The Alabama Climate Report

Brought to you by the Office of the Alabama
Climatologist

Volume 7, Number 7 - April 2017

With the exception of some hefty-sized hail associated with a storm system that went through in early April, it would seem the state got through the month largely unscathed.

Preliminary reports are that Alabama was hit by eleven small tornadoes in April, with six people injured.

That's below the number of tornadoes you might expect in a normal April if you look at the past ten years (not counting April 2011, which was not a normal April). In a normal April, we would expect between 14 and 15 tornadoes. Of course, if you throw in the 109 from April 2011, that 10-year average jumps to just over 24 tornadoes for the month.

Just getting through April obviously doesn't mean it's time to let down our guard. While April is the busiest tornado month of the year, we get tornadoes in every month of the year, including May.

This May is the 100th anniversary of a particularly bad outbreak of seven tornadoes that pummeled the state on May 27-28, 1917, killing 50 people and injuring at least 274. There were probably many more, smaller tornadoes that went unnoted or unreported at that time.

The seven that were recorded include three F-2s, three F-3s and an F-4 that roared through Jefferson and Blount counties destroying dozens of homes and other buildings in Sayre, Bradford and Village Springs. The storm killed 27 people, including 17 in Bradford.

This was part of a much larger storm system that killed at least 344 people in Kansas, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama.

The violent storm system was at least partially fueled by hot air over the southeast. The Albany-Decatur Daily noted that the day before the storms hit, the temperature in Decatur reached 92 degrees, the warmest day yet during the spring of 1917.

In newspapers dominated by news from the war in Europe and race riots in St. Louis, International News Service coverage from Birmingham noted the heavy damage in Jefferson, Blount and Walker counties, the loss of life, and the extensive damage to railroads, telegraph wires and crops.

The Daily also reported on the collapse of a large tent used for a local Chautauqua revival and tent meeting. The tent was pushed down by the wind during the singing of "We Shall See the King Some Day."

During the third verse, "... the hymn ceased suddenly, and without anthem 'Amen.'" While several people were hit by falling posts, no one was reported injured by the tent collapse.

Events from 100 years ago remind us that if you are in Alabama, today is always a good day to be weather aware and weather prepared, no matter which day it might be.

Amen.

 

- John Christy