Mid-south (WMC) - May 27 marks the one year anniversary of a devastating wind storm that struck Memphis and the Mid-South and was later dubbed Memphis in May-hem.
On the evening of Saturday, May 27 a line of strong storms moved southeast out of southern Missouri and into northeastern Arkansas.
The day had been very warm and muggy and was ripe for fueling any storms that entered the area. This was also the final day of festivities in Downtown Memphis at Tom Lee for Memphis in May and as the storms approached, the park was filled with people.
The storm entered Northeast Arkansas around 9 p.m. increasing in speed and intensity moving at 60 to 70 mph. According to the National Weather Service office in Memphis, a wind gust of 68 mph was recorded at the Corning, Arkansas Airport. The storm continued moving southeast developing a bow shape along the leading edge, a clear sign of the potential for damaging wind.
As the line of storms crossed the Mississippi River entering Downtown Memphis and Shelby County just after 11 p.m., wind speeds increased to an estimated 80 mph. A portion of the storm collided with an outflow boundary moving south out of Tipton County. This collision of wind produced a strong micro burst forcing air from the upper levels of the atmosphere rapidly to the surface producing an estimated wind of 100 to 105 mph leveling trees in a heavily wooded area just east of the Mississippi River near Frayser.
As the storm continued to move southeast through Shelby County, the Memphis International Airport recorded a 61 mph wind gust followed just three minutes later by an even stronger 67 mph wind gust.
The storm continued into North Mississippi moving through DeSoto and Marshall counties and then weakening as it entered Lafayette County.
In the end the storm traveled 240 miles through parts of four states leaving a very clear path of damage and destruction.
Once the damage was accessed Memphis had received the harshest blow of this derecho wind event with more than 175,000 MLGW customers without power. It was the third largest power outage in the city's history. More than 200 trees were toppled in and around the city and dozens of homes were damaged.
Fortunately, there were no fatalities from the storm, but two people were injured. One of the most devastating sights the next day was a toppled memorial to Tom Lee located downtown in Tom Lee Park. A granite obelisk weighing thousands of pounds and the same memorial that had been toppled during another wind storm in the summer of 2003 dubbed Hurricane Elvis.
This time another reminder of the power of the wind and the storm that will be remembered as Memphis in May-hem.