The 1989 and 2010 Huntsville, Alabama Tornadoes: Societal Impacts and Warning Operations
Lee, Jennifer L; Scotten, Kristin ; Betancourt-Negron, Angelica

Huntsville, Alabama is located within a region of the United States typically referred to as the Tennessee Valley and somewhat far removed from the traditional Tornado Alley of the central and southern Plains. However, recent studies indicate that residents of the lower Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi River Valleys are particularly vulnerable to deadly tornadoes. North Alabama, including the city of Huntsville, has seen multiple strong to violent tornadoes over the past few decades; two of which will be discussed in detail in this study. While the synoptic and mesoscale meteorology of these two tornadoes were quite different, they shared similar spatial and temporal characteristics.

On 15 November 1989, a large F4 tornado tracked through south Huntsville with little to no advance warning near the onset of the evening rush hour. There were a total of 21 fatalities and 463 injuries. On 21 January 2010, an EF2 tornado moved through downtown Huntsville during peak evening rush hour. Fortunately, with the 2010 case there were no fatalities and only three injuries.

The decisions made by the National Weather Service, the emergency management community, and other first responders during these two events will be discussed, including the response to these decisions by the general public. While the decision support services provided by NWS Huntsville are important, the resulting action taken by the public is just as crucial. A further investigation into these public actions along with other societal impacts pertaining to the two tornado events will be discussed. It is the hope that the present research will enhance future National Weather Service decision support services, leading to improved public awareness and reaction to such life threatening weather events.