I think it goes without saying that one year ago today, lives were changed (Mine included).
Think back to April 27, 2011. What were you doing? Do you remember?
In the weather world, it was an incredible day. I watched live streams from television stations in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee to see what was unfolding in our neighboring states, and I watched the radar for hours that afternoon.
I distinctly remember trying to make myself fall asleep that night, but I couldn't. I just kept watching the radar, watching live online coverage in Alabama, and knowing that we were next.
Technology really is incredible, isn't it? I saw live feeds of tornadoes via towercams in other places. Spotter coverage on the web. Seeing it on the radar was striking. It was all headed for Georgia.
12:00 AM: Time to go to work.
I headed into work in the wee morning hours of April 28th. It was incredibly humid, and there was a breeze, but there was also this feeling of an eery calm in the air.
Statewide, while the most significant damage can be seen in North Georgia, Middle Georgia was also impacted that morning (Or night, if you heard the storms while you were sleeping!).
Let's start in Pike County. An EF-3 tornado tore through Pike, Lamar, Monroe, and Butts counties very early on the morning of Thursday April 28, 2011. At approximately 12:38 AM the tornado touched down along Highway 19, approximately 4 miles south of Meansville in Pike County. Per the National Weather Service, three homes were destroyed near Barnesville. Tragically, two people were killed when a home was destroyed in Lamar County. In Barnesville, a gas station and a church were both destroyed.
In the 41NBC Forecast region, the tornado ripped through North Monroe county. Three tractor trailers were blown off the road near I-75 around 1:02 AM. Three houses were damaged and one was destroyed. Three people were also injured in Monroe County. Finally, the tornado lifted in southeast Butts county around 1:15 AM.
Radar imagery, damage, and the path can be found here: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/ffc/?n=20110427_svrstorms#pike
One more tornado struck the 41NBC Forecast region early that morning. This EF-1 tornado touched down 8 miles southeast of Eatonton in Putnam County around 2:30 AM. It lifted 8 miles west northwest of Devereux around 3:05 AM.
The roof of an outbuilding was taken off and 4 homes were damaged or destroyed by trees. Several trees were snapped or uprooted, and some powerlines were also taken down.
More information can be found here: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/ffc/?n=20110427_svrstorms#putnam
According to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, 15 tornadoes moved across their forecast area. That includes most of north & Middle Georgia.
One thing I think we can all take from this event is the importance of having a NOAA Weather Radio. I talk about them all the time on air (Probably so much you can quote me!), but they are incredibly important.
Scroll up a few paragraphs and take a look at the times these tornadoes touched down. Those tractor trailers were blown off the road in Monroe County around 1:00 AM. The Hancock County tornado took place during the 2:00 AM hour. Even folks who get up with the chickens are still sleeping around that time!
HOW will you get your warnings the next time storms strike at night? We cut in over programming when there's severe weather but do you turn your TV off at night? We update our Facebook and Twitter pages when there's severe weather but you're not on social media when you're sleeping.
The ONLY surefire way to get your warnings is with a NOAA Weather Radio. It is of paramount importance that these are a staple in each and every home. They will wake you up. They will alert you. They SAVE LIVES.
I will never forget the images that followed this event -- not just from Middle Georgia but from all across the eastern half of the United States.
My most sincere thoughts and prayers go out to all of those who were affected by these storms. As someone who is relatively new to the business of television news (October 2010), this was an eye-opening event for me. Seeing the destruction that following in Georgia, Alabama, and elsewhere changed the way I view severe weather and cover it.