Following analysis of radar data and an on-site survey with StormTrack Central Meteorologist Tyler Southard, the National Weather Service is blaming damage from May 3rd storms on a tornado.
On May 3, 2010, a storm ripped through Baldwin County doing minor damage to several homes and downing a few trees. Originally the damage was thought to have been caused by strong thunderstorm winds lacking rotation, also called straight line winds. Upon further research however, there arose the question of whether the trees were knocked down by a small tornado.
To answer that question, Robert Beasley, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, came out to inspect the damage and compare it to the radar information. His assessment on the scene...it was a tornado.
"The thing that gives it away as being a tornado more than anything else is when you look at the radar data. Straight line winds show up as strong broad swab of winds at the surface in what we call base velocity data. Where you're going to have strong all pretty much in one direction winds. Here you're looking at a couplet that went clearly down this path. It lines up perfectly with the radar data." -Robert Beasley/National Weather Service
Determining whether or not the damage was caused by a tornado is important because the information could be used to save lives in future storms.
"Well it really helps them with their warnings. They can go back and look on the radar signatures and things like that. and see how things were shaping up as far as wind velocity and things like that and that helps us with warnings. If they see that same pattern again they'll kind of know o.k. this is an F-0 or F-1 Tornado." -Colin Duke/Deputy EMA Director
StormTrack Central Meteorologist Tyler Southard was on the scene during the survey and has been in communication with the National Weather Service since the storm. Southard lives in Baldwin county and saw the damage firsthand the night of the storms.
Beasley estimates the maximum winds were between 65 and 85 mph, making it an EF-0 tornado.