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Friday, December 30, 2005

About that photo...

If you'll look at the upper left corner of this page, you'll see a photograph of a massive tornado. That photo was taken from a vidcap of some chase footage I shot on April 6, 2005.

A brief story of the day: I woke up and helped get my kids ready for school. My wife was working as a teacher's assistant at the time, so she took the kids and headed out. When the warnings started coming out to our west, she called me to make sure I had heard. I assured her that I was gathering my stuff up at that very moment. First through town to top out the gas tank (I had a good hour before it would be near), then out onto the rural county roads in a carefully-calculated intercept route.

A couple of "sidebar" points:

First, it's really exciting to be coming through town, amped up about heading into a tornado-spawning thunderstorm, and hearing the sirens going at full-tilt warning people to take cover.

Second, chasing tornadoes in Central Mississippi has its own set of challenges that separate the experience from that of chasing in the Great Plains--in particular, numerous hills, curves, and trees. A knowledge of the territory gained through my years in EMS helps a lot, but there's still a bit of apprehension when you know a tornado that has done considerable damage already is roughly a mile to your west--and your view to the west is currently completely obscured by trees.

I stopped briefly to admire the storm, and looked for indications of its motion. Being in a cellular-free area, my only information about the tornado's whereabouts came from my weather and FM radios. Fortunately, radio stations around here take severe weather very seriously.

I made my final move, one that brought me to within about a half mile of the storm's projected path. As the trailing edge of the storm became visible over the horizon, I began filming. The tornado had left an intermittent path of roughly 40 miles already, and hadn't completely dissipated. Before my eyes, an obvious cone of rotation seemed to dissipate, but it was merely revealing itself to be a multiple vortex tornado, an assembly of five to six tendrils of rapid rotation within a much larger structure. As those vortices converged again, the tornado took on the form you see in the photo, and held this structure as it moved out of sight. Alas, I didn't pursue the storm further, because of another twister that was forecast to come much closer to my home and business, so I turned South to see what would develop there. No funnel there, but I'd see one more funnel cloud later that afternoon that wouldn't become a tornado.

In all, we had around five tornado warnings that day, and there was some damage in my county. Most of the damage was near White Oak in Rankin County, where one community took some pretty heavy damage from the storm I caught on film.

The remainder of the season was relatively uneventful, and I wouldn't have any more good footage until my Florida vacation the third week of June.

But that's another story.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


So glad you stopped by my twisted little corner of the world. I'll be posting here regularly, but don't expect a whole lot of politics. I'll be reporting on things weather-related mostly, and probably telling a few tales from my own life and from the lives of those people close to me who were affected by severe weather through the years.

My ultimate goal is to compile an accurate historical account of the significant tornadoes in Mississippi from 1950 to the present, and possibly at some point extend that work to cover the entire 20th century. Why? Well, first and foremost, I've found that even the records of some of the more notable events are flawed, in that they don't reflect all counties affected by an event.

For example: On March 3, 1966, an F5 tornado struck Jackson, Mississippi, and would come to be known as the "Candlestick Park" tornado, named after the shopping center it destroyed soon after forming. It continued into my county, killing twenty-six people here, yet if you look in my own county's listing of significant tornadoes, there's no mention of the storm at all.

Another story: On April 1, 1983, an F2 tornado did damage in several counties in central Mississippi. I was working late in my own business when it came through. Hearing what I assumed to be hail, I hunkered down in an interior room as the storm raged. I heard a corner of my building lift up then slam back down onto the wall. Upon exiting, I realized that it was not hail, but rather gravel from my roof that had been picked up and slammed against the windows of my office. Cars on the highway out front were in the median and off the sides of the road, as if they'd parked in random directions and locations. Out towards home, there was a distinct path of wind damage and numerous trees uprooted. A cinderblock building that was being used as a church had a wall blown out. A cedar tree at a relative's home was completely uprooted and dropped just a few feet from her home. Yet for my county on that date, there's only a record of "Thunderstorm winds." This, in spite of the fact that the NWS issued a tornado warning.

Inconsistencies like that are what I'd like to help put an end to. I won't be able to assemble a complete record, I'm sure, but I do want to collect as many news stories, personal anecdotes, and photographs as possible for an eventually published reference work. That's where you, my internet friends, come in. If any of you live in Mississippi, are originally from here, or have friends or relatives here, please contact me with your stories. I'll share those that I collect personally here, some that I'm sent from readers, and I'll tell a few of my own as well.

I'll also provide links to other sites from time to time that have interesting photos or footage of tornadoes, and when I finally get my ducks in a row for an honest-to-goodness domain of my own, I'll upload my own videos, photos, and such for your perusal.

And because it's just as much a part of me as severe weather, I'll talk about politics, philosophy, and theology occasionally as well. It's just too time-consuming to try to maintain more than one blog such that the topics aren't mixed. BoKnows (my old blog) won't be updated any more, but the posts there will remain there until they're archived on a yet-to-be-determined location. And to think that I abandoned it when I'd finally gotten up to #21546 in the TLB Ecosystem.

So now that you know what to expect, come back often. I'll be here.

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