The Web Site and Blog of Ted Keller

The “Super Tuesday” Tornado Outbreak of 2008

Huge Tornado Outbreak

It was an outbreak of tornadoes which occurred during a big primary evening nicknamed “Super Tuesday” four years ago tonight.  The networks and many local affiliates had big plans for election coverage that night.  Mother Nature had another idea.

I’ve often wondered what would happen at NBC affiliates airing the Super Bowl if a tornado outbreak like this were to occur tonight?  How would the live weather coverage be handled?

Locally, the supercell storm pictured below took on bow echo shape as it dropped a tornado right on top of Gassville, Arkansas. Bow echo tornadoes can be powerful and destructive. Unlike tornadoes emerging from the so-called “classic” supercell, bow echo tornadoes are often shorter-lived and their signature on radar can be less obvious.

Damage surveys put this tornado at EF2, on an EF0-EF5 scale

This storm was moving to the northeast at around 60-65 mph!

Radar image at 5:06 pm on February 5th, 2008, a few minutes before a tornado strikes Gassville, AR
Record Arkansas Tornado Track

The Gassville storm was on the northwest edge of a widespread outbreak of tornadoes. Another supercell, this one with a classic radar configuration, raced northeast through central and northeastern Arkansas during the same evening. The first tornado report came out of Ola in Yell County, Arkansas. The supercell then continued northeast, spawning the longest tracked tornado in Arkansas history, killing a total of twelve people.

Please read more about this outbreak in the official National Weather Service assessment below. Among other things, the report found that many people didn’t think a tornado watch in February needed to be taken seriously!  Another issue were mobile homes and their relative predominance in this portion of the country.  Mobile homes are simply not safe during tornadoes or strong, damaging winds.

Another link details the Storm Prediction Center’s efforts to raise awareness of the threat of nighttime or off-season tornadoes.

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