Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 27, 2009

Tornado outbreak predicted for today

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,State and Local HLS — by Philip J. Palin on March 27, 2009

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for much of the Central Gulf Coast until 8:00 am (central) this morning.  Several severe thunderstorms – with wind gusts of up to 60 mph – are reported in the region.  Some meterologists are saying conditions are ripe for a tornado outbreak today and into tomorrow.

A “tornado outbreak” is the experience of  several — generally a minimum of six — near-continuous tornadoes during a single day or consecutive days.  The modern federal role in disaster response can be traced to the April 3, 1974 outbreak that produced 148 tornadoes, including six F5 twisters.  The outbreak extended from Southern Michigan to middle Alabama and resulted in 330 deaths, over 5400 injuries, and billions of dollars in property damage. (A scientific paper on tornado outbreaks is available from the American Meteorological Society.)

The National Disaster Relief Act of 1974 was a specific outcome of the April outbreak.  This legislation has subsequently been amended to become the now better known Stafford Act.

You can track severe weather and NWS watches and warnings at the NOAA/NWS National Warning Map.  This is constantly updated and allows for geographic drill-downs.

UPDATE: Up to twenty tornadoes were reported on Friday into Saturday morning.  The most damage was  reported along I-95 in Eastern North Carolina.  Tornado warnings for Saturday (or the most current day) can be tracked at the NOAA/NWS website.

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 27, 2009 @ 9:53 am

Public Law 93-288 became law in May 1974 and was subsequently amended, supplemented and rescinded in part by Public Law 100-707 the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Both statutes currently in effect are codified at 42 US Code Sections 5121 and following.
In my opinion Tropical Storm Agnes was more of an influence on passage of the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 than the spring 74 tornadoes but there were some direct impacts. For example, after disoriented people were found wandering the streets of Xenia Ohio days later a provision was added for the first time authorizing the National Institutes of Mental Health to start up a disaster counseling program. After over a decade of almost no initiative the disaster legislation was modified to allow any profession mental health or counseling service to get disaster funding to help with post disaster counseling. This program is one that has grown over the years and is one key element of federal disaster relief, again in my opinion.

By the way the Fujita (sic) Scale has been substantially revised in the last several years but still uses the same numbering system although different calculus and factors now incorporated. Tornadic storms are bad, bad, bad, and we now know definitively because of NOAA research many many tornadoes are spawned by Hurricanes and other cyclonic storms–including NorEASTERS!

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