Should we talk about the weather?
If you’re WSMV Channel 4 meteorologist Dan Thomas, the answer is yes.
The Nashville TV personality was in town Wednesday morning as the speaker for the McMinnville Breakfast Club, which holds monthly meetings at Billy’s Restaurant. His presentation was smooth, but his topic was stormy as he addressed various weather conditions from tornados to floods.
Thomas quizzed guests on what he called the Snowbird Weather Challenge where he asked questions about various weather events. One question asked about the fastest tornado winds ever recorded. The answer is 318 mph, which happened in Moore, Okla., on May 3, 1999.
“It’s now understood a 200 mph tornado will take down almost anything in its path,” said Thomas. “But most tornadoes aren’t that strong. They’re wimpy. The goal is to put as many walls between you and the storm as possible so take cover in an interior room of your house. Make sure you are on the lowest level in the center of the building. Crawl spaces are an awful idea, not to mention there are probably big spiders down there. Winds could cause a house to shift just enough to cause trouble in a crawl space. Avoid garages too. They are not good.”
Thomas showed a picture of common tools found in a garage which included a pitchfork and shovel. He noted when high winds cause objects to fly around, you probably don’t want to get hit by what’s in your garage.
Continuing the Snowbird Weather Challenge, Thomas asked if anyone knew the size of the largest hail ever recorded in the U.S. The crowd was surprised to learn it was the size of a volleyball and weighed 2 pounds.
“You get clonked in the head by that and it’s a day wrecker,” said Thomas.
As for flood dangers, Thomas asked about the minimum amount of water needed to carry away a passenger vehicle. After several guesses, he revealed it was 18 inches and advised people not to drive through large standing water because it’s impossible to gauge its depth.
When addressing the subject of tornadoes, Thomas referenced a study by Northern Illinois University. He said the study determined good news for Middle Tennessee is that it’s not tornado alley. That’s still the Midwest. However, he said the bad news is Middle Tennessee is killer tornado alley.
“More people per capita lose their lives here due to tornadoes than anywhere else in the country,” said Thomas.
As for personal information, Thomas said he’s originally from the Boston area and still cheers for the New England Patriots. He said he was working for a TV station in New Orleans 10 years ago during Hurricane Katrina and was one of the last people to evacuate.
From there he moved to Nashville and has been working for WSMV for nearly 10 years. He said Nashville is on the five-year anniversary of its historic rain and flooding. Nashville received 15 inches of rain in two days while Camden was tops in the state with 19.4 inches in two days.
“For some spots, it was a 1,000-year flood,” said Thomas.
Recognized at the meeting before Thomas spoke was Robert Lee Boyd, 97. Boyd was described by Ivey Hillis as one of Warren County’s most honored veterans of World War II.
Boyd collected and sold scrap metal in his economically depressed neighborhood on the eve of the war. Few Americans at the time could have known our discarded and rusted steel was being shipping to Japan, where the Imperial government was recycling it into its armaments.
While serving in the U.S. Army from this nation’s entry into the fighting in 1941 until Japan’s surrender in 1945, Boyd was in combat on practically all the significant islands in the Pacific. In was in the Philippines he suffered shrapnel wounds from enemy shelling.
When he got back to his native Rock Island community after the war, he told one of his friends he was carrying in his body some of the steel he picked up along the sides of Warren County roads.