2018 Southeast USA Tornado Family and Birmingham Twins

The EF5 of the Birmingham twins as it approached the city.
Date May 3, 2018
Times 214151Z - 000325Z (2hrs, 21m, 34s)
Touchdown location 214151Z
Maximum winds Estimated 220 MPH
Injuries +4,000
Fatalities 274
Damage ~$13 Billion USD
Areas affected Tuscaloosa-Jefferson-St.Claire-Etowah-Cherokee Counties, AL

Floyd County, GA

Part of the
Tornadoes of 2018 (Wolf)
2018 Southeast USA Tornado Family and Birmingham Twins

The EF4 as it touched down in Tuscaloosa
Date May 3, 2018
Times 220531Z-234611Z (1hr, 40m, 40s)
Touchdown location 220531Z
Maximum winds Estimated 190 MPH
Injuries +2,500
Fatalities 89
Damage $5.1 Billion USD
Areas affected Tuscaloosa-Jefferson-St.Claire Counties, AL
Part of the
Tornadoes of 2018 (Wolf)

Part of the May 1-12, 2018 Tornado Outbreak Sequence and the May 1-4, 2018 Super Outbreak, these twin tornadoes tore a combined path length of 298 miles, killing 363, and causing ≈$18 Billion USD in damages. These two storms were part of a Tornado Family that produced 7 EF3s, 2 EF4s, and one EF5, including the Birmingham Twins of course, that claimed a total of 451 lives and a combined total of $19.77 Billion USD in damages.

Meteorological Synopsis

Into the early hours of May 3rd, a powerful MCS raced across the southeast, dropping numerous tornadoes long its path. Most of these were weak, with an EF1 knocking over some trees, killing one person who was sleeping. As a result of this fast moving and powerful MCS, instability was significantly down from yesterday. However, a new surge of warm, moist air from the gulf formed a dense warmfront that collided with the outflow, stationary, and convergence boundaries left by yesterday's and this morning's storms. This resulted in explosive develepment as early as 1500Z, though most of these tornadoes were weak to strong, with the main event not taking place until about noon.

Unlike the morning before, where CAPE had been in excess of 5000 J/kg, it was now well below 2500 J/kg (≈1000 J/kg). This caused a significant lull in tornadic activity that would last until noon. This wasn't to say that it would stop entirely during that period. Helicity of >600m²/s² as a result of 70° intersection between a strong S-N gulf inflow jet and deep, negatively tilted and stretched trough (with core winds of 200 MPH) over much of the HIGH risk area kept things somewhat active while instability was down. A very deep upper-level low and weaker shortwave had stretched the end of the trough into a strong upperlevel SW wind, allowing explosive growth in updrafts with extreme blowoff. This kink in the trough intersected the moist inflow jet at 90°, generating significant spin in the atmosphere. In fact this was much greater than the day before, who's absurd levels of CAPE more than made up for that difference.

Storm Track and Development

Woodworth EF3

At around 1700Z, storms exploded over the AR, MS, and LA area. To the SE of DeRidder, LA, several small cells blew up off of a convergence boundary. These cells quickly merged into a massive Supercell moving at 70 MPH. 15 minutes later, the storm was severe warned for large, damaging hail and damaging winds. At 1741Z, the storm dropped its first tornado to the S of Alexandria, LA. This tornado quickly became violent and tracked straight through the town of Woodworth, killing 7. Structures here suffered extensive damage, and two were swept away. However both homes that were swept away weren't properly secured to their foundations and slid off of them as a result, and due to the shift and lack of support, both houses collapsed under the stresses of the winds acting upon them, their debris scattering across the area. Damage here was rated High-end EF3.

Chambers-Latanier-Center Point-Larto-New Era EF3

This tornado continued ENE at 70 MPH, tearing through the town of Chambers, LA,  destroying a few building and damaging others on the LSUA campus. Damage here was rated at mid to high EF3. 2 students died on campus as a result of the building collapses. Soon after, the tornado lifted about 5 miles to the east of the school, just barely missing the small town of Latanier, LA. Almost immediately afterwards, a new ropy, yet powerful tornado descends. Due to its narrow base and power, the tornado greatly scoured the ground as it moved ENE at 72 MPH. It obliterated one house, killing 3, before racing off into the open, passing south of Center Point, LA, and destroying a house on state road 107. It continued moving ENE at around 70 MPH for several minutes afterwards, sweeping away a shed and lifting in an open field shortly before Larto and New Era, LA at 1801Z. This tornado was rated High-end EF3 as well.

Union Church EF3

The storm would then cycle a few more times, failing at tornado genesis 4 times before dropping another powerful EF3 right on top of Union Church, MS. One house here suffered severe roof damage, while another house and the post office were both destroyed, killing 1. From here the tornado would cease to do anymore damage other than rip up and toss trees as it tore NNE through the country side. After crossing State Route 547, the tornado would continue until dissipation along Barlow Rd in Copiah County, MS at 1917Z.

Hazlehurst EF3/Harrisville-Puckett-Newton EF3

Almost immediately after dissipation, another tornado touched down at 1920Z and began paralleling Copiah County road 28, destroying a few houses and uprooting trees. As it traveled ENE, it crossed 28 and passed through a small subdivision of Hazlehurst, destroying several houses and killing five. The storm continued along, passing through the Hazlehurst shopping district, destroying a Walmart Supercenter in the process, trapping dozens and killing 21. From there it demolished a Tractor Supply Co. building, and destroyed a McDonald's, killing 1. From there it went on kill 4 more as it passed through a neighborhood in northern Hazlehurst. After terrorizing the town the tornado continued along, and it was at 1934Z that the storm's terrifying nature was now out there for all to see. A second EF3 touched down as the Hazlehurst Tornado continued along. Due to this display of Incomplete Cycling, an alert was immediately put out to warn residents of the dangerous storm. At 1940Z the two twisters passed a just a mile to the south of the town of Harrisville, though the town would get hit by an EF5 mere minutes later.

Harrisville-Puckett-Newton EF3 as it engulfed the Town of Puckett, killing 11.

As they continued along, the paths of the two sister tornadoes grew closer until at 1945Z a storm spotter had reported that the Hazlehurst tornado had lifted. At the same time, the younger EF3 would grow to be at least a mile wide. Just as it did, a Tornado Emergency was issued for the town of Puckett. As it approached the town, the presence of horizontal vortexes and twirling about the edges of the funnel indicated to storm spotters that the storm had become violent, and it had begun to become rainwrapped. In a matter of seconds the town of Puckett was swallowed by the storm. While damage in Puckett was extensive, with plausible EF4 winds, structures in the town where most of the extreme damage was present were old a very poorly constructed.

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