Sunday, April 28, 2013

EF-1 tornado confirmed in Fayette County Saturday night

After surveying the damage earlier today, NWS officials deemed the damage to the Belmont community of northwest Fayette County (a few miles southeast of Mason in Tipton Co) to be caused by a high-end EF-1 tornado with maximum sustained wind estimated at 105 mph.

According to the damage survey, the tornado touched down at 9:13pm just northeast of Exit 35 north of I-40 in the Belmont community.  It stayed on the ground for 5 minutes, lifting 1 mile east of the touchdown point at 9:18pm in a wooded area north of Old 59 Drive.  There was one minor injury in a residence near the end of the tornado path. Maximum wind was estimated at 105 mph with a path width of 250 yards (0.14 miles). The most significant damage was to a large barn that housed K9 Savior, where well over 100 animals were kept. This barn was about where the tornado touched down.  In addition, many trees were uprooted or snapped and a rural church that was resting atop brick pilings just off the ground was moved about 15 feet off it's foundation at Belmont Cemetery on Old 59 Drive.

Tornado path (1 mile) of the Belmont tornado. Click here for KML file to view in Google Earth.
The entire area, including Fayette County, was under a Tornado Watch at the time. The National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for far southeast Tipton County and northern Fayette County at 9:19pm CDT that was in effect until 10:00pm.  At 9:24pm, the Tornado Warning was cancelled for Tipton as the storm had left the county. The section of Fayette around where damage occurred was removed from the warning at 9:36pm as the storm had left that part of the county. The remainder of the warning was allowed to expire at 10:00.

If you look carefully at the timeline above, you'll see that the NWS indicates the tornado was on the ground prior to the issuance of the warning.  In fact, it was issued one minute after the tornado lifted, however strong rotation was still evident on Doppler Radar imagery of the storm well after the tornado had lifted.  This is a sobering reminder of how storms can and occasionally do produce tornadoes, especially weaker ones, with little notice, especially when a Tornado Watch is in effect.  A Tornado Watch means conditions are favorable for storms to produce tornadoes. People should keep a close eye to the sky and monitor local weather sources anytime storms are present, especially when a watch is in effect.

A church at Belmont Cemetery was shifted about 15 feet off it's foundation.
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It is certainly fortunate that no one was seriously injured or killed and that population density was low where the tornado struck, or damage would have also certainly been more extensive. Please keep those affected in your thoughts and prayers.

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