Satellite Imagery Shows How Tornadoes Slashed Across Alabama, Mississippi

Article written: 2 May , 2011
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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Some extraordinary satellite and radar imagery shows how the deadly tornado supercell slashed through Alabama and Mississippi last week, as in the image above, leaving a gash of exposed ground and destruction that is visible from space. The latest reports indicate fatalities from the outbreak now exceed 342 people, and according to the Washington Post, this is the most people killed by tornadoes in a two-day period since April 5-6, 1936 when 454 people died. The image was taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite on April 28. See more imagery below.

Part of the path of a 12-mile swath of destruction in Alabama from an EF4 tornado on April 27. Click to see the entire swath taken by a NOAA satellite. Credit: NOAA

The National Weather Service said an EF4, with winds around 175 miles per hour, created a 12-mile-long track of destruction. This tornado caused more than 20 deaths.

Radar sequence of tornado supercell thunderstorms that tracked from western Mississippi into southwest North Carolina. Credit: NCAR, Brian Tang.

This image is pretty amazing: it is a radar montage of the supercell showing some of the 150 tornadoes that were reported on April 27 and 28, 2011. This cell traveled about 450 miles and lasted over 8 hours.

This animation from the NASA Earth Observatory team starts on April 26 and runs through the morning of April 28. It shows a relatively stable mass of cold air—visible as a swirl of more-or-less continuous clouds—rotates in the north along the top of the image, and meanwhile, moist air pushes north and west from the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The two air masses collide and generate severe weather, but the bad weather also was amplified by the jet stream on April 27, which helped generate the lines of intense thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Sources: NASA Earth Observatory, Washington Post, NOAA

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2 Responses

  1. glafebe6 says

    i passed within a mile of the F4 tornado. I blew a tire on the road, got out to change it and heard the tornado sirens. I turned around and saw massive funnel about a mile up the road. after changing my tire, i drove towards where it was and saw every tree for a half mile flattened and a half dozen 18wheelers thrown 100ft from the highway and torn to pieces!

  2. Mr Mike says

    @glafebe6

    Huntsville, for me, was a local event of disastrous proportions. Located as I am between a fire station’s siren and a school’s siren (the tempo of both was an interesting beat frequency dance) I could still hear the hail and the dense cold giant rain drops of the mid afternoon squall line moving over the house.

    When power was lost here and in the multi-county wide area due to the wind’s demolition of the 200+ TVA main transmission towers I was watching the reporting and surfing the stations for news.

    Seven days later almost all of the 400,000+ customers without power have been restored with jury rigging which will have to stand, from what I hear, for months as new and better towers, towers able to withstand 150mph or 241 kmh winds, are placed in future harms way. Soon now they might restore the 500kv lines but I am not holding my breath. They might restart (from a cold shutdown) Brown’s Ferry Nuclear Plant, all the reactors are mostly hot enough still and the procedures in place allow for this. What will carry the load from all 3 reactors if there is no 500kv line infrastructure.

    But the night time skies here were a nice treat, there usually is more light pollution to drown out the fainter stars.

    Mr Mike

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