Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Tornado Chronicles: Harrisburg, IL Tornado of 2-29-12...

A violent tornado struck the city of Harrisburg, IL just before dawn this morning. Tragically, 6 people were killed and over 100 others were injured.

The local sheriff's office has reported that over 300 homes and 35 businesses were "destroyed" by the tornado.  

Take a look at this impressive photo of an unknown bank in Harrisburg:

If you look closely, you can see pock marks where bricks, 2x4's and other debris struck the building (from other buildings).  That's why I always say that flying debris is just as big of an enemy as the tornado itself.  This is another good reason to wear a crash helmet when you seek shelter, like our newly updated (for 2012) severe weather sheltering tips suggest.

A media report indicated that cancelled checks from the "Bank of Harrisburg" were found 70 miles to the East in Darmstadt, Indiana (which is on the North side of Evansville).  I'm not sure if the above bank is the one in question, but wouldn't be surprised if it were...

Following are additional photos that are coming in, all of which are striking as to the magnitude of the damage:

The National Weather Service (NWS) is still in the process of completing its survey, but based on preliminary data they have rated the tornado at EF-4 intensity.  They estimate that the tornado touched down at 4:56 am CST, had a maximum width of 250 yards and estimated peak winds of 180 mph.  So far, the track extends from 1 mile North of Carrier Mills to 2 miles East of Harrisburg (on Highway 13).  This is the point at which the survey team stopped yesterday.  They will resume their work today and we'll know the remainder of the extent of the track soon.  The image below shows an approximation of the track as it has been determined so far.  Harrisburg is the urban-looking area in the upper right quadrant of the image (click to enlarge):

It is very rare for an EF-4 tornado to strike in February (leap-year or not).  In fact, the last time an EF-4 (then termed F-4) tornado took place in Illinois in February was back on February 10, 1959 (in Madison County).  Before that, an F-4 was observed on February 25, 1956 (in St. Clair County).  The only other F-4 to occur in February in Illinois was way back on February 19, 1888 (in Jefferson County)!

Although the loss of 6 lives is tragic, I am amazed that the death toll wasn't higher based on the damage photos that we are seeing, not to mention the time of day in which this event took place.

This is an "evolving" post and is very fluid as new updates and information come in.  Please bookmark it and check back frequently for updates...

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