Rare weather event takes out warehouse

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 1, 2005

Bush Hog lost property due to an “uncommon” weather incident early yesterday morning, according to the EMA.

The Dallas County Emergency Management Agency received reports that high winds tore metal off the Old Pilloid Building off the Highway 80 Bypass at about 8 a.m. and dragged a warehouse worker down the length of the building.

At first, EMA Director Brett Howard said he thought it was a tornado, because of the damage.

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Selma Fire Chief Mark Walker reported to the scene when the SFD was dispatched.

“There’s tin scattered through the woods that blew off the building,” he said.

Howard called the National Weather Service. They checked the radar for the time the winds hit the building, about 6 a.m., and said there wasn’t a tornado, which can be seen on radar.

Howard said that’s when they told him it must be a gravity wave.

“I never heard of one before today,” Howard said.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service described a gravity wave as high winds affecting only a small area.

Jim Westland, of the NWS in Birmingham, said gravity waves often come in the wake of thunderstorms.

“It’s like a big boulder dropped into a pond,” Westland said.

The waves radiating outward are literally gravity waves.

In this case, Westland said, the thunderstorm is the boulder. The wind following a thunderstorm can produce gravity waves.

“It’s one of our least understood phenomenon,” he said.

Westland said the winds can get as high as 50-60 mph.

Westland said they aren’t common, and only a few are reported every year.

While property was damaged in Selma, no serious injuries were reported, but Howard said three people were in the building when the wave hit.

“The wind actually blew one guy from one end (of the building) to the other,” Howard said.

Bush Hog officials couldn’t be reached as of presstime.