NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — While tornadoes and tornado outbreaks can happen at any time of year, the December 10-11, 2021 outbreak stands out from the pack. The question many have is: why was this particular event so devastating?
Tim Marshall is a meteorologist and an engineer who was on the ground in hard-hit Mayfield and Dawson Springs, KY to help the National Weather Service survey the damage from the long-track supercell that produced the “quad-state” tornado. Marshall was brought in to survey the worst of the worst tornado damage.
“This is definitely a historic event. We have a track that is well over 130 miles, and that by itself is historic,” said Marshall.
There are a few factors at play that made this a notable event, including above-average temperatures and plenty of moisture streaming in from the Gulf of Mexico. The ingredients were in place to create a volatile atmosphere.
“You had temperatures in the 70s, and you had high dew points, and then, you had this storm system coming in from the west with a jet stream. So, you had tremendous speed shear and that was the ripe ingredients for a supercell,” said Marshall.
It will be days, possibly weeks before the final path and damage ratings are out for this tornado outbreak.
“Well, this is a big puzzle. We’re piecing together slowly, of course, because this is a very long track,” said Marshall. “So, that’s going to take a lot of time to look at it and some of the terrain is not very easy to access.”
Marshall explained the way a building is constructed can impact tornado ratings since some buildings are sturdier than others.
“Really the only way to get a handle on how well something is built is to get out there on foot, take a look at it, and look for the anchors, braces, and connections, what I call the ‘ABCs’ to go ahead and see, well, this building that’s destroyed, you know, how well was it built?”
Middle Tennessee experienced 15 tornadoes over the weekend and it’s been a historic event for the Midstate as well.
Krissy Hurley, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the Nashville National Weather Service Office, said this event is a good reminder that Middle Tennesseans always need to be on alert for severe weather.
“This is the most tornadoes we’ve ever seen in the month of December. In Middle Tennessee. We’ve recorded 20 tornadoes so far in 2021 in December,” said Hurley.
Hurley also noted that this year is record-breaking in terms of the number of tornadoes as well.
“Middle Tennessee has recorded 44 tornadoes across the area. Now, this breaks the previous record of 38 tornadoes in 2011.”