March 25, 2021, will be remembered as a tragic day across Alabama: one of high-impact, exceptionally long-tracked tornadoes resulting in 5 lives lost and an estimated excess of 9,000 properties damaged.
As projected by the National Weather Service, severe thunderstorms began by midday and became tornadic relatively quickly as they tracked rapidly northeastward through the central part of Alabama. Suburban communities on the southern outskirts of Birmingham were especially hard hit, as well as farther south in and around the towns of Brent, Centreville, Calera and Columbiana. Northeast of Birmingham, the small town of Ohatchee sustained considerable damage; sadly, several fatalities occurred here as well. The same weather system continued into Georgia, brushing past the cities of Rome, Lindale, and Cartersville, along a path that could surpass 50 miles.
By sunset on March 25, Alabama had endured several significant tornadoes; when combined, the paths of these tornadoes may exceed 200 miles in length. Of particular interest, what may have been one single tornado tracked all the way from near Forkland to the Wilsonville area, spanning a distance of over 80 miles. Ground-level damage surveys by the National Weather Service will reveal the full extent at a later date.
However, the day was far from over, as more supercell thunderstorms erupted after darkness had fallen and produced yet another round of long-tracked tornadoes. These tornadoes remained primarily over mostly rural areas, until, unfortunately, they crossed into Georgia where the city of Newnan (population roughly 40,000) took a direct hit from a large tornado at around midnight local time. Figure 1 shows the path of the tornado.
Meteorologists had anticipated a more widespread event for March 25, focused over much of Mississippi and southern Tennessee in addition to Alabama. Quite fortunately, the atmospheric conditions necessary for a more widespread outbreak did not materialize over the western, higher risk area as storms struggled to become organized as they fired over the Mississippi Delta.
Immediate remote reconnaissance from CoreLogic enables a quick snapshot of the location affected. More than 20,000 homes were in the immediate area of the tornado touchdowns, but only a fraction of these homes is expected to have received damage.
As a home’s location nears the path of the tornado, its likelihood of damage increases. Of the homes in the immediate area around the tornado touchdowns, roughly 11,098 had a 50% or greater probability of damage. CoreLogic estimates that approximately 9,344 homes were likely impacted by the entire weather system of tornadoes that occurred across Alabama and Georgia on March 25.
The concentration of high-impact tornadic events in Alabama remind us that the climate presents significant uncertainty and risk to our populace, and preparation involves active monitoring in advance and prompt response and recovery following an event. CoreLogic remains dedicated to providing leading solutions to support community resilience from natural disasters.
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