When we think of winter, we think of the holiday season and Christmas Vacations… But rarely do we think of damaging winds, hail or tornadoes.
Unfortunately, severe weather does not take a break in January, December and February, and the state of Alabama is not immune to tornado outbreaks during the holiday season.
In the month of December alone, as many as 138 tornadoes have touched down in Alabama since 1950.
In 2019, as many as 7 tornadoes touched down in north Alabama on December 16, the strongest of which was rated an EF-2 and killed two individuals in Town Creek.
And tornadoes do not take a holiday. One particular tornado outbreak took place on Christmas Day 2012, when as many as 17 tornadoes in south Alabama, including one EF-2 tornado that touched down in midtown Mobile.
According to the National Weather Service in Birmingham, the December tornado with the most fatalities occurred in Tuscaloosa on December 16, 2000. The F4 tornado killed 11 people and injured 144 more.
Tornado safety: How to protect yourself before, during and after a tornado
Tornado alerts come in two forms: a tornado WATCH and a tornado WARNING.
A tornado watch means that atmospheric conditions are favorable for tornadoes to occur. During a tornado watch, be sure to monitor your weather radio or Live Alert 19 app for any changes in weather conditions. Gather your emergency kit and get ready to take action to head to safety within a moment’s notice. You should already have a designated safe place; this can either be an interior room on the lowest level of your home, or a local storm shelter.
In contrast, a tornado warning means that a tornado is imminent or is already occurring. During a tornado warning, head to shelter immediately.
- If you are outdoors, head for a sturdy building or tornado shelter immediately.
- If you are on the road, do not try to outrun the tornado. If possible, get out of the vehicle and find a low-lying area or ditch; lie as close to the ground as possible while protecting your head, face, and neck. The weakest winds in a tornado are located closest to the ground, so moving to the lowest level possible is the best thing to do in this situation.
- If you are indoors during a tornado warning, stay inside and immediately move to the lowest floor or basement level of your building, preferably in a central room or closet. Try to grab a jacket or blanket to protect your head, and make sure you have shoes on — you do not want to walk through debris with bare feet once the storm has passed.
Stay sheltered until the warning has fully expired, then continue to monitor news coverage for important information until the storm threat is over.
If you see any storm damage due to high winds, hail or a tornado, wait until the danger passes and then snap a picture through the Live Alert 19 app (you can also email us a firstname.lastname@example.org). Please be sure to include your name and city/town/location. Your damage reports help ensure that forecasters at the National Weather Service as well as at WHNT News 19 provide the most detailed record of what occurred from the storms, which helps improve our forecasting abilities for future storms.