ENTERPRISE, Ala., March 1, 2007 -- Bob Goree of the National Weather Service says preliminary indications are that the tornado that ravished the Enterprise area was an EF Scale 3 tornado.
"Today we see the intensity of the damage. Now, we're not quite ready to put the new enhanced Fujita Scale value on this. We can tell you the preliminary finding is, it will be at least an EF scale 3. It may become that officially. We're getting some engineering help to hopefully finalize that intensity tomorrow."
Goree says the storm was unusual for this part of the deep South. "Yesterday's tornado in this area, Enterprise and other areas, over into Georgia were extremely powerful for this area of the country. Usually we see short-lived, smaller tornadoes that affect say one dwelling or more. But to see this school and other areas devastated by this powerful tornado is heartbreaking and really a rare sight fortunately for this area." He says this was an "extremely long-lived tornadic super cell" which even awed National Weather Service meteorologists.
"The size of this storm was incredibly large. We seldom see tornados in the deep Southeast that are 200 yards wide or so. I think some of the video is out there of this storm and it's incredible. On our Doppler radars we rarely again get to see such a powerful storm signature as we did yesterday. Our meteorologists...were in awe of the shape, the structure and the intensity of the rotation in this super cell thunderstorm as it moved into this area."
Goree says the new enhanced Fujita Scale is meant to be more practical. He said the earlier scale was more objective and looked more at wind speeds, but the new scale "really reflects how bad was the damage whether than some exact wind damage measurement."
So what does the National Weather Service look at to make their final determination? "On our new scale we use damage indicators such as trees - the number and percentage of the trees that were snapped, whether the bark is stripped off of the trees, indicators like that to determine what the power of the wind was." He says they also look at the "strength of the buildings. This (Enterprise H.S.) is a very strong structure here and we saw some structural failure."
Goree says the "most powerful center of the vortex...moved through the center of the school and into the parking lot and across the stadium."