The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

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Tornado Outbreak 2011

December 28, 2011

NWS: Tornado paths for 1974, 2011 match

(Continued)

TANNER —

A preferred path?

With the study begun in 2008, Troutman and Gaston hoped to determine if tornadoes have preferred paths. If so, they wanted to know which paths seemed common and why in hopes of providing better understanding of tornadoes and, in turn, foster better preparedness and warnings. 

“There are signs there are preferred tracks,” Troutman said, but cautioned: “the data is very preliminary.”

While it is too early to form certainties, Troutman said it appears as if topography can impact tornado tracks. For example, some tracks seem to be formed from winds coming off mountains in the Huntsville area, then twisting as they reach the flatlands of Limestone County.

However, Gaston said some April 27 supercells formed 5 to 6 miles in the air, which would make topography less relevant.

“What I’m trying to do is look for persistent patterns,” Gaston said. “The next step is to come up with some reason why.”

Troutman said “much more research” needs to be done to determine reasons for the patterns.

“We want to have an understanding of the threat to the Tennessee Valley region,” he said. “What folks have to understand in this region is that it’s not a matter of if, but when. The Important thing is that we be ready and understand what to look for.”

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