On March 3, a series of tornadoes tore through Tennessee.
The first tornado of the night hit Camden, Tennessee at 11:07 pm. Several followed, wreaking havoc in four counties.
The twisters collapsed houses, overturned cars, broke gas lines, ravaged businesses, and demolished more than 90 aircraft in the John C. Tune Airport. One of these tornadoes even had wind speeds of 175 mph.
In the end, more than 40 buildings were destroyed and damaged electric lines left tens of thousands of homes without electricity. Dozens of people were injured and at least 25 killed.
Tornadoes in Tennessee
Tornadoes usually form from supercell thunderstorms -- a type of rotating thunderstorm that has varying wind speeds and temperatures that change with elevation. When rising warm air collides with falling cold air, it causes a rotation of air that becomes a funnel-shaped tornado. To learn more, read our earlier article here.
The changing weather conditions in spring causes warm air and cold air to mix frequently, leading to a prevalence in tornadoes from March to June.
Tennessee is a part of “Dixie Alley,” a southeastern region of America (Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi) that has a high frequency of tornadoes. Compared to the infamous “Tornado Alley”, Dixie Alley has a higher density of people, leading to more death and destruction when a tornado hits.
Additionally, Tennessee has an unnaturally high percentage of nighttime tornadoes - more than 50% of the state’s tornadoes touch at night. Nighttime tornadoes are 250% more likely to result in death than tornadoes in the daytime. This is because people are usually asleep at night and the low visibility at night makes it is harder to spot tornadoes.
The twisters in Tennessee were sudden and unexpected. Although scientists can predict supercell thunderstorms, most of these thunderstorms don’t spawn tornadoes, making it difficult to predict when a tornado will occur. Furthermore, it is hard to tell how intense the tornado will be or where it will touch the ground.
How is Tennessee Doing Now?
Amid tragedy, friends and strangers are lending a helping hand to rebuild Tennessee.
On Wednesday, 25,000 volunteers gathered in Putnam County to help clean up. The Tennessee Titans are donating $1 million to help those affected by the twisters and the NFL Foundation is donating $250,000 to repair school football fields and equipment.
Tennessee is going to need a lot of help recovering from the recent tornadoes. Thankfully, people all across the country are coming to its aid.
Sources: Washington Post, LiveScience, CNN, USAToday, Britannica, Universetoday, Tennessean.com