Spring means tornadoes in Alabama
The southeastern United States, including Alabama, is one of the most active weather regions in the world. Several severe weather episodes strike our state each year, some with deadly results.
Severe weather encompasses a variety of things, including tornadoes, lightning, floods, wind and snow.
Tornadoes are associated the most with severe weather in the state. The most deadly times for tornadoes are in the spring, with March and April being the most deadly months.
However, for the third year in a row, the secondary tornado season – November and December – were the most deadly in Alabama.
Twelve people died in 11 tornadoes that ravaged central Alabama on Nov. 10 and another person died in a tornado in early November. The 13 deaths ranked Alabama second in the country for tornado deaths in 2002.
:"Without the exceptional warnings and the excellent response on the part of Alabamians, the death toll could have been much, much higher," said Brian Peters, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the Birmingham National Weather Service. "But Nov. 10 again underscores the urgency for people to know severe weather safety measures and be prepared to act when the weather becomes threatening."
Much of 2002 had been a quiet year for tornadoes.
That changed in November. The other months were relatively quiet, with one tornado occurring in March, April, June and December, respectively. Three occurred in October and six in September.
In all, 37 tornadoes occurred in Alabama in 2002. That figure was above normal; Alabama can expect 23 tornadoes each year based on records since 1950.
"There have been 1,193 tornadoes in Alabama in the last 53 years," Peters said. "Year-to-year variations can be substantial, but the November tornadoes remind us that tornadoes do occur at any time."
Know the rules for tornado survival
As Alabama nears its most active tornado season, the National Weather Service Center offers the following safety tips:
If a tornado watch is issued, you generally should get as low as you can.
A basement below ground level or at least on the lowest floor of a building offers the greatest safety. And, put as many walls between yourself and the outside as possible. Avoid windows and glass doors. In a home or small building, go to the basement or a small interior room such as a closet or bathroom or interior hall. If available, get underneath something sturdy, like a heavy table. Protect yourself from flying debris by covering yourself with pillows, heavy coats of blankets. You can also use a bicycle or motorcycle helmet to protect your head.
If you're in a mobile home or automobile, leave them and go to a strong building. If there is no shelter nearby, get into the nearest ditch or depression and lie flat with your hands shielding your head.
If you're in a school, nursing home, hospital, factory or shopping mall, go to a pre-designated shelter area. Basements are the best, but like a home, interior hallways on the lowest floor also offer protection. Close all doors to the hallway for even greater protection.
Wherever you are, don't bother opening or closing windows during a tornado. It won't protect the structure and you could be hurt by flying debris as you try to open them.
The greatest lesson is this: stay away from doors, windows and outside walls and protect your head.