I found an external hard drive I forgot I had buried at the back of my closet the other day, plugged it in, and lo and behold, it had my archived weather data folder from 2011 including my GR Level 3 screencaps on 4/27. Don't believe I've ever shared them here. It speaks to how monumental this outbreak was that even a random severe weather nerd living safely 700 miles from the impacted area remembers what he was doing that day 12 years later.
During that time I was an associate degree student for TV & Video Production at Milwaukee Area Technical College and the late April/early May period was very busy as it was crunch time for our end-of-year projects. I'd spent most of that day holed up in the student editing lab with limited ability to check the Internet for non-project-related topics. I knew there was a high risk out for parts of the South with some pretty volatile conditions expected, but I never dreamed that something rivaling or in some metrics exceeding the Super Outbreak of '74 was even possible in my lifetime, let alone that day.
I got home and fired up my computer right around the time the Tuscaloosa tornado was about to move into town, but I didn't know it until I launched GR Level 3, navigated to KBMX and my jaw promptly hit the floor. I'd never seen such a well-defined hook echo with debris ball like that outside of articles about 5/3/99, nor a velocity couplet like that since Greensburg, so I knew immediately that something catastrophic and historic was underway...and that was before I even knew about Smithville, Philadelphia, Hackleburg, Cullman and everything else that had already happened.
KHTX went down due to communications failure after I was able to save just two volume scans from it, but note that one of them shows an astonishing forty-one tornado warnings in effect (that was before GR Level 3 differentiated between tornado warning, tornado warning with confirmation, and tornado emergency)!
More as the Tuscaloosa tornado appeared to intensify and approach a mind-boggling second direct hit on a densely populated city, meanwhile the Cordova tornado was near the Cullman/Blount county line, the Eoline EF3 was ongoing, and the "daughter cell" threatened to produce again back over Tuscaloosa/Northport.
I'd like to say, reading through the archived thread for April 27th 2011. It was a incredible anomaly. I was 11 years old when it came through it's one of the events that sparked my interest in weather. That and the center point January 2012 tornado that lifted before hitting my house and went on to kill a girl down the road.
I know the toll on first responders that day where awful. My dad had to work 48 hours being that he was a first responder. The event really put a toll on people's emotions my dad told me when the pleasant Grove/ fultondale tornado that went north of Birmingham city came through all the really could do was get spray paint and paint on structures weather they found dead bodies or things like that because they're was so much catastrophic amage.
My dad even told me he had found a bare heart to either a animal or human in rubble.. really struck out to me that day how many things came into play. We likely won't see another event like that in Alabama until I'm in my 40s with children that are teenagers.
I imagine this event was real gut punch to many professional weather enthusiasts and meteorologists, I know James spann says he still has regrets on that day, and God bless him for that. I think he did his best with everything that he had. A lot of situations were just to catastrophic that if you weren't underground they're was no way you could have survived. It seems these type of events usually crop up every 25-40 years. Hopefully meteorological data gathering and forecast models have improved even more in that time, to be able to help decrease the death toll of future tornado events.
I really believe that Mississippi and Alabama produce more strong/violent tornadoes now than your prototypical tornado alley, heck even data supports that. Like spann says you can never really get that good chaser cam footage in the south so it may seem skewed when you see the stuff out in the plains and it makes you think wow they get a lot of tornadoes. But we get just as many here in the deep south, at least strong/violent ones.