Some rather distressing news came in Friday night after a complex of thunderstorms plowed through the area, producing swaths of straight-line wind damage. There was a fatality in West Point, Georgia - a baby killed by a falling tree inside a house. I can't recall a storm fatality in my 27 years here that wasn't associated with a tornado or a lightning strike. This was a fluke of an extreme nature, and serves as a reminder that a severe thunderstorm - especially here in Georgia where we have a lot of tall pines - can be just as dangerous as a tornado. It doesn't take a tornadic wind to topple a tree, or even a gust that meets severe criteria. We tell people that you should go indoors when a thunderstorm approaches; that you'll be safe inside. But there's always that freak occurrence that turns out like it did in West Point. I can't say much more than that without knowing more about the house, tree, wind gusts that resulted in this unfortunate death. But think of this next time a severe thunderstorm blows through - do what you can to get out of harm's way.
Storm complexes like the one we had Friday night happen here every year, even after our "tornado season" has passed. Abnormally hot summer days give otherwise ordinary thunderstorms a little extra punch, and a "pulse" storm can produce a sudden straight-line downburst, or in this case, a MCS (storm complex) can rumble for hours with a damage threat along much of its path.
No one should be surprised by these summer storms. I got back in town from vacation late Thursday, and caught Bob Jeswald on News3 talking about the possibility of this happening already THURSDAY EVENING. What Bob explained pretty much nailed it on the head as well as a forecast could expect to. I followed up on this Friday morning and again at noon with the latest data. It was clear the atmosphere was quite volatile by midday, just a question of when and where things would begin to pop. West Point would up getting the full brunt of the storms, and part of the city of Columbus had enough wind and lightning to knock out power in spots (where I am in north Columbus we had very little wind and some rain, but not a lot of either).
The simple slogan goes, "when thunder roars, go indoors"! We'll have more storms over the next few months, and I would urge everyone to keep that in mind. Sometimes the storm won't even be severe, and in some cases there won't be a warning, especially when a storm is in its early - most dangerous - stage. Just head inside and note where the wind's blowing from and where the trees are, then wait in a well protected spot until the storm passes. There's no reason we should have any more news headlines about folks getting killed by thunderstorm winds. It had been years, and I hope I don't hear about another one here in the Chattahoochee Valley this summer. Listen to your local forecasters and plan ahead so you can be safe!
Kurt Schmitz, Senior Meteorologist