1.)2012, March 21 Pelahatchie, MS Tornado

Lesson Learned:

“we should expect the unexpected” -Vincent Webb 3/21/12

    To be honest, when I woke up Wednesday morning I was not expecting the events that would take place that day. I got up and went to school at Hinds Community College for class like I normally do. I have a break between classes from 10:45am-12:30pm so I went out to the chase vehicle to crank up the computers and check out what was going on. We relayed the Tornado Watch to our followers previously but I really expected an isolated tornado threat if any until I saw this rain wrapped beast develop just North of Port Gibson with a strong gate-to-gate couplet with TVS(Tornado Vortex Signature). Surveys would later determine that this storm did produce a strong EF-2 tornado that tracked from just North of Port Gibson to just Southeast of the Vicksburg, MS

Tornado Watch was issued for much of Central and Southern portions of Mississippi at 10:10am

Radar image from March 21, 2012 at 2:07pm

Image via: The National Weather Service in Jackson, MS

After watching a few very impressive rotation couplets develop throughout mid-day I start to monitor conditions very closely in my own area. Again, we had not planned to chase due to a “minimal” tornado threat. I live in the city of Brandon, MS where the actual radar is located. What a lot of people do not understand is that the actual radar can not see above it. There is a “cone of silence” around the radar where it cannot see a few miles around it and also anything above it. I started getting concerned with an area of the storm as it started to enter the area of silence. To our surprise, when the storm moved just East of the radar’s cone of silence we were detecting an area of rotation that could not be seen as it passed over the radar. A Tornado Warning was issued for this one area of the storm just over East Brandon which I might add as TWO distinct areas of rotation. One(slightly weaker) area over East Brandon and another developing just South of Pelahatchie, MS south of I-20. That is when we decided to try and intercept. We ran to the vehicle, jumped on HWY 80 in Brandon heading East toward Pelahatchie(only5-8 miles away). The storm motion was moving from South to North and we had very little time to intercept before it crossed HWY 80 in Pelahatchie. We were only 3-4 miles away when it crossed. Little did we know of what had actually taken place in front of us. We continue driving to check for damage anywhere. To our surprise we see a single home on the North side of HWY 80 with major roof damage. Pelahatchie Fire Department was already on scene and checking to see if everyone within the home was okay. The home owner was indeed home at the time that the tornado hit this home. I would never get to see her but after 3 hours of being on scene at the home documenting the situation, streaming, assisting with clean-up, and throwing roofs over the house I would later find out that I knew the home owner. She had been moved to another location due to her condition. She was not injured because she took shelter in the proper area of the home but she was very shocked and shaken by the events that had just occurred. Below are some of the photos that I took just minutes after we arrived on scene. I cannot make any public assumptions about whether the damage was due to a tornado or straight-line winds but it was pretty clear that it was indeed a tornado. A very small, violent, short-lived tornado. Throughout the three hours of being on scene I had observed much of the home from every angle. The roof was completely gone in the mid section. Much of the roof itself was built very well with mostly 2×6’s, half-inch plywood, and shingles. Thankfully much of the interior and exterior walls held with the exception of the back wall of the house on the North side. The wall was made entirely of brick and had completely collapsed. multiple trees behind the home had also been snapped from their roots and tossed aside. This seemed to be a very rare event mostly because of house small of an area this tornado covered. The tornado literally seemed to start on the front door step of the home, cut through the middle of the home, and continue off into the tree line on the North side of the property.

 

 (Above: South side of home looking Northeast)

(Below: West side of home looking East)

(Above: Big rig in the Median at the I-20 and East Brandon exit)

(Below: Mississippi Storm Chasing vehicle on scene in front of the home streaming live)

Leave a Reply

*