL OF YOUR HOME
OR PLACE OF BUSINESS.

TO REPORT TORNADOES...DAMAGING WINDS...LARGE HAIL...OR FLOODING...
THROUGH OUR AUTOMATED REPORTING SYSTEM...CALL OUR TOLL FREE NUMBER...
1 8 7 7...6 3 3...6 7 7 2.

&&

LAT...LON 3489 8366 3494 8360 3495 8356 3499 8356
3500 8353 3505 8357 3524 8329 3523 8327
3508 8316 3506 8317 3499 8310 3495 8311
3488 8323 3482 8327 3482 8331 3469 8335
3464 8366 3476 8363 3481 8368
TIME...MOT...LOC 0243Z 237DEG 45KT 3475 8381

$$
07
Member Since: 28 juin 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 243
HOnestly, barring an actual on-the-ground trail, it's going to be impossible to tell if that's actually the same tornado.

The radar coverage in this area is very poor.

It looks like the next frame or two on radar it will cross into N. Carolina.
Member Since: 12 avril 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 214
Ha...the beast is still chugging on Greenville Radar. As it gets more in range, it still looks very tornadic.
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Quoting cat5hurricane:

yeah, I noticed that man. You said 130. good call. prolly gonna be a few more though before dawn awakes & we see natures fury.
yep, which is unfortunate because those night time 'nados are the worst.
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Officer to dispatch. "Do we pick these bodies up or leave them here?" Sheesh.
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Quoting TomTaylor:

Thats incredible.

Also, did I call it or what?

post 711 of this blog



lol jk. We'll probably creep into the 140s by nights end

yeah, I noticed that man. You said 130. good call. prolly gonna be a few more though before dawn awakes & we see natures fury.
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Quoting FLdewey:
I try not to use the word AMAZING too much... but this video is AMAZING.

FF to 4:00 if you want to be amazed... sick video.



speechless! Great video FLdewey.
Member Since: 21 Mars 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 885
Man this feed from Catoosa CO, is heart wrenching.
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A state being overshadowed by the violent tornado in Alabama...Mississippi had some serious tornado damage as well today. Reports are still coming in, some with fatalities:

TWC Breaking
Snell, MS - 4 dead. 12 injured - some are serious - according to NWS
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TWC Breaking
Snell, MS - 4 dead. 12 injured - some are serious - according to NWS
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Quoting presslord:
My mother and Father...in the Buckhead area of Atlanta...say local TV is seriously down playing and under reporting...


Hi Presslord,
Tell them to go to WSB 2 they are doing an excellent job of following them on thier new radar.
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Quoting cat5hurricane:
133 and still counting...

Thats incredible.

Also, did I call it or what?

post 711 of this blog

Quoting TomTaylor:
More than that.

101 reports as of right now, I'm guessing it will be in the 130s by the end of the night


lol jk. We'll probably creep into the 140s by nights end
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Can't tell if the Tuscaloosa tornadic storm is weakening or in just a bad place for radar to pick it up.

I think little bit of both...
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Quoting hydrus:
I believe the SPC did a superb job with this system. They saved a lot of lives today, and continue to do so this moment. A lot of people went to great lengths to help others.

Agreed. They nailed it.
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1089. hydrus
I believe the SPC did a superb job with this system. They saved a lot of lives today, and continue to do so this moment. A lot of people went to great lengths to help others.
Member Since: 27 septembre 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21734
TWC Breaking
"Extensive damage to homes" in Bartow Co., GA, per EMS. People trapped in homes btwn. Kingston & Cassville

At 9 PM, there were 412,229 power outages in the state of Georgia -- more than the Blizzard of '93.

TWC Breaking
#Tornado near White, GA (Bartow County). Similar path of first supercell into NW Cherokee, Gilmer Counties. Take cover in Jasper!

TWC Breaking
Tuscaloosa City Schools Closed for a week according to local reports
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EOS confirms three fatalities in Catoosa, GA.
Member Since: 8 novembre 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13597
Thanks Random because some of them live in trailers! Hopefully they would seek cover at a nearby family home..


FYI - there was a small tornado hit Andrews AFB earlier on the street where my daughter moved from just last week!...
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Can't tell if the Tuscaloosa tornadic storm is weakening or in just a bad place for radar to pick it up.
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Quoting FLdewey:
I try not to use the word AMAZING too much... but this video is AMAZING.

FF to 4:00 if you want to be amazed... sick video.


Just catching a couple snipets of that qualifies for AMAZING.
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3 confirmed dead in Ringold, GA- at least 1 unconfirmed additional fatality.
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Quoting RandomText:
Greensville, SC radar is picking up the cyclonic hook signature from the tri-state tornado, soon to be quad-state tornado.

It's in a bad spot and Atlanta and Tennessee radars can't really get the signature.

Nice coverage today Random Text, but there is no "Greensville, SC."
Okay, must be Greenville.
Member Since: 11 juillet 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11389
Quoting AllyBama:
I have family in Greenville, SC...


I have family in extreme southern Lexington County. I hope they'll be spared.
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1080. srada
I have a friend who just text me from huntsville, Al..said they had to shut the hospital down...city under water, buildings gone..waking up to the news tomorrow will be devasting..
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Quoting BahaHurican:
LOL, r u expecting interest on the 6pack over the 4yr period??? lol

And seriously. I went back and looked. It was the original poster steve responded to, same as me. I thought it was out of left field, the anti-AGM post, I mean. But nothing serious in the long term, expecially on a night like tonight.... Just amazing the damage one tornado can do... much less bunches like we've seen today...

weeeell, I was expecting a mail order in 4 years from now for my 21st birthday. From cat5 of course, since he said he owes me one.

And idk which post you're looking at, but I uploaded the pic if you still don't believe me
Link
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133 and still counting...
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1077. FLdewey
I try not to use the word AMAZING too much... but this video is AMAZING.

FF to 4:00 if you want to be amazed... sick video.

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TWCBreaking TWC Breaking
At 9 PM, there were 412,229 power outages in the state of Georgia -- more than the Blizzard of '93. #gawx #severe
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Very dangerous tornado heading toward Bluefield, Va take cover folks!
Member Since: 21 Mars 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 885
Quoting AllyBama:
I have family in Greenville, SC...


The storm is not going there.

That's just the closest radar I could find that actually had a half-decent fix on the storm at this time.
Member Since: 12 avril 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 214
Quoting hydrus:
Amen and amen.


Dittos!
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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