April is the height of tornado season in Alabama. April 27, 2011 will go down as one of the worst tornado outbreaks to hit the state. Although the death toll varies, one estimate puts it close to 250 statewide from one of the 60 plus tornadoes that touched down, many which were rated the highest or next-to highest level on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, and from the post-storm cleanup.
I remember the event well. A non-profit I was volunteering with at the time, Asperger Connection, had a fundraiser planned the next evening at Papa Murphy’s Pizza locations across the Huntsville metro area. With all of Huntsville and Madison County without power, the event was postponed. Even though the restaurant did not call, my mom and I knew there would be no fundraiser that Thursday night after hearing the extent of the damage. Although I do not like last minute changes in schedules, I understood that this was a large scale emergency situation and pretty much everyone in Huntsville and Madison County had their schedules disrupted immediately after the tornadoes went through.
Although this is not a pure Aspergers post, I thought I would give my thoughts on the event and weather in general to Aspies and Neurotypicals alike. First, I have heard and read from meteorologists critiquing that a tornado outbreak as severe as the one that hit that day six years ago occurs in Alabama roughly every 40 years. Even though there will still be the potential for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in Alabama, the chances of a repeat of the same severity and coverage as April 27, 2011 is very small.
The second thing to remember is no two severe weather episodes are alike. On that particular day, the right type and amount of atmospheric conditions converged over the South at exactly the right time. Most events, like the one that hit our area last weekend, are on the lower end. Here is a blog describing some of the atmospheric conditions that were present during what is now being called the Superoutbreak of 2011. Next time there is a chance of thunderstorms for our area, I recommend going to the Storm Prediction Center’s website to get an idea of how bad thunderstorms will be. That particular government agency is tasked with issuing severe thunderstorm and tornado watches.
The third thing to remember is that a severe weather event does not have to be on the scale of April 27th for it to be memorable for one particular location. Those who lived in Huntsville in the late 1980s remember the big tornado that devastated Airport Road on November 15, 1989. What many may not remember is that was the only violent tornado on that particular day. Most people across Alabama and the South got nothing more than hail and some wind.
A year after April 27th, a social skills group I was part of at the time took a tour of the local National Weather Service office. It was a very informative trip as many parents and young adults with Aspergers asked the meteorologists on duty questions about that particular day and weather in general. I recommend that schools, religious organizations, businesses and social skills group take a guided tour of their nearest National Weather Service office to learn more about the weather and how their organization can adapt to severe weather. To schedule a tour for the Huntsville office, the contact info can be found on their page. Be prepared, however, that tours can be cancelled at the last minute if inclement weather is forecast the day your group is scheduled to be there.
The lessons and the spirit of neighbors helping neighbors after that horrible day should not be forgotten by everyone, regardless of disability or any type of socio-economic status. It would not be far-fetched to say that every person in north Alabama was impacted by the event either directly or indirectly. Those are my memories from that event. Share yours in the comment section below. Also, please enjoy this article I wrote a couple of months after the outbreak about a storm chaser who followed the Cullman tornado.
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