For the second time in 2021 Madison County was hit by a tornado last month. As the remnants of tropical storm Fred moved north along the border of Alabama and Georgia from the panhandle of Florida, this put our area in the "right-front quadrant," which is normally the most active part of a tropical system.
The storms that produced the tornado in Madison County began forming between Lexington and Rayle in eastern Oglethorpe County around 7:30 a.m. The storms began to strengthen as they moved steadily northwestward at about 40 mph. Rotation began showing in the storm soon after it crossed into Madison County and a tornado warning quickly went up. The tornado first touched down near Rogers Mill in the central part of the county at 8:20 am and stayed on the ground for only nine minutes, covering nearly six miles in that span. The twister lifted back into the clouds just after passing over Highway 98 near Jot-em-Down Road.
The strongest winds occurred in the area between Rogers Mill Road and Highway 106 just south of Ila. Overall, hundreds of trees were snapped or uprooted along its path and numerous homes and outbuildings were damaged. Thankfully, just like the tornado in May, there were no reported injuries and no fatalities. This tornado was classified as an EF-1 on the Fujita scale with winds estimated at 100 mph.
This tornado was a little stronger than the one in May, but was only measured to be 150 yards wide compared to 250 yards wide in the one in May. The Madison County storm was one of seven confirmed tornadoes in the state from the remnants of Fred.
It reminded me very much of the tornado that hit the Madison County Senior Center and Library on Highway 98 on September 16, 2004. That tornado was from the remnants of Ivan, a powerful hurricane that devastated portions of the Gulf Coast and created havoc well into the southern Appalachians. At least 80 homes were damaged in Madison County in that tornado. It too moved from southeast to northwest around the circulation of Ivan. Ivan produced an incredible 120 tornadoes across the eastern U.S., and famously made a loop out into the Atlantic and came back to hit the U.S. again near Miami.
The very active tropical season in the Atlantic continues to be the major news for us, and it doesn't show signs of stopping any time soon. As of this writing, tropical storm Nicholas has formed in the southern Gulf of Mexico as the 14th named storm of the season. It is expected to hit the Texas coast this week and slow down, possibly bringing more flooding to Houston, a city very familiar with slow-moving storms (remember Harvey). Oddly, the typhoon season in the western Pacific set a record with zero named storms in the month of August, which has never been recorded since 1944. Even though that area is coming to life now with a typhoon near the Chinese coast, world-wide tropical activity (as measured by the ACE index) is actually a little below normal for the time of year. The big question is: how many more storms will there be and will they affect the U.S.?
Weather averages for August, 2021: Avg. low: 69. Avg. high: 87. Lowest: 63. Highest: 93. Mean: 78.0 (-0.7). Rainfall: 4.79" (+0.79") 2021 rain total to August 31: 38.28" (+5.10"). Our fifth straight month with below average temperatures.
Mark Jenkins is Madison County’s cooperative weather observer.