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Breakdown: Why you can’t let your guard down from severe weather during the holidays

On November 27, 1994, 18 tornadoes were confirmed across parts of the South that Thanksgiving weekend.
Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 10:12 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Historically, the height of severe weather is March through May.

However, a secondary severe weather season usually happens in the fall, specifically late October and November.

As you can see in the graph below, there is a pronounced increase in tornadoes in the month of November for the Mid-South.

Tornadoes by month for the Mid-South area
Tornadoes by month for the Mid-South area(NWS / MSU)

Just like spring, the Mid-South experiences surges of warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico that sometimes meet up with the increasingly stronger cold fronts and jet stream winds that typically sweep across the country this time of year.

When this mix of ingredients comes together it can spin up organized severe thunderstorms that produce damaging winds, large hail and tornadoes.

November 27, 1994:

On November 27, 1994, 18 tornadoes were confirmed across parts of the South that Thanksgiving weekend.

red=tornadoes, blue=damaging wind, green=large hail
red=tornadoes, blue=damaging wind, green=large hail(SPC)

Four were given an F3 rating, including one that hit parts of Shelby County and caused tremendous damage to the Germantown area.

Meteorologists at WMC have kept a daily record of Memphis’ weather over the past 50 years.

Pictured here is hand-drawn map of the weather set up from Nov 27, 1994 from then Action News 5 forecaster Bob McLain.

Pictured is hand-drawn weather map of the set up from Nov 27, 1994 from Action News 5...
Pictured is hand-drawn weather map of the set up from Nov 27, 1994 from Action News 5 forecaster Bob McLain(WMC)

Below is a tweet (from 2020) from the National Weather Service in Memphis regarding that day.

Action News 5′s Joyce Peterson recalls her experience from that day, and the sky being “an odd, eerie shade of green.”

The tornado started just southwest of Germantown and moved northeast through the eastern part of Shelby County and then continued into the northwest before lifting near Shelby and Fayette County line.

The maximum width of the twister was about 200 yards, over a tenth of a mile, and it was rated an F-3 with maximum wind between 158-206 mph.

Track of the EF-3 tornado on November 27, 1994
Track of the EF-3 tornado on November 27, 1994(mrcc.purdue.edu)

Three people were killed in Germantown when the tornado struck a home where 16 people had gathered for a family reunion.

Twenty-five people were injured in the Germantown area altogether.

Overall, 28 homes were destroyed and 300 other homes were damaged.

Houston High School was badly damaged and a nearby church sustained significant damage.

There were also 30 utility poles downed and two mobile homes in Fayette County were destroyed just before the tornado lifted.

This weather event gained national attention and was reported on by The New York Times.

Remain Weather Aware

With the holidays upon us, its easy to become distracted and pay less attention to the forecast.

However, severe weather doesn’t take a holiday.

Stay Prepared:

  • Make sure to have a severe weather kit ready to go at all times
  • Have a weather radio on hand
  • Download the FREE Action News 5 weather app to get breaking weather alerts sent to your iPhone, iPad or Android.
    • The app sends weather alerts specific to your area.
How to download the WMC First Alert Weather app
How to download the WMC First Alert Weather app

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