The devastating tornadoes this past weekend… questions you should ask and answers you should seek

Published 2:22 pm Tuesday, December 14, 2021

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A devasting severe weather event unfolded this past weekend across the Midwest and Southern US, which included some wind damage across portions of Alabama. Fortunately, the damage across our state was much less in comparison.

The graphic below shows preliminary damage reports to the National Weather Service (NWS) this weekend.  It will likely take days, if not a couple of weeks, for all tornado/wind surveys to be completed due to the extensive damage.

Could these widespread storms and tornadoes occur in Alabama this time of year?  Unfortunately, yes.  As you can see from the graphic below, tornadoes are most prevalent across the state November through May, and many of these storms occur at night.

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The last big event in Alabama this time of year was November 29-30, 2016 with 19 tornadoes, including both fatalities and injuries.

A lot of media coverage has been focused on the destruction of the Candle factory in Kentucky and the Amazon warehouse in Illinois, where a number of people were working and injuries/fatalities occurred.  Numerous questions will likely to be asked over the next several days at both locations, including:

  1. Who was responsible for monitoring the weather and was the information passed to the employees in a timely manner before the tornadoes hit?
  2. Was a disaster plan in place to move employees to a safe location, did it occur and when was the last time this was practiced?
  3. What were the sheltering locations and how much protection did they provide for winds at or above 110 mph (EF2 or higher)?
  4. If proper shelter was not available, what other options did employees have to protect themselves?

Now, instead of focusing on these two locations, if you work somewhere other than your home, I need you to ask these questions of your employer and find out the answers for yourself.

Even if you work in your home, you should ask similar questions and have a severe weather plan in place.  You can go to to find out more information.

Prior to joining the Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA), I worked in the NWS for almost 35 years and performed hundreds of damage surveys from Georgia to Texas.  The hearts of the men and women at both agencies breaks when we see people injured, losing loved ones, or having their life-long belongings disappear literally in one minute during severe weather.

But, because I have personally witnessed so much destruction, I’m highly motivated to try and motivate you to protect both yourself and loved ones.  Take ownership, always be aware of developing severe weather conditions, and know how to protect yourself before severe weather strikes no matter where you are.

Certainly, in larger facilities/gathering areas, others will likely be involved in letting you know when to take shelter.  But, not knowing what to do beforehand may be too late!  Finally, we at the Alabama Emergency Management Agency can’t do this alone!  Be a potential hero to someone else and help them find the answers to the questions above as well.  You might just save a life in doing so!