Image Credit: Joshua Kelly
January 31, 2013

Post Storm Report For January 29-30, 2013

Weather Center: An update on the severe weather outbreak that just occurred these past two days over the Southern Plains and Southeast United States. This was a fairly significant severe weather outbreak that spread over multiple states during this two-day event. There were multiple tornado reports along with wind damage and hail damage from all of these storms that moved along the associated strong cold front.

First, we will analyze a few features in our satellite image above which is courtesy of SSEC. The left satellite image was taken on the evening of January 29, 2013 around 6PM CDT. This image is an infrared image. Infrared imagery is taken based on temperatures. For instance, the brighter white the color on the image, the colder the cloud is along with the higher in altitude the cloud would be. So if we look over the Texas region along the red line, we note the southwesterly flow of the clouds that are coming off the higher elevations in Mexico. This feature is important because it provided the stronger winds in the mid-levels which are important for rotating storms. The second feature to identify on the left map is the green line which is showing the warm moist air arriving from the Gulf of Mexico. This air is important because it provides the upward motion of the storms. The third element is represented by the blue line, with the colder air coming in from the Rockies. This represents the high altitude, cold dense air that you need to sink towards the surface. When we put all three of these elements together, we get severe weather just like we saw these last couple of days.

The right image is also a satellite image taken from January 30, 2013 around 8AM CDT. This image is a visible imagery, meaning that it’s only during daylight hours that we can use it and see the clouds on it. Now if we look over the state of Mississippi, we can see all the higher clouds which are outlined in the yellow line. These clouds were associated with the frontal boundary that created all of these storms. The clouds that you are seeing inside the yellow line are the thunderstorms that moved through creating all the tornadoes and strong winds.  The feature circled in the orange line represents one significant cell that formed ahead of the main line of storms. This cell is referred to as a super-cell. This super-cell was responsible for creating a tornado that hit Northwest Georgia earlier today.

Image Credit: Joshua Kelly

Now, let’s examine in detail what has happened over the past couple of days with all of these storms. As we mentioned earlier in the blog, the first day of the severe weather was January 29. This is the day the line of storms developed in Eastern Oklahoma and Texas.  The storms rapidly pushed towards the Northeast and this is where the damage began. The first reported tornadoes of the day came from Arkansas and Missouri. As the afternoon wore on, the storms pushed further towards the east, with the next round of tornadoes reported in Tennessee and Indiana along with Mississippi towards the evening hours. In all, there were 13 tornadoes reported to the National Weather Service on the day.  The frontal boundary, as it pushed across the Southern Plains, also brought with it many damaging wind reports. The National Weather service estimated there were around 300 wind damage reports associated with this frontal boundary. The tornadoes that formed on the day were associated with those rotating super-cell storms that formed about 100-150 miles ahead of the front.

As the evening progressed, the storms continued to push eastward arriving in the Southern Mississippi River valley region from Memphis into Western Mississippi. Here, the storms also created super-cell storms that spawned a few tornadoes in the region, but again the big story was the wind damage that pushed through the area.

The morning of the 30th, things got going quickly. Just after sunrise, multiple storms were sending out tornado warnings again, this time from places in Alabama and Georgia.  The biggest storms on the day occurred in Northwest Georgia. These storms were super-cell oriented, again meaning they were out ahead of the front in the rotating environment.  The storms were just as destructive as the day before, with seven tornadoes being reported to the National Weather Service as of 7pm CDT.  The tornadoes did lead to lots of injuries and also one known fatality. “The National Weather Service stated that an individual died when his mobile home was hit by the storm”.  This is a very important safety tip to remember, “Mobile Homes and Tornadoes do not mix”-Meteorologist Joshua Kelly.

Again, outside of the seven reported tornadoes, there were multiple wind damage reports with over 100 wind reports sent to the National Weather Service.

The tornadoes that hit Northwest Georgia today also created a lot of damage in their paths, tipping cars and semi-trucks over on the roads along with a lot of structural damage to buildings throughout Northwest Georgia.

Image Credit: Joshua Kelly

The next time you see these clouds beginning to move into your area, here are a few things that you can do to get both you and your family ready.

The important message to take from this is when severe weather is forecast to occur in your location, it is very important to heed the warnings. If you are living in a mobile home, please evacuate to a safer place. If time is limited, head toward a ditch as this will offer more safety than your mobile home. If you are in a house without a basement, head to the center of your home in a room with no windows. If you have a closet, this would be the best. Otherwise, lay down flat in the bathtub and also take with you a few blankets and pillows and place them over you. This will help limit injury from flying debris.

With the start of tornado season just around the corner, now is time to start preparing yourself, as tornadoes can hit anywhere and there is not much advanced warning for them. A few other things that you can do is to go down to the local hardware store, such as Lowes or Home Depot, and purchase a National Weather Service Hand Held Weather Radio. This radio will be a great advantage during severe weather as you will hear the warning right away after the National Weather Service issues it, along with a safety message advising you what to do.  Another great feature on this weather radio is it has an alarm system. This feature allows you to set it for the warnings you want. When that type of warning is issued, it will make plenty of noise to wake you up from your sleep.

Another thing you could do is, if you have a family, sit down and have a family meeting to prepare everyone for what measures should be taken if there were a tornado. Good planning in advance of a storm can also reduce the confusion on the day an actual tornado hits.

All of these things can help you and your family to be ready for the severe weather season.  And, as always, make sure to follow Each Monday through Friday, we provide you with the Big Story Weather that will give you insight on upcoming weather events. You can find our blog in the blog section at and then just click on the Big Story Weather link and it will take you to our latest weather forecast.

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