National Weather Service Surveys Tornado Damage

Tools

By Ashley Thompson

Experts are assessing tornado damage throughout Alabama. So who surveys the damage and how do they do it?

After severe weather hits, it's emergency management crews and the National Weather Service that try to identify exactly what happened. When Meteorologist John De Block of the National Weather Service surveys an area hit by severe weather, he has a list of things to check for.

"Our main interest is finding the beginning, the end, the magnitude of the tornado, and the width," he says. "We're looking at structures, we're looking at the trees, debris, eye witness reports."

A tool called the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which measures things like wind speed and intensity, helps crews to categorize tornados. But that's not all, there are other factors that can help determine the strength of a storm.

"The quality of construction, the strength of the building materials," De Block says. "When we start looking at building damage... if we're on the fence, we go in and look at the way the building is constructed."

And if you don't think your home is safe enough for intense weather, you can seek shelter elsewhere. Emergency Management Agency's David Brunson says there are places with open doors.

"With this particular storm, we had more people come to the county courthouse," says Brunson. "We had about 92 Elmore County citizens that came to the courthouse. There are several different churches that'll open up to let people come in."

These crews aren't just in place to study weather patterns, they also want to help people who are facing challenging times because of storm damage.

"We want to make sure that we don't have citizens that are out there tonight in the cold without a place to stay," says Alabama EMA Director Art Faulkner. "We want to make sure we're out there. One; identifying them and two; helping them as best we can to be able to meet their immediate needs and then looking long term."

It appears that identifying severe weather is sort of like piecing together a puzzle.

If you have damage from this week's storms, you are encouraged to call your emergency management agency or even your local 911 dispatch so that you're area may be surveyed.