WHVE’s weatherperson extraordinaire Daniel Wilson looks over a magazine label that apparently blew into the area from Tennessee during the tornado outbreak last week. Wilson has broadcast the weather on area radio for over 20 years.
In Feb. 14-20 issue
By Derek Aaron
Times Journal Reporter
Daniel Wilson, weather specialist at radio station WHVE -92.7 FM, known as "the Wave," said he believes last week's severe weather serves as a wake-up call to people in Russell County to be more aware when weather takes a turn for the worst. And he has the debris to prove it.
He said he was contacted by Alan Reed after the storm about some debris found on his and other's property northeast of Columbia.
Reed, who is president of Shoreline Communications which operates the radio station, and Wilson discovered some paper debris of a recipe, pages from a Bible and part of a check from Lafayette, Tenn. on the property. But that wasn't the only place items were found.
"We've documented (debris) from Breeding, Montpelier, Sano, Columbia, Webb's Crossroads and as far northeast as Thomas Ridge in Dunnville," Wilson said. "Some people have even found (church) song books and checks."
Wilson, who has covered weather in this area for more than 20 years, said most everybody that he has gotten any debris from had fatalities in their family, including one woman in Macon County, Tenn. whose magazine label was found in the debris. Her son-in-law was killed during the storms that swept through the south last Tuesday night.
Wilson said some of the debris traveled nearly 81 miles.
"That proves what we were saying during the storms as they were coming through," he said. "It proves that there was still circulation, that the tornado was there, it just didn't touch down (in Russell County)."
He noted how after the storm passed here the tornado did touch down in Madison County.
"Every place from Royville, Sano, Gentry Mill Road all up through Bottoms Road, Poplar Grove, Mount Olive and Webb's Crossroads; all that area there would have sustained a lot of damage if (the tornado) had touched down," he said.
Wilson called the tornado "severe" and said it reached an F3 on the Fujita scale, meaning its winds were in the 158-206 miles per hour range when measured at the ground.
In a F3 tornado, roofs and some walls can be torn off well constructed houses, the wind has enough strength to overturn a train and most trees in wooded areas will be uprooted.
"The unique thing about it was that we were, as far as being on the radio talking about it, following the intense circulation in the storm and the wind velocity scope as the storms passed through," he said. "There continued to be significant rotation all the way out of our area."
He said this was the second worst tornado occurrence since the 1974 tornado outbreak on April 3-4, 1974. On those days, 148 tornados touched down in 13 states, the worst in U.S. history. As the debris cleared from that storm, 330 people were killed and more than 5,000 injured in a path that covered around 2,500 miles.
At least 54 people have been confirmed dead in five southern states from the most recent severe storm, including Kentucky.
Dozens of tornados were reported as the storms engulfed Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama, even prompting two tornado warnings in Russell County a week ago last Tuesday night.
"My concern is, can we, as weather people, lessen that number (of dead)," he said. "The warnings were out and we were talking about it on the Wave on Sunday afternoon (Feb. 3) that the storm prediction center had said there was a moderate threat of severe weather and we followed that trend."
Wilson said he had a gut feeling as well as looking at the weather instruments that Feb. 5 was going to be a bad day.
"When you have temperatures in February of 71 degrees and dew points in the 60s, something has got to give somewhere," Wilson said.
He urged people to stay tuned to their weather sources as the spring months near, a time when the threat of severe weather rises.
"Be informed about what's happening and pay attention," he said. "It doesn't mean you have to go to the cellar every time but when there is a significant risk of severe weather to have you NOAA weather radio, battery-operated AM/FM radio, flashlights, backup batteries, blankets and know where you need to go, wherever you are at."
Wilson said to develop a safe place inside your home and know where it is beforehand with the best place being a basement.
"Most of the fatalities in these places were in mobile homes where people thought they could ride it out," he said. "No matter how well you've anchored your mobile home they are volatile to storms and even strong straight-line winds can be a problem to mobile homes."
He also said to never try and outrun tornados in a vehicle and to leave NOAA weather radios on all the time.
"There is a reason for it to go off to start with and it could help save your life," Wilson said.
Wilson said when he began covering weather for 104.9 FM WJRS more than two decades ago all that he had was a teletype and text data. With the advent of new technology, it makes it much easier to deliver the weather to the listener, he said.
He called the late Welby Hoover, founder of WJRS in Russell Springs, a mentor to him and a deciding factor as to why he wanted to report the weather.
During the severe storms of 1974, Wilson was living in Gosser Ridge and heard Hoover broadcasting the severe weather on WJRS from his basement.
"I remember the static on the radio and I was amazed at how he did that," he said. "He will always be highly respected in my life."
Wilson said he learned from the best and is forever grateful to Hoover for allowing him to broadcast the weather on the air.
"You have to build up a knack for (weather) and enjoy it," Wilson said. "To be able to put everything in perspective for a layman's view is difficult but we have to adapt to doing it."