|Sweet Storm Alabama - 2 Tornado Interceptions|
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|Sweet Storm Alabama - 2 Tornado Interceptions|
When: 2007 APR 14
Where: Monroe and Bullock County, Alabama
Info: Tour 1
Storm Chase Photos
Tour Director's Field ReportDue to an untimely Friday the 13th glitch that involved a flat tire and caused tour 1 to miss the tornadoes that occurred in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, we took a group vote and came to a unanimous decision to spend Friday night en-route to Alabama - uncharted storm chasing territory for me.
After driving through a vigorous squall line (the remnants of the Texas storms) in Louisiana we finally arrived in Alabama just before sunrise and setup for the day's chasing activities. We decided to go ahead and check into a hotel that we would be allowed to keep for the night since we would have to travel back through this area on the way "home" anyway and would all likely be to tired and too busy to search for hotel reservations during the afternoon hours.
Soon after we checked into the hotel and after a few hours of sleep, the northeast to southwest oriented squall line began crossing into Alabama. The line was moving east along with the surface wave on the front. Our local dew point temperature was 62 degrees F and surface observations showed this to be fairly common across the boundary and winds were beginning to increase out of the southeast, which was expected to advect rich tropical moisture directly out of the Gulf of Mexico into southern Alabama as the day progressed. It was obvious that this was not going to be a "discrete supercell" kind of day, but the vertical shear was intense and I felt good about the chances of supercells forming within the squall line, along with a good chance for tornadoes. My good feelings soon diminished as soon as I got some reality of the terrain features that we would be chasing in that day - very tall trees!
So, what do you get when you mix an over-active high precipitation squall line, a horrible road network and pine trees as tall as 3-story buildings? A mess! Or, maybe you just get a day of chasing in Alabama. Nonetheless, that was the basic outlook for the day and we just had to figure out how to make something juicy happen with all these lemons and that we did!
We ended up with 2 tornadoes for the day, both of which we were only able to see for very short amounts of time, despite the fact that they were on the ground for several minutes. As soon as the first tornado formed in Monroe County, not only did it become rain-wrapped very quickly but the general motion of the storm carried it off behind the tree line where we had no chance of catching back up for another view - although I did try my best.
Once I realized that the tornado was gone for good and we simply had no chance of seeing it again, I decided to push to the east and quickly. The idea was to get well ahead of the entire line at a location where we had some north and south road options so that we could quickly get on any cell that was reachable once the storm started to catch back up to us. And that is exactly what happened.
We pushed all the way into the town of Troy, AL where we sat and waited on the approaching, now broken down, squall line. Once the system was nearing our location a large cell to our north near Montgomery became tornado warned. I had given some thought about 30 minutes prior to this happening about driving towards that direction in case that cell had decided to do something, but my general inclination was stay put and just in front of where the line was starting to bow and so that's what we did.
As the squall line neared even closer, a new updraft base beginning forming just to the northeast of Troy and was moving off to the east (a "right mover") even though this cell also quickly became enveloped by the squall line - it still looked as if it had potential to tornado so we stayed after it.
We took highway 29 east out of Troy, again with tall trees lining both sides of the highway and loosing complete sight of any storm features at times due to these trees. We exited 29 on a county road (CR-53) and continued east for several more miles until we finally found a place with fewer trees an ample viewing of the storm and the updraft base was nearly just overhead as well.
The second tornado (shown in the video) formed just a few miles to our north and while the base of the tornado was obscured by the tree line, we had a very good spot for at least seeing the tube (something I was glad to take on this day!) and watched the cascading up and downward motion of the tornado. This tornado was rated as an ef-1 by the National Weather Service and did damage to trees (go figure!) and a few outbuildings, but from our location this didn't appear to be a violently rotating tornado by any means - in fact, if it weren't for the cascading motion, I wouldn't have even noticed the tornado and would have probably have dismissed it as scud extending from the cloud base. Despite all that, a tornado is a tornado and after this very long day of tree watching, I was happy to see it.
Summary: Alabama is not an easy place to chase storms - it is possible to get photogenic tornadoes in Alabama, although it is likely you will not be able to see them for long. It is easy to see why there are a great number of injuries and fatalities when tornadoes happen in Alabama near populated areas, especially tornadoes that form in HP supercells or overly active mesoscale convective systems. Combine a rain-wrapped tornado with a high tree line and you'll never see it coming if you don't know exactly what to look for and what direction to look in! These same factors I am sure also hamper any efforts from local storm spotters in Alabama. From a chaser's perspective - Alabama makes you work for your catch, there is no doubt about that. This was likely the hardest day I have had while storm chasing and just getting a brief glimpse of 2 tornadoes on this day was enough to allow me to travel back to the plains with a smile.