Worrisome Observations: Harris County GA Tornado on November 16 2011

While reading this article Harris County High School teacher Austin Shepherd hailed as ‘hero’ for helping students to shelter as tornado sweeps through Hamilton, I see some troubling facts. From the article:

A tornado that swept through Hamilton, Ga., left teachers little time to react Wednesday. But when the power went out and the panels started peeling off the workshop at Harris County High School, Austin Shepherd sprang into action.

When the winds finally calmed, Harris County Schools Superintendent Craig G. Dowling credited faculty for helping students reach safe shelter in the school’s hallway, and he had particular praise for Shepherd, a teacher of 20 years who grabbed hold of a few students who appeared to be in harm’s way.

What I find troubling is the fact this teacher and students were not already in a safe place. The storm that caused this tornado was ‘warned’ at approximately 1:11 PM Nov 16th 2011. Also in the article is mention that the storm hit the school during the “fourth block shop class”:

Shepherd, 51, had just taken roll in his fourth block shop class when students noticed a drastic change in the weather.

The winds shifted and the rain began blowing sideways.

“We didn’t really have a lot of warning,” Shepherd said.

What time that was, I have no idea. Do you know what time ‘fourth block shop class’ started ?

Also included with this article at the link above, is a video. In this video Dr. Craig G. Dowling, Superintendent Harris County Schools said this ..I quote;

“Well we were monitoring the weather all afternoon, and as soon as things here started to get really bad, I had one teacher just tell me they, worked with split second precision, and Instantly within just a few seconds students were in the hall and positioned for a tornado drill.”

Again, I dont know what time this was, but from the interview I would say it was a little late in getting the students in a safe place. Once the “things here started to get really bad” the storm or tornado was there. The tornado warning was put out for Harris County at 1:11 PM Nov 16th 2011. The students and everyone should have already been in a safe place long before the weather got bad.

This storm / tornado began in the Auburn Opelika area, went across Lake Harding, and continued on through Hamilton. “The National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, Ga., said the storm first hit Auburn, Ala., shortly after 1 p.m. EST and struck Hamilton an hour later.” [LINK – ledger-enquirer]

“Student Ivy Martin says just before 2:00, “The power went out and all of a sudden you heard the wind like a train literally coming down from the football field.”
Principal Roger Couch praised the response of the students and faculty. “They responded quickly. The students got where they needed to be before, and I mean right before things started crashing.”” [LINK – WRBL News 3

“The National Weather Service confirms that damages from Wednesdays storm surge was done by one tornado, a continuous path from Notalsulga, AL to Shiloh, GA. Initial estimates show the storm may have been more than 50 miles long. Tornadoes are rated on the Enhanced Fujita scale, with 0 being the weakest and 5 being the strongest.
While Lee County experienced damage from an EF-0 to an EF-1 tornado the damage was more extensive in Harris County, GA. NWS says Harris County was hit by an EF-2 storm, since the tornado made its way across a river.” [LINK – WTVM]

The warning was issued at 1:11 PM Nov 16th 2011. It appears the storm hit just before 2 PM. The Staff at Harris County High School had at least 40 minutes to put a plan into action and get the students in a safe place. It appears from what I can discern from above, that didn’t happen. WHY ?

Here are some facts about this storm:

Time: 2011-11-16 18:35 UTC
Event: 2 TORNADO
Source: nws storm survey
Remark: a nws damage assessment team determined than an ef-2 tornado with maximum winds of 125 mph originated in alabama and moved into harris county. the tornado crossed the state line around 135 pm est over lake harding and tracked east northeast into northern parts of hamilton then lifted just east of the harris/talbot county line near the town of shiloh. the total path was 26 miles. two structures were destroyed while 30 structures were damaged…including the school complex.

———–

000
NOUS42 KFFC 172020
PNSFFC

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PEACHTREE CITY GA
320 PM EST THU NOV 17 2011

…PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT…

…EF-2 TORNADO IN HARRIS COUNTY…

EVENT DATE: NOVEMBER 16 2011
ESTIMATED START TIME: 135 PM EST
EVENT TYPE: EF-2 TORNADO
ESTIMATED PEAK WINDS (MPH): 125
EVENT START LOCATION (IN GEORGIA): 32.6970N/-85.1173W
EVENT END LOCATION: 32.8232N/-84.6920W
DAMAGE PATH LENGTH (IN MILES): 26
DAMAGE WIDTH (IN MILES): 1/2 MILE
INJURIES: 2 MINOR INJURIES

A TORNADO ORIGINATING IN ALABAMA MOVED INTO WESTERN GEORGIA AND TRACKED ACROSS HARRIS COUNTY. THE TORNADO ENDED AT THE HARRIS/TALBOT COUNTY LINE NEAR THE TOWN OF SHILOH. TWO STRUCTURES WERE DESTROYED WHILE 30 STRUCTURES WERE DAMAGED…INCLUDING THE HARRIS COUNTY SCHOOL COMPLEX WHICH CONTAINS AN ELEMENTARY…MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL AS WELL AS THE 911 CENTER AND AN ANIMAL SHELTER. HUNDREDS OF TREES WERE ALSO SNAPPED OR UPROOTED.

$$

If anyone has any information to add, feel free in the comments section below.

Here are some of my tweets @CataulaGaWX during this situation:

Tornado Warning for Harris and Troup County in GA until 2:00pm EST. #gawx
1:11 PM Nov 16th via TweetDeck

Harris County GA take shelter NOW. #gawx
1:22 PM Nov 16th via TweetDeck

TORNADO WARNING for Harris CO and Troup CO GA #gawx
1:24 PM Nov 16th via TweetDeck

Harris Co, GA and the town of Hamilton GA are next in line for this supercell. Take cover NOW #gawx
1:26 PM Nov 16th via TweetDeck

Tornado Warned storms heading for Russell Co Al may continue into GA stay aware #gawx #alwx
1:33 PM Nov 16th via TweetDeck

TORNADO WARNING FOR…NORTHEASTERN HARRIS COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA SOUTHEASTERN MERIWETHER COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA NORTHERN TALBOT COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA WESTERN UPSON COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA* UNTIL 230 PM EST
1:54 PM Nov 16th via TweetDeck ·

wtvmweather Tornado Warning for Harris, Meriwether, Talbot, Upson [GA] till 2:30 PM EST
1:57 PM Nov 16th via HootSuite Retweeted by CataulaGaWX

Damage reports coming in from Harris County. 911 call center reports damage and Harris county high school reports minor damage. #gawx
2:16 PM Nov 16th via TweetDeck

wtvmweather NWS cancels Tornado Warning for Harris [GA].
2:17 PM Nov 16th via HootSuite Retweeted by CataulaGaWX

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