Today marks 12 years since one of the worst tornado outbreaks in Alabama’s weather history. North Alabama was unique that day because the area experienced three waves of severe weather. There was the morning squall line, a second squall line midday and then the destructive supercells in the afternoon.
Roughly 200 tornadoes tore across the Southeast with 39 of those tornadoes occurring here in the Tennessee Valley. Seven violent tornadoes produced catastrophic damage that day. Four of those were an EF4 and three were EF5s. When looking at the number of times a county was hit by a tornado that day, Marshall County surpassed every other county with a total of 15 times.
Meteorologist Aaron Ayers was in middle school while Meteorologist Ben Smith was working at News 19. While they were both at different stages in their life, the event helped shape the meteorologists the community has come to love.
Meteorologist Ben Smith’s Interview
Meteorologist Ben Smith joined the Weather Authority team in April 2010. Just one year later, he faced the area’s deadliest tornado outbreak. Ben and the team were in it for the long haul that day providing wall-to-wall coverage of the event, even after the station lost power.
These were large tornadoes they were EF3/EF4/EF5S multiple ones at a time where you have two or three active tornado warnings at a time for multiple hours in a row and that’s what we were dealing withBen Smith, Meteorologist News 19
At times, he and the team were tracking numerous tornado warnings in the Tennessee Valley. What matter most to them was getting the most updated information out to their viewers and making sure they knew that this was a life-threatening situation. The most memorable moment for Ben was meeting Hope Phillips, a woman who survived the Arab EF4 tornado in a gas station bathroom. While that gas station was demolished, Hope made it and that is what matters.
Meteorologist Aaron Ayers’s Interview
Meteorologist Aaron Ayers was in eighth grade on the day of the tornado event. That morning he spent his time seeking shelter in the hallway of his school as severe storms rolled through his community. That afternoon, when he got home, he would do the exact same thing with his family.
I wanted to be there in the event that we have really bad storms and people need somebody there to walk them through that and that’s really my passion and my heart for it is to be there.Aaron Ayer, Meteorologist News 19
Something that stuck with him through the years was how everyone lost power and how quickly the weather cleared that night. With no light pollution, he remembers looking up that night and seeing all the stars in the sky. It amazed him how fast those storms and clouds cleared out of the area. What happened that day is what drove Aaron to follow his passion and become a broadcast meteorologist.
You can count on the Weather Authority to keep you and your family safe during severe weather events! It is always important to have multiple ways to receive weather alerts, downloading the Live Alert 19 App is a great way to receive those.