Jan 28 2013

Meteorologist Robert Frye: Why Marion County has severe weather in winter months

severe-wxWith the threat for Severe Weather coming in around midweek, most are probably wondering why we are getting bad weather during the winter months. A common misconception many have here in the Sequatchie Valley is that severe weather occurs primarily during the warmer spring months; however, history indicates tornadoes can occur throughout the year and previously have in our area.
According to historical data from the National Weather Service, the Marion County area has seen many tornadoes outside of what may consider the “traditional” time of year for severe weather.  Some notable dates include two EF0 tornadoes on October 9th, 2009 near Jasper and Haletown, another pair of EF0’s on January 21, 2010 that were documented in the Monteagle and Jasper area, and most memorable was the EF2 that struck the Kimball area on November 14th, 2007, leaving behind noticeable damage and destruction in its’ path.

The reason we’re not as immune as many think is due to the Gulf of Mexico being our primary source for warm air and moisture. In the cooler season, a southerly wind from that direction usually brings us warmer and more humid conditions. The same can be said for the summer. Ever wonder why the Sequatchie Valley is so humid during the summer? Well, if the Gulf of Mexico wasn’t there it would be significantly drier and not nearly as rainy. This warm rich air that moves into the region from the gulf is one ingredient that can bring us severe weather.

In all seasons except summer and early autumn, we usually get frontal boundaries from the northwest that cool us down and dry our air. Out ahead of the cold front, winds turn out of the south and spread the warmer more humid air from the gulf northward. The interaction between the warm moist air and cooler dry air causes widespread showers and storms, especially along or slightly ahead of the cold frontal boundary.

With that said, we are NOT immune to tornadoes during the late summer months and early autumn months. Land-falling tropical storms and hurricanes can move into the region and bring flooding rains, gusty winds, and even isolated weak tornadoes. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the weather and be ready to act when watches and warnings are issued for your area.

There are many ways to keep updated on current watches and warnings. You may purchase a weather radio with S.A.M.E. technology at many retail outlets that sell electronics. These radios can be found at the RadioShack in Kimball Crossing as well as Walmart, and were also available at CVS in Jasper in the past.

For those that use smartphones, there are several cheap and even free apps that can be bought to alert you to any threats. One app, offered for FREE is the ReadyTN Mobile Preparedness App from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. You can learn more about the ReadyTN app here.  Also, many cell phone service providers offer free text messages of alerts using the phone GPS. Check with your cell phone service provider to determine whether or not your device is capable, and whether or not they offer these messages.

For those still “wired” with a landline phone, the county’s Reverse 911 system can also be activated to alert residents. This system is already setup for area land line phones, however citizens can add cell phone numbers and their email, if they wish, by visiting www.marioncosheriff.com and click the “Sign Up for FREE Emergency Alerts”  button on the right side of the page and following the prompts to register a new user. The user will receive an email notifying them that their information has been received and they are active on the system. Local emergency management officials urge those with elderly family members in the area with cell phones to help register those family members.

Marion County Sheriff Ronnie “Bo” Burnett advises residents,  “If there are elderly residents that need help registering their cell phone, they can call the sheriff’s office (423-942-2525) and we’ll make sure we get them into the system.”

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