Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Garland County Tornado Myth

An article which appeared in the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record Newspaper Tuesday, May 28th, was brought to my attention.  The title was "Catastrophe Would Stretch City's Resources."  It's a great look at how that community would deal with the unthinkable EF4 or EF5 tornado.  

I mean absolutely no disrespect to Hot Springs Fire Chief Ed Davis, but I wanted to correct a misconception that I hear all the time.  Here's the quote from the story.

There are so many myths about tornadoes out there and this is one of them.  Strong tornadoes can and do hit mountainous areas.  I hope it never happens to Garland county or ANY place in Arkansas, but no one is immune because of the topography.  No mountain, river, lake, etc will stop or impede a twister.  Check out this map of Garland county tornadoes since 1950 courtesy of the Tornado History Project.

There are several here and many traveled over the hilly terrain.  The Tornado History Project says that since 1950, there have been 34 tornadoes in Garland county, 2 fatalities, 67 injures, the longest path was 28 miles, and the largest width was 1000 yards.

Here's a listing of all those tornadoes.

One of the most notable tornadoes in Arkansas weather history was the EF4 on February 5th, 2008 (Super Tuesday).  This devastating tornado killed 13 Arkansans and traveled a record breaking 122 miles from Yell to Sharp county.  That's a lot of hilly terrain it went over and stayed on the ground.  Here's just a small part of the path in north central Arkansas and it shows the topography it affected well.

Here are some other tornado myths...
  1. Open the windows if a tornado is approaching you.  DON'T do this.  Getting close to glass in high winds can kill you.  Don't ever waste precious time doing this. Get to a safe place.  It was once believed this would equalize the pressure.  Well, guess what, the tornado doesn't care if the windows are open or not.
  2. Never seek shelter under a highway overpass.  This is like a wind tunnel and winds can actually get stronger.
There are many other myths out there, but I just wanted to hit on those two.

Remember, if you're ever under a tornado warning, go to the center portion of your home or business, put as many walls between you and the outside, and make sure you're on the lowest level.  It's also a good idea to have a helmet, a pillow, or something substantial to protect your head.  Flying debris can severely injure or kill you.

Again, I mean no disrespect to the Fire Chief in Hot Springs.  I only want everyone to know the facts about tornadoes. While it is true, Garland county has not had an EF5 tornado, it's worth noting no place in the state has had one since 1929.   We are also the ONLY state in the central United States NOT to have one since 1950.  Our topography varies from the flat Delta to the mountains of western and northern Arkansas.  I have a blog post about this and you can scroll down and find it.

1 comment:

Wyattt Horne said...

While "that can't happen here because of the topography" is a myth, you have to admit that certain areas are more prone. I don't mean from a macro level, but specific corridors (just ask anyone living in Shannon Hills or East End)within Arkansas seem to see more confirmed tornadoes than others.

This can't just be coincidence or perception bias, can it? I'm not implying anything, I sincerely want to better understand what seems to be a real pattern.

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