Weather Service Surveys Tornado Damage in Southeast Alabama

Miranda Fulmore, WBHM

One of many homes in Lee County damaged by a tornado Sunday, March 3, 2019.

Sunday turned deadly in Lee County. Authorities say at least 23 people died, including children, after a tornado slammed into the community of Beauregard. Search and rescue crews were out Monday to look for survivors. Teams from the National Weather Service in Birmingham Monday were evaluating six potential tornadoes in four Alabama counties. WBHM’s Andrew Yeager spoke about the storm with John De Block, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham.

Interview Highlights

What’s known so far about the devastating tornado in Lee County:

“We know the tornado struck shortly after 2 o’clock in the Macon County/Lee County line … from there it went into the Beauregard community area, progressed across southern portions of Lee County just north of Smiths Station … and it went on to the Alabama/Georgia state line and into Georgia … We did actually have a meteorologist down there last night, we’re talking at least an EF-3 strength tornado at this point.” That comes with wind speeds of up to 165 miles per hour. 

What NWS teams will be looking for as they survey damage:

“What we’re going to be looking for today, and we believe we may have some instances where homes were completely swept off of their slabs or off of their foundations with very little remaining, just a field of debris. That’s going to get us perhaps up into the EF-4 category. Incredible devastation that we’re going to be looking at today and doing our best to get the beginning point to end point, the maximum winds speed, and the width of the path as well.”

Comments on social media that warning sirens didn’t sound in Lee County:

“Sirens should never be relied upon to make your decision to shelter. They’re outdoor warning sirens. They’re designed for community areas such as schools, ballparks, recreation areas for people that are outside to hear the siren and go seek shelter. You definitely need to have a device whether it’s a NOAA weather radio, some apps on your phone, that will alert you. And certainly there’s the wireless emergency alerts which will automatically make your phone sound like a sound you’ve never heard. It will get your attention and hopefully get you to safety. There really shouldn’t have been a surprise that there was severe weather encountered in the area.”

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