Tag Archives: tornado

Tornado anniversary and return of the iBike

A lot going on in the cockpit ... video camera, iBike, and Garmin.A lot going on in the cockpit … camera, iBike, and Garmin.

This is my last week off before the start of the spring semester at Samford, so I wanted to get in at least one more long ride. I’m riding my Scott Addict right now because the Trek is down for the count with a crack in the frame. Because I switched bikes to my Scott, I could re-mount the iBike again (the Bontrager stem on my Trek is far too thick for the iBike mount to fit). The only problem is that when I went to mount the iBike, I discovered I was missing a screw for the mounting bracket … a quick trip to the local hardware store with the iBike and a screwdriver in my back pocket and I was able to find the right screw.

In my opinion, the absolute best thing about the iBike is its ability to measure gradients quite accurately — much more so than the barometric pressure calculated gradient from the Garmin. The iBike has an internal gyrometer/accelerometer which can calculate gradient based on immediate changes in pitch, unlike the Garmin which requires motion and change in air pressure to calculate gradient based on the change of elevation over time. The ability of the iBike to measure power is a secondary benefit … and not too bad either compared to all the other power meters I’ve owned. You do have to get it calibrated correctly, but that is a one-time setup step which is supposedly eliminated on the new iBike Newton.

Excited about the iBike, I wanted to measure the gradients on the Emerald Lakes climbs which I discovered over Christmas and rode again a couple weeks ago on the way out to Skyball. I’ve posted videos below where I am calling out a small selection of the iBike gradient readings (it updates itself about every second, but I’m only calling out readings every few seconds). The front side climb Cat 4 climb (from the Lake) has the steepest pitch topping out at 30.4%, but the 20+% section is much shorter than the 20+% section on the backside Cat 3 climb. The descent back down the 30% section is dangerous. I was trying to be conservative and still hit 53mph (last video). I’m glad I was trying to be conservative because any faster, and I might very well have ended up IN Emerald Lake.

Red tailed hawk flying above its nest in tornado damaged neighborhood.Red tailed hawk flying above its nest in tornado damaged neighborhood.

When I was planning out the return route, I noticed that the climb up to the top of the Summit Pointe neighborhood off of Tyler Loop road would probably be an auto-detected Strava cat 4 climb. The picture of the hawk above is just below the summit of the climb. I was trying to maximize climbing on the ride so I created a route through that neighborhood up the climb not realizing that I would be doing the ride on the 1 year anniversary of the Chalkville EF-3 tornado (just under EF-4) which went through a corner of the neighborhood. I came to the realization that it was the 1 year anniversary late in the video below as I was narrating the damage still visible a year later. Click the “youtube” button to watch this on youtube, and you can jump to specific parts of the video using the video bookmarks in the description area below the video.

Finally, here is a photoshop – annotated view of the iBike data from the ride. I was concerned with the cold weather that the iBike battery might not make it the entire ride so I cut it off after the Vesclub climb and didn’t turn it back on again until I got up to Trussville.

ibike graph annotated for the emerald lakes rideibike graph annotated for the emerald lakes ride (click to enlarge and read the annotations)

iBike statistics - Emerald lakes ride (partial)
Dist:       77.57 mi (5:12:38)
Energy:    3691.5 kJ
Cals Burn: 3529.1 kcal
Climbing:    8806 ft
Braking:   -609.4 kJ (-16.5%)
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  196.8   692  W
Aero        0  120.6  2982  W
Rolling     0   19.2    68  W
Gravity -4009    4.0   548  W
Speed     0.0   14.9  53.1  mi/h
Wind      0.0   15.3  55.9  mi/h
Elev      -14    454   865  ft
Slope   -24.0   0.08  30.4  %
Caden       0   72.8   126  rpm
HR         79  131.3   165  bpm
NP:226W IF:0.81 TSS:345 VI:1.15
CdA: 0.342 m^2; Crr: 0.0039
168 lbs; 8/14/2011 2:25 PM
52 degF; 1013 mbar

A few notes about the data … the climbing total is quite a bit lower because it’s missing 23 miles of the ride and the iBike is applying smoothing (either in the software or via how the barometric elevation sensor is recording) and doesn’t pick up all the rollers in its climbing total that the Garmin does. Also, the distance is short because I turned off the iBike to save battery after the Vesclub climb and didn’t turn it back on again until Trussville. Also, the “168 lbs” in the statistics at the bottom is my weight plus the weight of the bike plus weight of clothing, etc…

Chalkville Tornado Damage

Red cross shelter information here: http://newsroom.redcross.org/2012/01/23/press-release-red-cross-assessing-damage-from-severe-weather-overnight/
Donate through the red cross “donate now”
Or I saw a drop-off location for donations in the K-Mart located just off I-59, exit 141, turn left, K-mart parking lot on the right as you are climbing the hill on Chalkville Rd

Tornado sirens went off at 3:30AM this morning … tornado north of us and tornado south of us. By the time I had made a spot in the basement for Kristine and the kids, it was pretty clear that the tornadoes were going to go around us — although the one that I rode out to today veered farther south than the original warning polygon had indicated. I was hoping that I could see the damage path from the ridges annotated in the map because I didn’t want to get in anyone’s way trying to help clean up … but there were too many houses and the valley where the tornado went through was too deep to see anything so I ended up cautiously just riding onto Old Springville Rd which was closed after asking a sheriff if I could make it through without bothering anyone. He said to watch out for the power lines and that it shouldn’t be a problem. Well, I was pretty much bunny hopping power lines for about 1/4 mile. Here is an annotated map showing where I took pictures and my best guess at the tornado path based on the damage I could see on the ground … This is the tornado that went north of Birmingham passing through parts of Fultondale, Center Point, Chalkville, Clay.

Tornado path map annotated You can view my complete ride and then zoom in on the northern end to see streetview and detailed satellite pictures of the area before the tornado by going here: http://app.strava.com/rides/3557123

UPDATE: a better description of the tornado path is listed here – http://www.alabamawx.com/?p=56602 Scroll down to – TORNADO #5 – CENTER POINT TORNADO (JEFFERSON AND ST CLAIR) Based on the description there, I have updated the tornado path to the following:

Updated tornado path based on NWS description

After looking at the streetview and satellite pictures, the damage is much worse than I had originally thought – the first houses have been pushed completely off their foundations. See the comparison photos below which are taken at slightly different angles which I tried to indicate as best as possible.

Aerial view of neighborhood before tornado

Streetview of neighborhood before tornado

Comparison photo after the tornado from as close an angle as I could get to the streetview photo above

Paradise Ln - heavy damage

First view (from water towers)… ridge blocking tornado path

These are the rest of the pictures I took…

Four weeks later…

So it’s been four weeks since the tornadoes went through Alabama, and I have seen a lot of the damage on my normal commute routes through Cahaba Heights and Vestavia Hills. But yesterday, I rode on Sicard Hollow for the first time since the tornadoes hit. Apparently, the Cahaba Heights tornado traveled along part of Sicard Hollow after it crossed the I-459. Part of the road was still one-lane as they were clearing out the last trees. When I took Kristine and the kids out there before heading out to dinner, we got some pictures and videos of the damage. Portions of the road have lost a lot of trees, but they will grow back!

The ride that I did earlier in the day was awesome. Tons of climbing and even one new climb – from Rocky Ridge across 280 up Shook Hill with 610′ elevation gain and only one downhill. Here is a screenshot of the Strava info … plus here is the link to the Strava stats on the ride – http://app.strava.com/rides/621013

Strava screenshot of the ride

Tornado update

It turns out that there were actually two tornadoes that missed our house – an EF1 to the southeast of us and an EF2 just to the north of us (the one that went through Mountain Brook and Cahaba Heights that I posted pictures from earlier). Here is the official preliminary report from the weather service:

Tornado report from the national weather service NOAA
Source: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/view/prodsByState.php?state=AL&prodtype=public

Based on the weather report and my own observations on my bike commute route (shown in red) – I’ve updated my damage map below:

Tornado damage paths (click for full map). Red = commute route, Blue = tornado path, Green = trees down

Last tornado pics (Vestavia) plus Athens Twilight prep

We drove over to Athens yesterday for the Twilight crit tonight. Before we left, I biked a different route through Vestavia on my way back from school. So many people there are still without power, and the pic below is one of the reasons why. It does confirm though the general direction I think the storm traveled as these power lines are snapped in a direct line back from Dolly Ridge (see updated map)

Power lines and power poles snapped

Updated damage map

After I got home, we loaded up the car and drove to Athens, Georgia seeing more trees down at several spots along I-20. I rode over to registration and hung out for a bit. The computrainer grid qualifiers had just finished. Then on my way biking back to Winterville where we are staying with friends, I rode through the UGA campus and took a couple pictures of the stadium. All of these pictures are in the gallery below.

More tornado damage pics

In between my morning and class and my senior presentations this afternoon at the student research showcase, I was able to bike over to Cahaba Heights and Dolly Ridge and get closer to where the tornado went through. I was only able to snap a few pics, though. Again, these pictures represent the damage from a very small, narrow tornado probably an EF0 or EF1. Imagine the damage from a much, much larger tornado with wind speeds in the EF4, EF5 range and that is what Tuscaloosa and Pleasant Grove look like.

Here is an updated map of where I think the tornado went based on going back out there again today:

4/28 updated damage path satellite view. The green X’s are large trees pushed over or broken in half. Many more than what is shown. These are just the ones that stood out to me. The red lines are where I rode my bike on my commute yesterday.

Tornado damage

I am writing this post from my parent’s house. We lost power this morning at 5:45AM, and I would estimate that we won’t be getting power back for several days. This morning a tornado passed over our house and touched down about a mile away. Trees and powerlines down everywhere from about a mile north of us all the way up into Cahaba Heights past the Summit. In our neighborhood, a tree fell right through a house (picture above). A large tornado just destroyed part of Tuscaloosa and then made it way just north of Birmingham hitting several communities very hard.

At about 5AM, I woke up hearing something, but I didn’t know what it was. As I lay there groggy I realized it was the tornado sirens. I got up, turned on the TV, and saw that it was for the extreme northern part of the county – not a problem. I went back to sleep, but the sirens went off again at 5:30. This time, when I turned on the TV, the forecaster was telling everybody in Bessemer, Hoover, Riverchase to take shelter immediately. I grabbed the kids and we went down to the basement. I settled them on the floor, and everything was quiet for the next 15 minutes. Then it started to get windy, and we lost power. A few minutes later, the wind stepped up in intensity continuosly just getting harder and harder. I rolled over, laid on top of the kids on the floor and prepared to pull the mattress on top of us. Then, just like that, it was over.

I was still able to bike into work. I saw the tree down through the house in our neighborhood shown at the top of this post. And then through Vestavia I saw a few trees down and lots of debris/branches, but nothing really beyond a large thunderstorm. It wasn’t until I biked home and decided to head over to Dolly Ridge / Cahaba Heights that I realized how close a call we had this morning. The pictures below pretty much tell the story. Keep in mind that this was a relatively small tornado, especially compared to the monster that just hit Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, but still it really did a lot of damage on some roads that I ride all the time.

Update – many photos available on http://www.alabamawx.com/. This will take you to the main weather blog for ABC33/40. If you are viewing this days or weeks after the events of yesterday, then scroll down to the very bottom of the Alabama WX page and click on the blog history calendar and navigate to April 28, 2011.

Another update – after going back again today on my bike commute home, I think the more likely tornado path looks something like this satellite one:

4/28 updated damage path satellite view. The green X’s are large trees pushed over or broken in half. Many more than what is shown. These are just the ones that stood out to me. The red lines are where I rode my bike on my commute yesterday.

Damage map – my commute home and back to school temporarily and then home again