Last week, a devastating set of tornadoes swept through north central Tennessee, claiming the lives of 24 people and injuring hundreds, while causing significant damage across the region.
Frankly, you couldn’t ave asked for a worse set of circumstances for these storms. While we can’t underestimate the the amount of suffering that the storms caused, we also can also state that it could have been significantly worse, and the margin was very close. Let’s look at the circumstances in question.
- Time of Day: The first tornado from this outbreak dropped shortly after 11pm, with the Cookeville tornado occurring just before 2AM. Given that this outbreak occurred after most people were in bed, the effectiveness of warnings was reduced even further than normal, and few people in the path of the storm likely prepared as would have been prudent
- Location: These tornadoes went through heavily populated locations. The longest track any of these twisters took was an incredible 60 miles, and it started west of Nashville before crossing an airport and eventually through the city center, The storm passed between the Grand Ole Opry and Downtown, south of the Hermitage and across commercial and residential districts. A venue that hosted a political rally that very night was leveled. To summarize, there were definitely people in the path of this storm.
- Strength: That storm that went through the city center of Nashville did so as an EF2 to EF3 storm, and remained an EF3 as it did considerable harm to life and property in Mount Juliet. The Cookeville tornado, which skirted the city limits was stronger, grading as an EF4, and was the deadliest as a result.
Take a look at the storm tracks of the Nashville and Cookeville tornadoes below to reference what I discussed above.
That is a recipe for disaster, and one that likely left most residents feeling helpless. The storms themselves were moving at 80mph as well, which would have limited warning times even if they had come during daylight. The storms had a mission, and Tennessee is proving how strong the state is, thanks to the ability to withstand such as storm, and their immediate attempts at recovery.