ENTERPRISE, AL (WSFA) - Nine lives and ten years later, there's one tornado Enterprise will never forget.
A classic setup, surface and upper air charts that day showed a strong area of low pressure into the Plains with a trailing cold front. Ahead of that front, a warm and unstable air mass was already in place, just waiting for the front to kick things off. Both instability and wind shear parameters were running very high.
Everyone knew something was coming. Three days out, the Storm Prediction Center placed Alabama in a Slight risk. By day two, it was upgraded to Moderate.
On March 1st, a rare High risk for nearly all of Alabama included an exceptional 30 percent hatched are for tornadoes. Meteorologists across the country knew it was going to be a substantial severe weather outbreak.
Around 1:12 p.m., Enterprise High School was hit by an EF-4, the 2nd strongest classification possible. There aren't many places above ground that can successfully withstand an EF-4, particularly one estimated at five football fields wide and winds of 170 mph. Outside of the loss of life, Enterprise suffered more than $300 million in damage.
Some may remember the Enterprise tornado was not the only EF-4 that day, nor was it the first. An EF-4 ripped through Wilcox and Dallas counties 45 minutes earlier, killing one. There were 56 confirmed tornadoes across the country from this event.
It's hard to find a silver lining out of what happened in Enterprise but out of tragedy comes progress.
Enterprise High School would go on to be used as an example for more effective building codes for future school development. Many schools built within the last decade feature stronger tornado safe places.
Our kids today are now safer because of Enterprise.