Thursday, November 13, 2008

November 15, 1989 Huntsville, Alabama tornado

Image credit: NWS Huntsville

Radar images from NWS Birmingham

November 15, 1989 was a very dark day in the history of Huntsville, Alabama. It was also, as my friend puts it, "one of the defining moments of our lives," referring to his family. Thousands of lives were forever changed between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. in Huntsville, Alabama 18 years ago this afternoon. This storm was responsible for 21 deaths and over 500 injuries.

My dear friend Sharp has made this comment on a blog post about this storm:
"That night is one of the defining moments of our lives. My wife was critically injured in the tornado and was left paraplegic by it. We lost our apartment, our cat, and one of our cars. We had only been married about 18 months. It was also my parents’ silver wedding anniversary. My wife still suffers from PTSD during severe weather and we will live with that storm’s effects every day for the rest of our lives."

Please remember and pray for all those who were affected by this tornado, that God will be with them today and bring them peace.


Gary Dobbs of WAAY 31 remembers the tragic day.
James Spann, a broadcast meteorologist in Birmingham posted memories of that day.

"Panorama composite image constructed from 11 video frames taken around 2237 UTC, showing cloud formations associated with squall line. The view is north through southwest. The tornado is located ~6 km north at this time. Video was taken by Greg Talley." ---NWS Birmingham

Tuesday November 14 forecasts mentioned the possibility of thunderstorms the next day. As the day wore on language in the forecasts became more ominous. At 9:30 a.m. the morning before the tornado, the National Severe Storms Forecast Center issued a Public Severe Weather Outlook because of the unusually strong potential for severe weather in North Alabama. At 10:50 a.m., the Birmingham NWS issued a Special Weather Statement which included the language, "MAJOR SEVERE WEATHER THREAT POISED FOR ALABAMA AND NORTHWEST FLORIDA!"

At 12:30 p.m. a Tornado Watch was issued until 8:00 p.m. Beginning at 12:45 p.m., The NWS Huntsville began issuing warnings for the counties to the south and west of Huntsville because of a dangerous squall line and two supercells out ahead of the line. Large hail and intense winds were reported with this line.

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning was in effect for Madison County at the time the tornado struck Huntsville and it was upgraded to a Tornado Warning at 4:35 based on a report relayed through the amateur radio spotter network of a tornado touchdown in the city.

According to the Huntsville Times:

259 homes were destroyed
130 homes sustained major damage
148 homes sustained minor to moderate damage
80 businesses destroyed
8 businesses damaged
3 churches heavily damaged
2 schools destroyed
10 public buildings destroyed or heavily damaged
$1.9 Million in public utility damage

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