Christmas Day was a scary one across the deep south. Tornadoes skipped across several states in the largest Christmas Day tornado outbreak on record here in the U.S. One of those tornadoes, an EF-2 with winds of up to 137 mph, went through Mobile, Alabama. Amazingly, for a tornado as large as it was, there were no significant injuries or deaths despite so many people being at home for the holiday. What made the Mobile tornado a story of so few casualties? Here are some answers as I see them:
1. People in Alabama had been warned of the possibility of tornadoes days ahead of the event and were paying attention to the weather conditions
2. The storm that hit Mobile had very good warnings for it even before it moved into town.
3. When the warnings were issued, people took cover and knew before-hand where to they would go. After the record-breaking tornado outbreak of April 27th, 2011, residents of Alabama are weather sensitive and understand tornado warnings are nothing to take lightly.
4. Many of the businesses struck were closed due to the holiday. The Midtown area of Mobile has several businesses and a high school – many of which were closed for Christmas. Things could have been worse if people had been gathered in those buildings as the tornado moved over.
5. The tornado was watched by many on t.v. moving through the city. This gave viewers “confirming information” that they HAD to take action quickly.
6. Winds in the tornado were less than EF-2 along parts of the track limiting some of the damage done. With that said, even EF-1s can kill and should always be taken seriously…
7. Some people who were in harm’s way beat the odds and weren’t hurt (see the video from Walgreens below).
All of these factors helped the Mobile tornado become a success story of preparation, warning and action – no deaths and only very minor injuries despite the storm moving through the middle of a population center. Good warnings + quick and appropriate action = lives saved. Remember that during the next tornado warning for your area.
Here’s video of the Mobile tornado hitting the Walgreens. These folks beat the odds. Below that is video of local news coverage as the tornado moved through town.