Monday, April 03, 2006
Inside Tennessee's deadly night
I'm writing this on a plane to Memphis, Tennessee, where after landing we'll drive another two hours north to a spot hammered by storms and tornadoes on Sunday. Sadly, the number of deaths from these storms is in the double digits. Watches and warnings were posted well ahead of time, but the storms moved so fast people were bound to get hurt.

Already this year, we have seen about five times the average number of tornado reports. That's a bit scary, considering the severe weather season is just getting started.

Typically, when daylight savings time begins, tornado season starts to crank up, eventually peaking in May. The main reason this time of year is so active is because the atmosphere is transitioning from winter to summer. This results in a clash of hot and cold air masses. Spring is more active than fall for tornadoes because the upper atmosphere is still cool in spring, making it more unstable. Also, the days are longer and the sun is stronger in late spring.

The most prominent spot for tornadoes is in the plains, stretching into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys. Dry heat from Mexico and moist air from the Gulf only add fuel to the fire. Supercell thunderstorms producing strong tornadoes are often the result.

Tragically, that's what happened last night in northwestern Tennessee.
Posted By Rob Marciano, CNN Weather Anchor: 4:22 PM ET
  15 Comments
As a survivor of Katrina my heart and prayer go out to the people of Tennessee. I've spent several nights in their roadside rests and always foudn the people to be very nice. I hope that the survivors of this storm won't have the red tape and hassles that we faced and that the government will do a better jub this time helping these people rebuild their lives.
Posted By Anonymous Rebecca Sebring, Arabi LA : 5:37 PM ET
Its hard to take nature seriously all the time. I know people living in Tornado Alley are used to the routine when the alarm sounds, to the point when it becomes numbing when nothing happens after each hype. Nature is only taken seriously when these hypes turn into major tragedies. I feel for those who have lost; and I believe they know the risks of living where they do.
The picture above shows that Tennessee is the heart of America: where they fly the Flag proudly, even though it looks like they have nothing left. I admire people like that.
Posted By Anonymous JP, Las Cruces, New Mexico : 5:40 PM ET
The flagpole in your picture is in my hometown of Rutherford Tn. I now live 3 hours away, but have been in contact with relatives and friends thru out the day. The reports I am getting are very depressing. The Mother, in the famiy of four who was killed in Bradford, grew up in Rutherford. Her grandmother is in the nursing home there. It will be very difficult to find one person in that area who is not effected by this storm because it is such a close nit community. Welcome to West Tennessee, Anderson. I am happy you are covering this story.
Posted By Anonymous Nancy Giles, Cherokee, Alabama : 5:55 PM ET
Just a few days ago I replied to Gary's post and stated I hoped to not spend much time in the basement this storm season. Well, guess where I spent yesterday evening? These storms moved incredibly fast and I can understand why some may not have been able to get out of harms way. We had at least two fatalites in our viewing area and lots of damage. Another line is suppose to move through later this week and I just pray it's not as severe.
Posted By Anonymous Stacy, St. Louis, MO : 7:14 PM ET
Maybe congress should be addressing the lack of early warning systems in these rural areas. They could focus abit more on helping people aviod disasters like these, instead of the people who could have left like in New Orleans. Katrina was expected for 25 years, yet we bail them out...whe nwill we wake up and help the people who deserve it instead of people too lazy to get out of the way of storms.
Posted By Anonymous Brant, Madison, Wisconsin : 7:20 PM ET
I live in western Illinois and wind straights that nite were going west to east at a high rate of speed. As the sirens sounded for the second time in two months i wonder , whats next in this violent weather season of 2006.
Posted By Anonymous Dave Winfield Quincy, Il : 7:44 PM ET
The local TV weather reporters started tracking these storms around dinner time last night. Once the severity of the storms are recognized I become riveted to the TV, hypnotized by these new radar systems that actually show a swirling graphic wherever storm rotation is present. TV programming was interrupted all evening with updates on these approaching storms. There was, in my mind, quite a lot of advanced warning.

Why so much loss of life? Maybe because Tornadoes in TN are hard to recognize at night because they are typically shrouded in rain and hail? Hail is loud when it pelts structures. The 'train or roar' of a tornado may not be discernable until it is on top of you. I have not read yet if they are stating the category number yet. I bet we are talking F3 or F4. I am a native of West Tennessee (that is West Tennessee, not Western, TN- that is not a typo). My prayers go out to Gibson and Dyer County as they recover from this tragedy. I'll be watching CNN tonight.
Posted By Anonymous LFH, Nashville, TN : 7:54 PM ET
My heart goes out to the victims of this tornado attack. The worst thing about natrual disasters is their capricious complexity. To those that suffered damanges and loss keep in mind that sunshine comes after every storm--stay strong.
Posted By Anonymous Kim, Raleigh NC : 8:18 PM ET
I have been in Dyersburg since 1999. It is sad the number of people who live in the county who do not have weather radios or a safe place to go when a tornado strikes. Radios are $30 at Walmart, but only effective and a preventable tool when a safe haven is available. Why can't the local schools be opened when severe weather is headed our way so those without shelter have a safe (?) place to go? Where is our 9.75% sales tax going?
Posted By Anonymous M C Dyersburg TN : 8:21 PM ET
My heart goes out to the families devastated by these twisters.

Those of us that live in the Tennessee Valley always become anxious when the weatherman talks about "moisture from the Gulf" clashing with a cold front.

Wednesday is the 70 anniversary of the Tupelo, Mississippi tornado - the 4th deadliest tornado in recorded history. It killed 233 of its 7500 citizens and injured many others. Now, 70 years later Tupelo is a thriving community of 40,000 so there is hope that these communities can come back after devastation such as this.
Posted By Anonymous Melissa, Tupelo, MS : 8:25 PM ET
Sirens, early warning, news and weather bulletins do help,

More money needs provided for such systems.

Also storm shelters need to be affordable for people in mobile homes, etc.. with out any kind of safe haven.

Homes should have a shelter, underground one preferred.

However , you still have to get to it.

Someday you people will get tired of being told what to do, and doing without and seeing your government waste money on wars, corporate loopholes and out right injustices.

We dont even worry about the basics anymore.

Used to be, homes has storm cellars, root cellars, basements, nope not now.

Build them , that costs extra, less profit, cant build on a swap and have basements, hmmm!!
Posted By Anonymous Mike, Zephyrhills, FL : 11:40 PM ET
The response time for a call to the local police station when a burguraly is occuring, in my neighborhood, is 4 minutes and 26 seconds. When a call comes in from the National Weather Service, the time it takes the same exact dispatchers to get to that call is over 9 minutes. Laying the responsibility of dealing with bad weather situations, which require quick, descisive actions and the full attetion of whoever's responsible, upon local authorities who are already swamped with other responsibilites, is the cause of much devestation whenever a natural disaster does occur. Often, in my small town (which lies in the Southern tip of Tornado Alley) the Tornado siren will sound only after the local news agencies have already been reporting 'touchdown' for 10-15 minutes. For anyone without a telivison or radio, or who's not paying attention to the weather forecast (which is a surprising majority of the population) that siren is the only hope they've got.

The chain of custody of these life saving warnings (which, unfortunently, due to limitations in forecasting and predicting tornados, sometimes come only minutes in advance) must be shortened. If these small town law enforcement agencies could set aside a few people during tornado season to be "on call", or have a dedicated line for weather emergincies, anything that could possibly help reduce the death toll of nautures war machines. Civilian groups should also have more accsess to NWA warnings and data. If my neighbor is sounding off his own Tornado Siren as part of our homeowners association, so be it. If some of these changes could occur, the death tolls might not be so stagering, and someday, that Tornado Siren might just take me by surprise.
Posted By Anonymous Danielle Rollins, Keller, Texas. : 12:38 AM ET
All i have to say is you should have been here while it was happening... it was not a very fun night, long but not fun.
i live in a small town outside of Dyersburg, TN, as a matter of fact it was one of the hard hit places that i live, Newbern, TN. I felt that i should post on this topic tonight because of where i am not what i know. I have not been out to survey the damage, nor do i want to, it will bring back too many memories of my childhood...
What about the citizens in another small town in northeast arkansas? they lost everything that they owned...
this town happens to be Marmaduke, AR.
I personally know some of the victims in that town, or should i say what used to be a town. Marmaduke was wiped right off the map, and everyone is focusing on Tennessee... What about them?
Posted By Anonymous DM Newbern Tn : 3:06 AM ET
The issue is a lack of proper protection for residents in this area.. Many homes are buil t without basements, but tornado shelters are avaiable for ,a price. Perhaps our government can subsidize the building of such shelters to persons living in the tornado prone areas. Loss of life could be reduced greatly.
Posted By Anonymous Mary , Arlington Texas : 8:51 AM ET
WHY DOES EVERYONE ASSUME THAT PEOPLE DID NOT TAKE COVER IN THESE STORMS? JUST FOR INFORMATION ONLY THERE ARE NO SAFE PLACES TO BE IN A F-3 TORNADO, YOU JUST HOPE AND PRAY THAT YOU ARE SPARED.
Posted By Anonymous STACEY UNION CITY,TN : 11:14 AM ET
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