Saturday, August 11, 2007


The weather experts were in town yesterday examining the damage (image credit) to declare if indeed a tornado went through here two days ago. In my meteorlogically naive mind, I thought it was self evident. I mean, there's wind and rain, and what looks like tornado damage. If it walks like a tornado and talks like a tornado, isn't it a tornado?

I guess not. In today's local paper, the official ruling is that what happened on Thursday is called a microburst. Huh? To me, that sounds like some like of science fiction term where Martians fly down, blow up your supermarket and gas station, and then leave.
“We were lucky,” Salem police Chief Robert Floor said after a Friday press conference on the storm damage at Eastgate Plaza.

“Yes, you were,” said Richard Kane of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Kane, a meteorologist based in Pittsburgh, was in Salem to advise city officials and the media that Thursday’s storm damage was not caused by a tornado but an 85 mile-per-hour microburst. Kane placed the event at 1:15 p.m.
Of course, being a skeptic on this, I did my own research on this. Don't get too excited. It was just a couple of Google searches. I did find some interesting information - at least for my education.

According to, here is the definition of a tornado: A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending between, and in contact with, a cloud and the surface of the earth.

According to this article on the NOAA website, here is the definition of a microburst: A downburst is a strong downdraft which induces an outburst of damaging winds on or near the ground. Damaging winds, either straight or curved, are highly divergent. There are some interesting illustrations here.

Fortunately, there were no fatalities (there were rumors to the contrary) and there were no serious injuries -- just minor cuts and abrasions from flying glass and debris. Life is pretty much back to normal now.

The people around here (including me) will be trading "Where were you when it happened?" stories for a long time. Stuff like this never happens around here. Here's my favorite quote from the article.
No one was sucked out the door [of a local business during the microburst], the spokesperson said debunking a rumor, but a customer’s money was.
How funny is that? When I read that quote, I couldn't help but think of the 1996 movie called Twister with Helen Hunt (Ah... Helen Hunt...) and that what's his name guy. I remember seeing farm equipment and even animals being drawn up into the special effects tornados. Cool stuff - especially for 1996. Here's the trailer.


make mine trauma said...

Hmmm, calling it a micro burst doesn't make it any more pleasant. The only time I ever heard tornado warning sirens was during a summer visit to my Grandmother outside of Cleveland. That is the spookiest, eeriest sound and feel (the sky has that greenish tinge to it, no birds, crickets, dogs etc. making a sound) I've ever encountered. Y'all may keep it! I don't know why Oklahoma and tornado alley aren't totally unihabited!

Anonymous said...

Microburst ... wow! Those can be pretty devastating, and often cause a lot of damage. They seem to be getting more frequent too - or at least, they're getting more press. I think it was PK who had one hit her town last year ...

Glad you're OK, Dr. A! Hopefully you won't ever have to deal with that again!

twilite said...

Hi Dr A. Thanks for informative post...a microburst! I like the no one hurt but money flying around though. Have a good day!