This is the path the most severe winds took, which coincide
with the radar images you see below.
First it must be noted that the National
Weather Service maintains that the foul weather Oxford endured
at 5PM, January 6, 2009 was straight line winds. GetCalhoun.com
Further note, it is ok to disagree with the NWS from
time to time. After all, they were not appointed by a holy
order, and offering other opinions does not rise to the level of
blasphemy of, say, chewing tobacco in church.
Whatever it was, the wind that tore through the area
was unexpected. But it shouldn't have been. From lunch onwards,
the setup could be viewed on television and computer radar.
GetCalhoun.com had 3 different radars going all afternoon. Even
so, we were caught by surprise, much as the man with the rope
around his neck standing on the trap door. Even though he knows
what's coming, there just isn't much he can do to prepare when
the door drops. And so it was in Oxford. You think that you can
get out of the way of bad weather, but the onset was so sudden,
that in less than 5 seconds the winds went from light and
variable to F0 speed. There wasn't enough time to run.
In our area, it is good to know that the historical
violent storm path seems to be right down I-20. Most often the
storms peel off to go on and demolish West End in Anniston.
Occasionally, they veer off on one end of Oxford or the other.
April 3, 1974 one split the difference pulverizing a Winn Dixie
store near Blue Pond, killing two in the process. In 1989
another case of "straight line winds" made a mess of the western
portion of Oxford along the I-20 storm trolley track.
Popup a Weather
Underground radar image...
2 Hours To T Time...
3PM January 6th. Weather incoming.
This event was a little different. On first
approach, with but radar evidence to work with, one would think
straight line winds...but the damage on the ground suggests
Shortly after lunch,
anecdotal evidence suggests that many in the damage path had
developed an itch they couldn't scratch. Something just didn't
feel right. It may have been the unseasonable temps, it reached
74 that day. The day was damp and breezy, winds around 11, but
the warm air made the wind less noticeable. It rained a little
around lunch. It had been cloudy and rainy for a long long week.
The official weather station for the area is at the
local airport, which is 1.5 miles from the epicenter of damage.
The highest registered wind gust was 36mph, which occurred at
the same time as the front blew through.
Oxford is no stranger to weather fronts. Most often
they come from the west bringing brief, rarely, violent weather.
More often than not they are accompanied by weather warnings.
The area was under a tornado watch as the line approached.
(Yawn...another watch. The last 50 were busts...This one
probably would be too. Big deal.)
The line moved so slowly all afternoon, and the winds
were on such a knife edge, that when it finally made it to
Oxford, everything happened all at once. In about the time you
had to decide whether to stand or run, the storm was on. You had
just enough time to slam the door on the storm shelter. If you
were standing outside, then you didn't have enough time to get
inside. It was that quick.
It appears that the big action started between
the Coca Cola plant and the Sonic Drive Inn, as there was
damage reported on West 9th, and at one of the car lots just
above the Sonic/Barry Street/Hwy 78 intersection.
The red blobs on this radar image are individual cells moving
like a train up the line, while the line moves sideways. We
think there is some mathematical equation that can explain this
so that you will know which way you are getting smacked. The
arrow points to the best of the blobs as it enters the Hamric
If you have pictures, send them for
possible inclusion here.
Send us a mail.
A study in catastrophic winds: The storm came down from the
NW, while the red cells were moving up to the NE. However....
Where you see the wind direction arrow, the wind was coming from
the SE. The line is not to scale, but illustrates accurately the
direction of movement. The arrows are correct.
Former Alignment Shop near Oxford High
Small park at the Quintard Mall Intersection
One eye witness near Friendship told us that he saw
rotation in the clouds. Another said that debris were flying as
it approached the mid point below the high school. Another said
a man near the football field was upended, being tossed onto his
head with his feet in the air.
The coming line was an odd sort of thing. Usually, as
you watch one approach on radar, you will see the characteristic
solid red in the leading edge. The Jan 6th storm line... This
time distinct cells were training north. One of the largest, as
the line arrived, between it's motion, and the motion of the
line managed to stay glued to Hwy 78 between the Sonic Drive Inn
and the little veterans park at the nursing home at the mall
The Sonic sustained some damage as did Oxford Lumber. Behind the
Sonic some very old pecan trees were blown down. Continuing, a
service station on the other side of the road had damage, an air
conditioner was blown off a building adjacent to the Sizzlin and
deposited in the parking lot, a former alignment shop was
practically demolished below Oxford High, and across the road, a
shop had a good bit of damage to the facade and roof.
Just as quickly as the thing started, it ended by
making match sticks out of an old stand of pine trees in the
little park in front of the nursing home.
One man who witnessed it first hand said that with all
the debris and glass flying he had no idea why no one was
injured. It is possible that straight winds could perform the
capers reported, but it doesn't seem likely. More likely, it was
an F0 tornado, and an odd one at that. One witness who lives
across from the Coca Cola plant said she "heard the freight
train," a sure audible sign of a twirler. What there was not,
however, was one single drop of lightning or thunder. Extremely
strange, tornado or not.
Across the interstate, to the south, 1/4 mile from the
principal storm path, an odd thing occurred. As illustrated in
one of the photos, while the front was approaching from the
northwest, the winds on the ground were from exactly 180 degrees
out...from the southeast. The winds were rushing into the maw of
the storm front. There is an explanation for this, but it is
beyond the computing power at GetCalhoun.com.
Two things at the end of the article. First, sometimes,
you simply do not have time to get out of the way...even if you
know it's coming. This was made very clear to GetCalhoun.com
personally. Second, I sincerely hope this isn't a prevue of the
Spring to come.
What makes this an atypical event is that Oxford was
pounced upon by a solid knife edge storm front with several
impulses or storm cells training in a predictable and continuous
way north of I-20. In the past history with tornadoes, the most
common scenario is for a front to come through with a massive
damaging cell or two with mega lightning, or even a lone super
cell barreling down the I-20 corridor, careening northwest at
While it wasn't a typical storm, in the past, we have
seen that early indications of violent weather sometimes
foreshadow violent springs. This year, when the winter occurred
in the fall, and the spring happened in the winter, we suspect
that the spring will be...strange. We thank God that no one was
injured in this flaky January nature event.