National Weather Researchers in Alabama, Safety Focus at Dauphin Island Regatta

Apr 22, 2016

Racing yachts in the Dauphin Island Regatta

Alabama is getting ready to observe the fifth anniversary of the 2011 tornado outbreak. And, for the past two months, weather researchers from across the country have converged on Alabama to study tornadoes.

It’s all part of VORTEX-SE, a massive federally-funded research project digging into the nuances of how severe weather behaves in the South. Meteorologists suspect there are differences in how tornadoes form and possibly how they behave compared to other parts of the country.

Erik Rasmussen is the meteorologist in charge of VORTEX-SE. He says one of the major shortfalls in forecasting right now relates to the rugged terrain in the South.

“We don’t really have confidence at all that we know what’s going on on the other side of the ridge, or down in that other valley, and we’re pretty sure our computer models don’t have very good knowledge of that either. So next year we’re going to find out exactly how the atmosphere does behave in these severe storm situations when you’re in this really rough terrain.”

The VORTEX researchers will continue studying the weather in Alabama through the end of the month. They plan to publish their initial findings this fall. Meteorologists are already making plans for more study next spring and for years to come.

The Dauphin Island Regatta will feature new safety policies this year following a tragedy during last year’s race. APR student reporter Allison Mollenkamp has more.

A storm during the 2015 regatta led to the death of six sailors. The Mobile Yacht Club is organizing the event this year and is working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard to prevent similar problems.

The Coast Guard is requiring that all those onboard regatta boats wear their life jackets for the first five minutes of the event. This is to ensure that the life jackets work correctly and are in an available location.

Joshua Murray is the Rear Commodore at Mobile Yacht Club and this year’s Dauphin Island Race Chairman. He says organizers are also working to make sure all participants are accounted for.

“One of the things is we have a crew list requirement that each vessel must state who’s on board with contact information for each one of those souls on board. That can be modified as late as zero nine hundred hours the day of the regatta.”

The race will begin tomorrow and feature two competitive races.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley says doesn't mind the state House of Representatives establishing an impeachment investigatory committee.

Bentley says the formation of the committee doesn't bother him, but "there's never been any reason" for legislators to call for his impeachment.

Earlier this week, Republican Rep. Matt Fridy introduced a resolution that would trigger an investigatory committee any time 10 or more lawmakers sign articles of impeachment against a state official.

Fridy says his resolution isn’t necessarily directed at Bentley, but aims to clarify the state impeachment process. Legislators realized there was no mechanism to handle potential impeachments after a group of lawmakers brought articles of impeachment against the governor. The last time a state official was impeached in Alabama was in 1915.