Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More Severe Weather, A Chilly History Lesson

Wow it just seems too early to already be seeing maps like the one below, with a moderate risk for a severe weather outbreak.

I will have to call my family and tell them to keep an eye on the sky.

You expect to see maps like the one above in late March and especially April and May, but not before mid-February.

It makes me think about a tornado outbreak on March 1, 1997 -- when I was still living in Little Rock.

I went to work at JCPenney that morning and it was so muggy and warm I had the air conditioner on in the car.

That afternoon, the "loaded gun" sounded and storms fired. There were over a dozen tornadoes, with 2 very long track twisters. One was on the ground 67 miles and the other 75 miles. Several people lost their lives that day in Arkansas.

My aunt's town (Arkadelphia) was leveled by a twister that touched down and moved all the way into the southwest side of Little Rock.

She now has a safe room in her house, which is the master closet. It is built out of concrete blocks and has a steel door.

I was working the switchboard at JCPenney that day and when I took a phone call from the store manager's husband saying plywood and other debris was falling out of the sky in Cabot, which was 30 miles northeast of us -- and about 50 miles northeast of the tornado's position -- I got really scared.

We sought shelter in the mall because the storm was heading straight for us. We locked all the doors and customers had to choose to either stay and ride it out or leave.

Thankfully, the twister lifted for a brief period as it passed over the mall. But we didn't miss out on the wind and rain.

After the storm passed, all the cars in the parking lot were covered with tree leaves and small branches.

It was crazy!

Click here and you can see a complete recap of that day in Arkansas. The tornado that took out my aunt's town and nearly hit the mall I worked at was Track #1 on the map with storm tracks.

On a colder note, on this date back in 1899 the lower 48 states were in the DEEP FREEZE! Much of the center of the nation fell to 30 below or lower. Single digit temps, ice and snow made it all the way to the Gulf Coast.

Between the 11-13th, nearly every location in Arkansas was below zero to show you how cold it was that month.

Ice flows on the Mississippi River reach New Orleans on Feb. 17, unheard of in that part of the world.

The ice flowed into the Gulf of Mexico on the 19th.

Snow fell in Jacksonville, Florida and sub-freezing temps moved all the way south into Miami.

To this date, many locations, especially in the south, still have February 1899 record lows that stand and have yet to be broken.

Here is a great article written about the cold wave, complete with some hand drawn maps of just how much territory the frigid temps covered. Click here.

1 comment:

  1. I've seen debris falling from the sky once, and I agree...it is a scary feeling. It looks like this storm may make headlines by tomorrow. I hope your family stays safe, Chris.