Monday, January 23, 2012

January 22-23 Chase Account

Wow, what a crazy Sunday, Sunday night, and Monday morning.

I woke up to go to the early service at church because I wanted to come home, take care of some things, and get a good nap before chasing Sunday night. When I got out of church I had a message from Jason Simpson, the new Chief Meteorologist at Channel 19 in Huntsville. We spoke about plans for coverage of the event on television and discussed the forecast. Jason and I communicated throughout the day and I was also in contact with chase partner John Brown. Our target was going to be NW Alabama, based on the severe weather parameters shown by the models.

I got a two hour nap in the afternoon. Jason and I spoke again about how we would communicate while he was on the air and shared thoughts about what we though might happen. I left at 6:30 and drove toward Moulton. I did a phone interview from Moulton live on WHNT's 10 p.m. newscast.



John went to Tupelo. I then went further west toward Russellville. We both saw some storms with rotation in the upper levels, but the air was just not quite unstable enough to produce discreet cells. The cells were mostly embedded in a larger rain mass. The storms produced frequent lightning but with the heavy rain and gusty winds, it was almost impossible to photograph the lightning.



There was no severe weather in North Alabama. This was the first time Jason Simpson provided severe weather coverage as Chief Meteorologist for WHNT 19 in Huntsville.



Considering it a moderate risk bust (STP values were 3-5 in NW AL and NE MS and there were no damage reports), John and I decided to head back toward our respective homes. I drove back toward Huntsville and he drove back toward the Birmingham area. He made a brief stop for a tornado-warned storm in Hamilton. I stopped in downtown Huntsville to see whether I could get any lightning pictures from the vantage point of a parking garage. The rain was just too heavy and it obscured the sky. After streaming video back to WHNT between 3 and 3:30 a.m., I headed to the house. John called and said he was in the Birmingham area. I told him to call me soon if he had a chance.

I had planned on looking at my photos quickly and getting to bed. While I was doing that, I was listening to James Spann's, Brian Peters', and Ashley Brand's coverage online for ABC 33/40 in Birmingham. Suddenly, supercells showing intense rotation began moving from Tuscaloosa into Jefferson County. Damage reports started coming in. The rotation signature ramped up so much that it was obvious there had to be a tornado with the cell. James Spann started showing John Brown's live stream on the air. John was in the Fultondale area.



Power flashes were visible on his stream and then the power went out, as all of the city lights disappeared from view.

More and more damage reports were coming in. The reports started getting more serious. Reports now were of people being trapped in places such as Center Point and Trussville. These are suburbs northeast of Birmingham with fairly dense population. I was really tired but I was riveted to the coverage and I was relaying reports via Twitter and Facebook. My heart started to really break when I realized that there were likely numerous injuries and probably multiple fatalities.

I received a text from another ABC 33/40 Skywatcher saying that John Brown's home had been damaged. He said he heard that on the Skywatcher IM chat. Then James Spann reported it on the air. I messaged John's wife. Thankfully she was ok and she said she saw no damage! I sent an IM and a tweet to the Skywatchers and James. Soon, James reported on the air that John's family and home were ok. James was very complimentary of John throughout the coverage, at one point calling him "the best storm chaser!"

Another storm with strong rotation was now showing up in Perry County, heading for Chilton County in Central Alabama. This rotation may have been the strongest of the day. Damage reports started coming in from Maplesville and Birmingham Nexrad was showing a possible "debris ball" signature. The storm was headed for the north side of Clanton.

There were a few more storms that showed signs of rotation, but by 6 a.m. it appeared that the worst was probably over. I was exhausted. I think it was around 6:30 a.m. when I finally decided to go to bed. By this time there were confirmed reports of numerous injuries and some fatalities. I was on the verge of crying several times as these reports were coming in. Praying, I finally fell asleep for a nap before I had to go into work later in the morning.

A of lunch time Monday there are at least two confirmed fatalities and over 100 injuries in Central Alabama.

Alabama has been through way too many of these tragedies. Please pray for Alabama.

Some of my Tweets during the storms:

Mike Wilhelm
Multiple fatalities in Oak Grove per

Mike Wilhelm
RT : Birmingport FD confirms a fatality on Todd Dr off Toad Vine Rd in JeffCo

Mike Wilhelm
RT : "Don't be a bonehead! Don't go out there. Just don't. Don't be out there trying to get a video for youtube. Stop!!"

b Mike Wilhelm
RT : Unless you are an emergency work...PLEASE do not be an onlooker. It's not safe for you or anyone else!

Mike Wilhelm
RT : 5:37:41 AM) John Talbot - Hueytown(Laptop): concord is closing off taylors ferry rd!

Mike Wilhelm
RT @: Photo was sent to us by reporter @ of the Jet Pep station near Pinson Valley Rd

Mike Wilhelm
RT : RT : New warning just E of Columbiana, AL. Circulation tightening:

Mike Wilhelm
RT : says large, violent tornado approaching downtown Clanton

Mike Wilhelm
ABC 33/40 Skycam in Chilton County lost power.

Mike Wilhelm
RT @: For those waking up, please watch our stream

Mike Wilhelm
Several people trapped in homes in Maplesville. Major structural damage!

Mike Wilhelm
Clanton residents should be in a safe place NOW!!!

Mike Wilhelm
Per @ Sweeny Hollow Rd, part of house gone... Toadvine rd - Several homes taken out.

Mike Wilhelm
Per NWS BMX... Maplesville PD were hunkered down & heard the roar as the possible tornado went over location.

Mike Wilhelm
RT @: Triage site old winn dixie parking lot old springville rd.

Mike Wilhelm
RT : Do not drive on I-65 in Chilton County; violent tornado moving through western Chilton County

Mike Wilhelm
RT : Reporter Wildwood at Pinson Valley. Damage to a gas station & large bldg destroyed. Debris in streets

Mike Wilhelm
... Leslie, John Brown's wife, said no damage to their home as far as she can see. They are ok.

Mike Wilhelm
RT : RT : Sweeney hollow rd is out of power lines down after Taylor memorial trees down blocking Sweeney hollow

Mike Wilhelm
RT : From a skywatcher: centerpoint fire reports kids are missing on san marco drive

Mike Wilhelm
RT : Amateur reports "complete destruction no houses left standing" Paradise Valley Clay Jefferson Cty

Mike Wilhelm
Storm w/ possible "debris ball" signature approaching Chilton -Clanton, Jemison, Lawley, Maplesville, & Pletcher community take cover

Mike Wilhelm
RT : birmingham fd is sending all ther heavy rescue trucks to trussville!

Mike Wilhelm
RT : MAJOR DAMAGE IN TRUSSVILLE!! numerous houses destroyed & folks trapped!! they are calling for ALL HELP AVAILABLE!!!

Mike Wilhelm
RT : Trees down on I-59 on each side of the interstate 59 between Argo and Springville.

Mike Wilhelm
RT : I think Alabamians take weather seriously. TT: Center Point, James , Trussville & Jeff. County!

Mike Wilhelm
Tornado Warning for Blount, Calhoun, Etowah, Jefferson, St. Clair SPOTTERS, NWS TRACKING LARGE & EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO NEAR CLAY

Mike Wilhelm
3rd St NW, Center Point, person trapped in a house. Extensive damage with trees and power lines down. Per

Mike Wilhelm
RT : RT : roof collapsed on winewood road near center point, people trapped - simpsonwhnt ()

Mike Wilhelm
RT : roof collapsed on winewood road near center point, people trapped

Mike Wilhelm
Power flashes being reported near Center Point Parkway by

Mike Wilhelm
RT : James Spann is the #5 top trending topic in the united states right now

Mike Wilhelm
Storm Chaser John Brown's live stream showed a power flash and then an apparent power outage in the Forestdale area.

Mike Wilhelm
Structural damage in Birmingport, Alabama per

Mike Wilhelm
Jefferson Co: Multiple trees down on Paul Almond Road. Taylor's Ferry Road also has damage. reporting Forestdale damage

Mike Wilhelm
Lots of damage reports from Toadvine Road in Western Jefferson County, Alabama between Alliance and Oak Grove.

Mike Wilhelm
Live from Downtown Huntsville

Mike Wilhelm
RT : At 02:03 AM NWS HUN issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Madison, Marshall & Morgan Counties until 02:30 AM.

...

3 comments:

Dewdrop said...

It breaks my heart that Alabama came under fire again.

Mike Wilhelm said...

What happened in Central Alabama broke my heart.

Stephen Pridmore said...

Tragic times around here, Mike. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Always interesting, man. Finally going back to school, with target on Meteorology. So busy between that and my day job, not much time. I linked up with the Spotter Network today, but no associations with any specific network. Trying to get more active and up to par on my tech. Need to purchase GPS tracker for my phone. Talk to you later, Mike!
Stephen Pridmore