Tornado outbreak of February 28 – March 2, 2007

Enterprise Radar.jpg
1Most severe tornado damage; see Enhanced Fujita scale 2Time from first tornado to last tornado

The tornado outbreak of February 28 – March 2, 2007 was a deadly tornado outbreak across the southern United States that began in Kansas on February 28, 2007. The severe weather spread eastward on March 1 and left a deadly mark across the southern US, particularly in Alabama and Georgia. Twenty deaths were reported; one in Missouri, nine in Georgia, and 10 in Alabama. Scattered severe weather was also reported in North Carolina on March 2, producing the final tornado of the outbreak before the storms moved offshore into the Atlantic Ocean.[2]

In the end, there were 56 tornadoes confirmed during the outbreak, including three EF3 tornadoes reported across three states, as well as three EF4 tornadoes; two in Alabama and one in Kansas, the first such tornadoes since the introduction of the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Total damages were estimated at over $580 million from tornadoes alone, making it the fourth-costliest tornado outbreak in US history (the figure not including damage from other thunderstorm impacts including hail and straight-line winds).[1] Insured losses in the state of Georgia topped $210 million, making this outbreak the costliest in that state's history.[3] Enterprise, Alabama, which was hit the hardest, sustained damages in excess of $307 million.[4]

The tornado outbreak was caused by a large low-pressure system across the central United States that intensified on February 28 over Kansas, and a cold front moved across the region, providing the lift needed to develope storms. Additionally, a surge of very moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and warm temperatures across the south side of the storm expanded these developments. Temperatures were in the 70s °F (low 20s °C) in some areas to the south, while the mercury was below freezing on the north side. The dewpoints were in the 60 °F (16 °C) range as far north as southeastern Kansas, which provided extra fuel.[5]

The Storm Prediction Center issued a moderate risk of severe storms for February 28 across parts of the central Great Plains. The first tornadoes developed early in the evening that day in Kansas as the dry line pushed eastward and was lifted by the cold front.[6] In total, 12 tornadoes formed that evening across Kansas and Missouri, 11 of which were weak; however, one of these tornadoes was rated an EF4, the first such tornado recorded and the first violent tornado since September 22 of the previous year. No one was injured by that storm. Farther south, expected activity in Oklahoma and Arkansas didn't take place as the atmospheric cap held up.[7]

A high risk of severe storms — the first such issuance since April 7, 2006 — was issued for a large part of the Deep South for March 1 as the cold front moved eastward.[8] The activity began almost immediately, with several isolated tornadoes taking place that morning across the Mississippi Valley, one of which caused the outbreak's first death. Isolated tornadoes were also reported as far north as Illinois, near the center of the low; however, the most intense activity began around noon and continued throughout the afternoon and evening, with southern Alabama and southern Georgia being hit the hardest. Nearly continuous supercells formed north of the Gulf of Mexico and produced many tornadoes, some of which hit large population centers with devastating effects. Those tornadoes killed twenty people.[9]

The squall line finally overtook the supercells just after midnight on March 2, after putting down 37 tornadoes that day. As the squall line overtook the cells, a few tornadoes — all EF0 — took place overnight in Florida and extreme southern Georgia within the squall line, before the severe weather emerged in the Atlantic Ocean that morning.[10] The final tornado was a landfalling waterspout in the Outer Banks of North Carolina late that morning.[11] In addition to the tornadoes, widespread straight-line wind damage from microbursts were also reported, along with scattered large hail, the largest of which were the size of baseballs.[12]

Early on the afternoon of Thursday, March 1, at 1:08 pm CST (19:08 UTC), a destructive tornado first developed near the Enterprise Municipal Airport. The tornado lifted off the ground briefly before returning to the ground as an even stronger storm.[83] It quickly slammed into Enterprise, Alabama, at 1:12 pm CST (19:12 UTC). The tornado left severe damage throughout a large section of the city. The most severe damage took place at Enterprise High School, where a section of the school was destroyed during the middle of the school day. Eight students were killed at the school and 50 other people were taken to local hospitals. Some early reports suggested that there had been as many as 15 deaths at Enterprise High School and 18 deaths statewide, which was found to be an over-estimation.[84] It was the first killer tornado at a US school since the Grand Isle, Louisiana tornado in 1993, and the deadliest tornado-related school disaster since one in Belvidere, Illinois in 1967.[85] One other death was reported in Enterprise at a nearby private residence when a woman's living room window was shattered by the tornado.[86][87]

This page was last edited on 13 April 2018, at 20:57 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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