Obion County emergency official: ‘We dodged a bullet on this storm’
By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter
By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
If Mike George of Union City and Todd Beal of Memphis have frazzled nerves today, it’s understandable. You could say it goes with the territory.
George is director of emergency management for Obion County.
Beal is a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Memphis office.
Both men spent many hours Tuesday and early today with their eyes fixed on colorful radar screens, their ears and survival system nerves on full alert, their dread at the next portent of imminent doom in the form of thunderstorms, tornadoes and straight-line winds.
“The Pleasant Valley area had a power outage but the Union City Electric System got it restored,” George said. “There were a couple of trees down on Rives Road and one on the Woodland Mills highway.”
Given the magnitude of the storm, Obion County could have been hit as hard as other areas.
“I was sitting here watching the radar, all day and all night, and thinking, ‘We are just very fortunate,’” George said. “There’s very little left to clean up. We dodged the bullet on this storm. There’s no other way to explain it. And we’ve been so lucky over the years.
“When the first round of storms came through, it looked real bad. They put us under thunderstorm warnings and tornado warnings. But that second round, which was the main round, well, I sat here all night long, watching on radar. I kept calling Memphis. Every time that little front would move east, it would be all those additional counties under tornado warnings. And the second front didn’t move near as fast as the first one. It took its time about getting out of here.”
Obion County highway department supervisor Gary Lofton said his crews got the first calls about trees down on county roads about 9 p.m. Tuesday.
“We had only one crew on standby. They removed trees off Mount Manuel Road and Knox Daniel Road, and we’re still working a couple on Protemus Road near Troy this morning,” he said. “Other than that, everything’s cleaned up.”
The line of vicious storms extended all the way from Desoto County, Miss., northeasterly into Shelby County and beyond, even into Middle Tennessee.
Beal explained that a strong cold front moved through the area Tuesday afternoon. “Ahead of the cold front, there was an unseasonably warm air mass. The atmosphere became unstable. That set the stage for showers and thunderstorms. There was enough instability for super cell thunderstorms ahead of the cold front. That set the stage for severe weather,” he said.
He characterized it as “a very dynamic system, affecting a wider, wide area.”
“It was a really strong cold front that stretched across the entire Mid-South,” he said. “It moved through here last night, setting the stage for showers and thunderstorms.”
Was that unusual? Not at all, he says.
“We’ve had events like this in the past. It’s not all that unusual,” he said. “You folks in Obion County were the fortunate ones last night. Fortunate not to have one of those thunderstorms move through in advance of a cold front. Those in advance of the cold front were the ones producing tornadoes and that was confined mainly to north Mississippi, southwest Tennessee, on up into Middle Tennessee.
Published in The Messenger 2.6.08