Tornado outbreak of February 12, 1945

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Tornado outbreak of February 12, 1945
A map of the tornado outbreak on February 12, 1945 by F. C. Pate.
Meteorological history
DurationFebruary 12, 1945
Tornado outbreak
Tornadoes≥8
Maximum ratingF4 tornado
Overall effects
Casualties45 fatalities, 427 injuries
Damage$1.972 million (1945 USD)[1]
Areas affectedSoutheastern United States

Part of the tornado outbreaks of 1945

On February 12, 1945, a devastating tornado outbreak occurred across the Southeastern United States. The storms killed 45 people and injured 427 others.[1][2]

This outbreak included a devastating tornado that struck Montgomery, Alabama, which killed 26 people.[2] The United States Weather Bureau described this tornado as "the most officially observed one in history" as it reached within 0.5 miles (0.80 km) from the U.S. Weather Bureau's office.[2] Tornado expert Thomas P. Grazulis estimated the intensity of the Montgomery tornado to be F3 on the Fujita scale.[1] The Montgomery storm destroyed around 100 houses, as well as two warehouses and a freight train.

Earlier that day, another tornado – also estimated to be F3 intensity – struck Meridian, Mississippi, killing 5–7 people.[1][3] Between the Meridian tornado and the Montgomery tornado, the strongest tornado of the day struck near York, Alabama and Livingston, Alabama, killing 11 people. Grazulis estimated the intensity of the tornado to be F4 on the Fujita scale.[1]

Confirmed tornadoes[edit]

All ratings on the Fujita scale were made by Thomas P. Grazulis and are classified as unofficial ratings since official ratings for tornadoes began in 1950.[4] Grazulis only documented tornadoes he considered to be significant (F2+), so the true number of tornadoes for this outbreak is most likely higher. That said, the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Birmingham, Alabama, published a list of tornadoes, which occurred in Alabama, during 1945.[5] In this list, NWS Birmingham assigned ratings from the Fujita scale to the tornadoes, lending official support to the ratings for these tornadoes.[5]

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
≥ 0 ≥ 0 ≥ 0 3 4 1 0 ≥8

February 12 event[edit]

Confirmed tornadoes during February 12, 1945[nb 1]
F# Location County / Parish State Time (local) Path length Max width
F3 Jones to Vimville Lauderdale MS 15:35 9 mi (14 km) 400 yd (370 m)
7 deaths – The tornado started in the community of Jones, 7 miles (11 km) south of Meridian, and moved northeastward. Multiple homes in rural communities were completely swept away, with four deaths occurring in three of these homes. A fifth person was killed in an open field as they were running for shelter. In total, five people were killed and 40 others were injured.[1][5] This was one of three tornadoes marked by Grazulis that the United States Weather Bureau originally marked as a single tornado. The U.S. Weather Bureau documented that this long-track tornado killed 40 people and injured 200 others.[6] Modern research by Thomas P. Grazulis as well as later publications from the U.S. Weather Bureau indicate that there were actually three separate tornadoes.[1][2] Two more deaths and a total of 50 injuries were reported by the Associated Press, which is cited by the National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Alabama.[3] This brings the total number of deaths to seven and the total number of injuries to 50 for this tornado.[5]
F4 Near York to near Livingston Sumter AL 16:30 18 mi (29 km) 400 yd (370 m)
11 deaths – A home was leveled on the southeastern edge of York, where a couple was killed. In Livingston, five people were killed in a single home. Two other homes were damaged or destroyed, and a person was killed in each. The tornado struck a train crossing the Sucarnoochee River, where it derailed 39 cars. The conductor of the train was killed, along with a fireman, and many others were injured. In total, the tornado killed 11 people, injured 63 others, and caused $220,000 (1945 USD) in damage.[1][5] This is one of three tornadoes marked by Grazulis that the United States Weather Bureau originally marked as a single tornado. The U.S. Weather Bureau documented that this long-track tornado killed 40 people and injured 200 others.[6] Modern research by Thomas P. Grazulis as well as later publications from the U.S. Weather Bureau indicate that there were actually three separate tornadoes.[1][2]
F3 SW of Montgomery to Chisholm Montgomery AL 17:22 13 mi (21 km) 350 yd (320 m)
26 deaths – See section on this tornado – 293 people were injured.[1][7]
F2 W of Union Springs to Thompson Bullock AL 18:00 8 mi (13 km) 100 yd (91 m)
Four homes were destroyed in Thompson and four others were damaged. Nine people were injured.[1][5]
F3 E of Tuskegee Macon AL 18:30 0.5 mi (0.80 km) 120 yd (110 m)
This brief intense tornado struck a cluster of five small homes, destroying all of them and leaving two people injured.[1][5]
F2 S of Opelika Lee AL 19:30 0.5 mi (0.80 km) 125 yd (114 m)
The tornado destroyed two barns and four other buildings, and injured one person.[1][5]
F3 SE of Stanton Chilton AL 19:45 1 mi (1.6 km) 100 yd (91 m)
1 death – A large house and a barn were destroyed southeast of Stanton. One person was killed and eight others were injured.[1][5]
F2 Shades Mountain Jefferson AL 22:05 0.5 mi (0.80 km) 120 yd (110 m)
Seven buildings were destroyed, six were damaged, and one person was injured. A roof from one of the buildings was carried over 1 mile (1.6 km).[1][5]

Montgomery–Chisholm, Alabama[edit]

Montgomery–Chisholm, Alabama
A map of the Montgomery, Alabama tornado by F. C. Pate, who worked for the U.S. Weather Bureau office in Montgomery, Alabama.
Meteorological history
FormedFebruary 12, 1945, 4:22 p.m. CST
F3 tornado
on the Fujita scale
Overall effects
Fatalities26
Injuries293
Damage$1.7 million (1945 USD)

The tornado started 5 miles (8.0 km) southwest of Montgomery, Alabama and moved northeast, towards Montgomery where it would brush the western edge. The tornado leveled two government or U.S. army warehouses.[3] A freight train was also struck, where 50 cars "were ripped and tossed about like match boxes".[3] Maxwell Air Force Base was plunged into hours of darkness from a blackout caused by the tornado, which passed extremely close to the base.[3] After hitting Montgomery, the tornado struck Chisholm, Alabama, where it caused catastrophic damage. Thirty homes were completely swept away in Chisholm.[8] All the fatalities from this tornado occurred in 15 homes within a 20-block radius. Over 100 homes were completely destroyed by the tornado. In total, the tornado killed 26 people, injured 293 others, and caused $1.7 million (1945 USD) in damage along its 13 miles (21 km) path.[1][2][5][9]

Grazulis has indicated the maximum width of this tornado was 100 yards (91 m).[1] The United States Weather Bureau, in contrast, reported that the tornado was a uniform width of 100 yards (0.091 km) except near Union Station, where it momentarily grew to its peak width of 350 yards (320 m).[2] This is one of three tornadoes marked by Grazulis that the United States Weather Bureau originally marked as a single tornado. The U.S. Weather Bureau documented that this long-track tornado killed 40 people and injured 200 others.[6] Modern research by Grazulis as well as a later publication from the U.S. Weather Bureau indicate that there were actually three separate tornadoes.[1][2][9] The Tornado Project, headed by Grazulis, would later list this set of storms as one of the “worst tornadoes” in the history of Alabama.[10]

The entire city of Montgomery lost power for several hours following the tornado. Chauncey Sparks, then governor of Alabama, ordered three companies from the Alabama National Guard to the state capital to prevent looting.[3] As news of the tornado’s impact on Montgomery and Chisholm spread, curiosity set in as residents attempted to travel to the affected areas “by the thousands”, causing traffic congestion and blocking the roads.[3] Military police from Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Field, along with local law enforcement, eventually cleared the streets of onlookers.[3] Cadets from both military bases were sent to clear away the debris while organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army cared for those who were injured or left homeless by the tornado.[3]

F. C. Pate, a forecaster at the United States Weather Bureau office in Montgomery, Alabama, undertook an extensive assessment on this tornado between 1945–1946.[2] During this assessment, Pate called this tornado "the most officially observed one in history", as it passed 2 miles (3.2 km) away from four different government weather stations, including the U.S. Weather Bureau office in Montgomery.[2] U.S. Weather Bureau meteorologist E. D. Emigh stated that he watched the tornado from his downtown observatory.[11] The forward speed of the tornado was determined to have been 49 miles per hour (79 km/h) by the Maxwell Field radar, which was one of the government weather stations that was passed by the tornado.[2] The radar also determined the height of the tornado to be 4,000 feet (1,200 m).[2] The storm which produced the tornado was dry, with no documentable precipitation.[2] It was noted that as the tornado dissipated, a rain shaft formed in place of the tornado, which dropped 0.3 inches (0.76 cm) of rain.[2]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ All dates are based on the local time zone where the tornado touched down; however, all times are in Coordinated Universal Time for consistency.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant tornadoes, 1680–1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, Vermont: Environmental Films. pp. 922–925. ISBN 1-879362-03-1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n F. C. Pate (United States Weather Bureau) (October 1946). "The Tornado at Montgomery, Alabama, February 12, 1945". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. American Meteorological Society. 27 (8): 462–464. JSTOR 26257954. Retrieved 27 May 2023.
  3. ^ Urbanowicz, Aubrey (2 June 2022). "Local Tornado History". WHSV-TV. Archived from the original on 14 August 2023. Retrieved 14 August 2023. Official National Weather Service records of tornadoes started in 1950...
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Alabama Tornadoes 1945". National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Birmingham, Alabama. Archived from the original on 31 May 2023. Retrieved 31 May 2023.
  5. ^ a b c Mary O. Souder (February 1945). "Severe Local Storms, February 1945". Monthly Weather Review. United States Weather Bureau. 73 (2): 36. Bibcode:1945MWRv...73...36.. doi:10.1175/1520-0493(1945)073<0036:SLSF>2.0.CO;2. ISSN 1520-0493.
  6. ^ WAKA Action 8 News (2 December 2022). "Meteorologist Rich Thomas Says Tornado Deaths in Montgomery County Are Rare". WAKA. Archived from the original on 29 June 2023. Retrieved 29 June 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Thomas, Rich (12 February 2017). "Tornado Disaster Anniversary – Montgomery's Worst Day" (News article). Weather Network. Bluewater Broadcasting. Archived from the original on 31 December 2023. Retrieved 31 December 2023.
  8. ^ "The United States' Worst Tornadoes". The Tornado Project. Archived from the original on 29 June 2023. Retrieved 29 June 2023.
  9. ^ "Tornado Sweeps Western End of Montgomery, Ala". ProQuest. The Washington Post. 13 February 1945. ProQuest 151790476. Retrieved 31 May 2023.