***Updated 5-8-11, 2:30 pm (updated / added track maps).
The violent, extremely damaging tornado that struck the Western and Northern parts of Birmingham, AL on Wednesday, April 27th first hit the Tuscaloosa area to the Southwest. In total, the severe storm responsible for the tornado (or tornadoes) traveled some 350 miles (see image below), from east-central Mississippi across the entire width of Alabama, into northwest Georgia before ending in southwestern North Carolina. Based on radar data, it appears that one or more tornadoes were on the ground for most of the 350 mile path.
National Center for Atmospheric Research
The NWS Storm Survey has declared that the tornado that tracked through the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham areas was "high end EF-4" intensity. That would equate to winds of approximately 190 mph.
The following are detailed track maps from the official NWS Survey, regarding the Birmingham portion of the tornado track (click to enlarge):
Wide view of Birmingham Area Track
Close-up of Birmingham Area Track
End of Track, NNE of Birgmingham. Note the damage path
is 1.5 miles wide across I-65, to the NW of the airport.
The colored triangles along the path refer to specific EF-intensity damage categories: Blue = EF-0, Green = EF-1, Yellow = EF-2, Gold/Brown = EF=3, Red = EF-4. In total, this particular tornado was on the ground for 80.3 miles, according to the survey results.
Below are some images from various media tower cameras around Birmingham that captured the massive tornado as it moved across the city:
The red line across the base of the tornado in the 2nd image was the on air meteorologist's attempt to estimate the width of the tornado at that point in time. His estimate: nearly 1 mile!
Below is a video of the tornado as it was passing through northwest Birmingham:
The National Weather Service and related agencies are still undertaking storm surveys at this time, and detailed mapping / intensity information is not yet available. Please check back to this post over the coming days as additional information, photos and videos will be posted as updates and other new information are received.
One of the hardest hit areas so far seems to be the Pratt City area of Northwest Birmingham. Some of the damage photos from that particular area are below:
This has been a truly tragic event for Birmingham and much of Northern Alabama. Please continue to keep these folks in your prayers. If you can't help directly, please consider making a donation to a reputable charity that you know is working to help folks in this region.
Please feel free to bookmark this post and check back as updates will be frequent over the next few days. I will be adding photos & video of both the tornado and the resulting damage, as well as track & intensity maps and detailed radar imagery of the entire event.
You can see a detailed posting on the Tuscaloosa area tornado & damage here.