Tornadoes Devastate the Southeastern United States

Landsat satellite data illustrate the tremendous damage done by recent tornadoes which touched the ground in the southeastern United States recently.

In a Landsat image acquired on May 4, 2011, at least five tornado tracks can be seen from the late April storm. The large track through the middle of the scene is the result of a severe tornado that stayed on the ground longer than any other tornado in this outbreak.Referred to as the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham, Alabama tornado, it stayed on the ground for over 80 miles, was over 1.5 miles wide in some places, and was responsible for at least 65 fatalities. 

The Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale is used to determine tornado severity. The large tornado track was caused by an EF-5 tornado, indicating that winds were at least 200 mph, which is capable of totally destroying buildings. Smaller tracks in the southwest portion of the image were caused by EF-3s (winds up to 165 mph and causing severe damage), and the tornado tracks on the east of the image were caused by EF-4s (winds up to 200 mph and causing extreme damage).

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011