By Adam Smith
After making it through April with no tornadoes, a warning issued Sunday for Morgan and Limestone counties served as a reminder the Tennessee Valley is still in the midst of the severe weather season.
A tornado warning was issued before 6 p.m. after a funnel cloud was spotted near the Belle Mina community. Officials with the Limestone County Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service in Huntsville said there were no damage or injuries associated with the storm.
Meteorologist Steve Shumway said a trained storm spotter called in a funnel cloud report, and added there was rotation associated with the storm. However, he said the weather operator likely didn’t want to take the chance that it was nothing and decided to issue a warning.
“People remember what happened last year and they’re nervous,” he said, adding the spotter may have instead seen a “scud,” or low-hanging cloud. “When (the spotters) call it in, we check the radar. That’s why a warning was issued; to be on the safe side.”
The NWS and Limestone EMA teamed up to offer a storm spotter training class in March. At the end of the course, those who participated were given certifications and call-in information to the EMA and NWS.
Daphne Ellison, communications officer with the Limestone EMA, said while spotters are helpful to both groups, it is possible that amateur spotters may believe they’re seeing a tornado forming though the storm may not be dangerous.
“If the weather service feels there’s enough rotation, that’s when they make the call (to issue a warning),” she said. “(The spotter) may have seen it rotating, but you’re going to have rotation in a thunderstorm. We just don’t want people getting scared.”
Amy Golden, spokesperson for Athens Utilities, said a power outage was reported in Tanner between 5:30 and 6 p.m., though she described it as minor and added it was repaired quickly by utility crews.
An outage was also reported in the Owens community at about 11 a.m., though Athens Utilities General Manager Gary Scroggins said it was just one of many minor, weather-related outages reported throughout the day.
March, April and May are typically the busiest tornado season for North Alabama because all the right ingredients are in place. The jet stream has not yet lifted to the north, which causes strong, vertical shear. Added to that is the warm, moist air coming from the Gulf of Mexico.
After a dangerous and destructive spring 2011, the only tornadoes to have impacted Limestone County this year occurred on March 2. Four tornadoes hit the county that day, though two were ranked EF-0.
An EF-3 that hit shortly after 9 a.m. that morning caused considerable damage to the Canebrake community before traveling through East Limestone and damaging neighborhoods along Nick Davis, Capshaw and McCulley Mill roads. An EF-1 hit the Thatch community at 3:39 p.m. and caused light damage before lifting east of Alabama 251.
Though no one was killed in the storms, several people were treated for injuries, pets were reported missing or killed and considerable property damage was reported. At least 210 structures in the county and 60 structures in Athens were damaged or destroyed.
Rest of the week
Shumway said scattered showers would be possible today, but added there is a slim chance of precipitation expected the rest of the week. He said there is “no severe weather expected” over the next several days.
Highs are expected to reach the lower 80s with nighttime lows in the mid-to-upper 50s.
The weekend is expected to be partly cloudy with highs in the mid-80s.