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April 28 tornado event affects Tennessee Valley

Monday, April 28th, 2014, was a day that will be remembered by many in Limestone County, Alabama, and other locations across the Tennessee Valley for many days to come. Tornado damage caused extensive damage in areas of the valley, with injuries and even deaths reported. As WHNT-TV chief meteorologist Jason Simpson said in a recent interview, "None of the storms are forgettable, but the most memorable ones will be the tornadoes that did the most damage: South Lincoln School, Smith Institute, Welti/Simcoe, Limestone County, and so on. All of those places are special in my heart."

Limestone County tornado on April 28, 2014
Limestone County tornado on April 28, 2014
Chris and Destinee Lisauckis

That day began with tornadoes in Mississippi, including a very destructive tornado in Tupelo. Seeing the coverage of that tornado on The Weather Channel, I knew that we were in for a long evening. Jason Simpson, chief meteorologist at WHNT-TV 19, revealed what was going through his mind as the tornado was crossing into Limestone County later that afternoon. "When I saw that donut hole in the signature over the Tennessee River headed into Coxey there were two things going through my mind: that’s probably a very large tornado, and I’ve got to remember every detail I know about western Limestone County to try to pinpoint where it is and where it is going."

By the time that the dust settled, there was major damage across the Tennessee Valley. From Limestone County, where Bay Hill Marina was heavily damaged and two people died in a mobile home park, to Lincoln County, Tennessee, where South Lincoln School was heavily damaged and two more people died in a house, April 28th was a devastating day across the valley. The two that died in Limestone County were a mother and a son; the two who died in Lincoln County were a husband and wife. Damage from the tornadoes across the valley that night will total into the millions of dollars.

Tuesday, April 29th, was supposed to be a second round of severe weather across the valley. However, storms never formed that day here in the Tennessee Valley. WHNT-TV chief meteorologist Jason Simpson stated what most meteorologists believed to have happened that day, "We believe the storms and flooding rains on the Gulf Coast may have interfered with the development of strong storms here on Tuesday. Things were in place, but those big Gulf Coast events can often shut down the threat here." Chris Lisauckis, storm chaser and recent graduate of the UAH Atmospheric Science program, stated that he felt the reason for the storms failing to fire was that the cloud base was too high and there was mixing of wind at the surface, with a low-level wind shear that was not adequate for severe weather. Further research is necessary to see what history will record as the reason severe weather did not form that day.

Recovery has come a long way in one month's time. Rebuilding has begun in all areas affected by the tornadoes. In addition, Clements High School in Limestone County, which had the highest concentration of students affected by the storms, had a senior class that graduated on time.

The tornado outbreak of April 28, 2014, was a devastating time across the Tennessee Valley. However, just like other outbreaks prior to it, the valley will rebuild and will be Tennessee Valley strong.

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