Huntsville Tornado, Nov. 15, 1989 - Southern Region Disaster Survey



The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service Southern Region Headquarters appointed a Regional Survey Team following the disastrous tornado that struck Huntsville, Alabama, Wednesday, November 15, 1989. The purpose of the survey was to assess the effectiveness of the warning system during this tragic event. The team consisted of Richard L. Coleman, Area Manager and Meteorologist-in-Charge, Weather Service Forecast Office (WSFO) Memphis, Tennessee; Max White, Dissemination and Public Service Meteorologist, Southern Region Headquarters, Fort Worth, Texas; and Brian E. Peters, Deputy Meteorologist-in-Charge, WSFO Birmingham, Alabama.

The team met at the Weather Service Office (WSO) Huntsville Monday morning, November 20, to plan its investigative strategy and to discuss the tornado event with members of the WSO staff. Later in the day the team toured the damage area and interviewed county emergency management officials, NASA personnel at the Redstone Arsenal, and area media. The team met Monday evening to review the experiences of the day and to discuss the plan for the remaining day of the field investigation.

On Tuesday, November 21, Richard Coleman and Brian Peters went to the damage scene and interviewed eye witnesses and individuals whose homes were severely damaged by the tornado. Max White with the assistance of Gary S. Petti, Meteorologist-in-Charge and Area Manager, WSFO Birmingham, conducted media interviews. The team met briefly during the late afternoon for final discussions, then dispersed.

The team wishes to express its appreciation to the WSO Huntsville staff for their support, both logistic and otherwise, during the team's stay in Huntsville. Without their help, the team would never have completed its field work in the two days allotted. Particular thanks go to Brenda Page, Acting Official-in-Charge, for her many extra hours of support in direct assistance in the field survey work.

Members of the WSFO Birmingham staff assisted in the preparation of the meteorological scenario contained in this report, and their assistance is gratefully acknowledged. Expressions of gratitude are likewise in order to persons interviewed during what was certainly a hectic and traumatic time in their lives. Their cooperative spirit and responsiveness to the team's questions proved extremely valuable in assessing user response to the warning system. Individuals interviewed are listed in Appendix G.

Note that all times in this report are Central Standard Time (CST) unless otherwise annotated. UTC refers to Coordinated Universal Time (Greenwich Mean Time or Z time).

back Table of contents. next is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.