August Tornadoes: They Do Happen

On August 28, 1990 an EF5 tornado struck Kendall and Will Counties in Illinois, it killed 29 and injured 350 people, leveling the school in Plainfield, Illinois except for the one hallway where students had just taken cover moments prior to the school completely coming apart.  It is the only EF5 to ever strike in August and the only one to strike the Chicago area, Chicago had a close call this year but not in August. As an EF5 tornado it picked up a 20 ton truck and threw it half a mile, unfortunately killing the driver. It then went through a corn field and scoured the ground pulled up a swath of ready to be harvested corn and leaving bare dirt. It then did some more scouring of the ground and roads and thankfully it weakened to an EF4 before reaching Plainfield, but and EF4 isn’t much better than an EF5...It continued to wreck havoc till it reached EF3 status and eventually dissipated. Leaving behind completely devastation and death, one such story is recounted in the one of the links I have provided, a paper boy took a piece of fence in his chest and sadly did not survive. Another women stated that during the tornado, she just wanted to die. Such are the feelings of people facing a monster tornado bearing down on them, unspeakable fear.

august tornadoes

There is very little footage of the event. Here are a few videos

Warning: language&stupidity.First off, what are these guys doing wrong? Well let’s see, they aren’t taking cover? That sums it up in very few words.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WP9EcNAPGJs

Hospital accounts of the tragedy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8khCRjL6XPk

Weather Channel coverage of that day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAWZyw-34vM

It was an unexpected weather event because as you will see in this blog, large tornadoes that hit urban areas, just don’t really happen much in the month of August. The temperatures that day were above average as was the dew point, however the temperature was high the previous day as well, but without the development of a monster tornado. The dew point was difference. In all major tornado events, all the necessary ingredients have to be there. Like if you’re going to make biscuits, if you use all-purpose flour, which has no leavening you will have flat biscuits, because you’re lacking a key ingredient. However, if you use self-rising, you get the rise you are looking for. So it is for severe weather events, if a key ingredient is missing, nothing will happen except rain, which is a good thing actually. But if all the ingredients are there, you have a monster.

There may not be many EF5’s in August but there was an EF2 on August 26, 1977 that stayed on the ground for 110 miles! With only 10 injuries, the long track probably gave people enough time to get out of the way. Now, to say that there were not very many severe tornadoes is not to say that   weren’t very many tornadoes…in the month of August from 1950 till now there have been 3963 tornadoes! Mostly small ones but yet still 3963! That’s a lot of activity. There have been 14 EF4 tornadoes on record in the month of August.

One was August 6, 1969; killed 12, injured 70.It crossed 3 counties.

On August 6, 1993 there was yet ANOTHER EF4…ironically on the same date, but in another location in the Unites States. In Virginia, it crossed 4 counties, killed 4 and injured 246.

Again, 3963 tornadoes is a lot of tornadoes…

But that brings up another question, how many of the recorded August tornadoes are there due to hurricane activity? The widest tornado in August was 3000 yards, an EF1 produced by Hurricane Charley in Osceola County, FL. on August 13, 2004. The longest path in August was 42 miles long…on August 13, you guessed it, produced by Charley. Most people don’t realize that along with the storm surge and winds that come with a hurricane, one of the biggest dangers with a hurricane are the embedded storms producing tornadoes. Even if you live far enough inland to avoid the brunt of the usual hurricane weather, you are still going to be facing the possibility of getting one or several tornadoes. In the area where my Dads family lives in Southern Alabama, after hurricanes, we still have to call and check on everyone because they get tornadoes every time there is a hurricane. Trees down on top of houses and such. Not major damage but yet, damage. Not to mention the fact that when assessing the damage after a hurricane you have to find someone who knows the difference between damage done by tornadoes and damage done by storm surge.

And here we are in August again, I guess it remains to be seen what kind of weather we’ll have this month. I hope for all it is an uneventful and safe month.