Really Big Numbers

We have had a lot of rain of recent. Day after day after day, more rain. We had more rain yesterday, and were under the threat of a possible tornado, which thankfully did not develop for us, but folks in Miss. and Ala. got hit. Unfortunately at least 1 reported dead.

I have been too close to three tornadoes in my lifetime and I can speak of the terror of an F3 (at that time, with the revised Fujita scale it would have been an F4) on the ground, tearing shit up, only an eighth of a mile away. They speak of the roar of an angry freight train, that’s what I heard, but what you feel is the vibration permeating your body, and the winds pummeling your surroundings. We were lucky. Didn’t take me long to get sidetracked did it?

The big numbers I want to throw at you is a result of the rain. Not in inches, but the volume of water forecast to be released through the dam on the Tn. River near us. The forecast for 2/27/19 is 430,000 cfs (cubic feet per second.) That’s a pretty big number but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

There is roughly 7.5 gallons of water in a cubic foot. Which according to my trusty calculator equals the sum of 3,225,000 gallons of water, Per Second! Try to wrap your head around that for a moment.

Now I don’t know how Olympic swimming pools became a standard for water measurements, but an Olympic pool holds 660,253 gallons of water. Again using my trusty calculator, 3,225,000 gallons per second would be filling 4.9 ( I rounded up from 4.88,) which is almost 5 Olympic swimming pools, Per Second!

More big numbers incoming! With 60 seconds in a minute that would add up to 193,500,000 gallons per minute. Or roughly 300 Olympic pools per minute.

With 60 minutes in an hour, we get, 11,610,000,000 gallons of water per hour. Or 17,500 Olympic pools per hour.

With 24 hours in a day, we get 278,640,000,000 gallons per day. Or 422,020 Olympic pools per day.


I use this website linked below a lot, even now that I’m officially retired from diving out there, just because I used this information so often, it is a part of my lifestyle now. It shows me water temps, and current flows for both the Tn. and Cumberland rivers, (or Ky. Lake and Lake Barkley respectively) both of which I worked extensively. This is my source πŸ™‚



23 thoughts on “Really Big Numbers

  1. Just because I’m a meteorologist and a professor who has to correct things, I just wanted to make sure you knew it was called the Fujita scale and not the Fajita scale. Although I am all for any measurement system that measures in fajitas. πŸ™‚

    Do you know why the tornado was rated incorrectly. The enhancded Fujita scale actually reduced the rating of most tornados, so it’s a bit unusual for it to go the other way. Just curious.


    • Thank you Swarn! Will be fixed forthright.

      Somehow I got the Tornado ratings confused with my Mexian restauraunt ratings lol.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Let me look into the rating. I may have misunderstood that one somewhere along the way.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have to go to town, I will get back to my research to fix this when I get back πŸ™‚

      Right now I can tell you a brick home near here was completely leveled, nothing left but the concrete. A Cadillac was dislocated from its engine, the engine went 3-400 yards, the car even further. Another vehicle was left upright against a tree. The tree was stripped bare of branches. This storm continued on from there and killed a woman who was out in her yard calling for her dogs. It was rated an F3 at the time, somewhere along the way I could have picked up some misleading info, that I did not verify before I made the post. So my thanks to my friend Swarn for setting me on the path to getting it right dammit. I’m pretty sure it will still be an F3 at least. My research will continue when I get back.

      Liked by 1 person

    • OK, Swarn … he might have been hungry when he wrote fajita, but what’s your excuse for enhancded?? 🀣

      Liked by 1 person

    • It has been frustratingly difficult to find information on this particualr tornado. The same system that spawned this tornado moved further NE from here, another tornado developed, and hit the town of Clarksville Tn. A lot of devastation occured there, and they got the headlines. I did find the follwing info here:

      The following is quoted from the page.
      To make sense of the numbers across the top, in this order, Row 1: Date, Magnitude or Fujita Rating, Lat/Long extending into row 2. The 15 miles was duration on the ground followed by width of 220 yards. Row 3: Fatalities, Injuries, Property damage, Crop Damage, and County.

      “1999-01-22 3 36Β°03’N / 88Β°10’W 36Β°14’N / 88Β°00’W 15.00 Miles 220 Yards 1 5 1.0M 0 Benton

      “Brief Description: This tornado resulted in the only fatality in Middle Tennessee from the severe weather outbreak of January 22,1999. The tornado killed a 50 year old woman who left her shelter in a brick ranch home located on Cedar Grove Road. She went outside to get her dogs inside her home, and that’s when the tornado struck and killed her. Her husband remained inside the home and survived. There were 5 injuries from the tornado. A 1600 square foot frame home was moved 10 to 12 feet from its foundation. 12 homes were destroyed, 33 homes sustained damage and 5 businesses were damaged. Power lines and trees were blown down. The winds picked up a 7500 pound Cadillac, and hurled its engine 300-400 yards into a field. The chassis, its empty metal skin, was hurled even further. F50OU”

      One of the 12 homes destroyed wasn’t far from here, as I mentioned a solid brick home, and nothing was left there but the foundation, and what was left of the basement. Not even a brick could be seen nearby. The Caddy was gone, I learned later it was way across the road in a field, and a lone minivan that looked like it had been beaten to shreds was left standing upright against what was left of a large tree, right in front of where the house used to be. It was something to see.

      The 1600 ft home mentioned I think could a house down the road, it was moved 10 to 12 inches off the foundation, not feet. The Garage they had was gone. Although it is safe to say this could be another assumption that could get me in trouble. πŸ™‚

      As this occurred back in 1999, and I have slept and eaten a few times since, plus picked up some obviously flawed info along the way, plus I can’t find but very little relevant info on this incident, I can only assume my assumptions with the F rating were flawed. And I accept whatever grade my Prof deems adequate. I think what I was meaning to say, but it got lost in between brain cells, is that it could have been classified as a weak F4 at the time, but going by the modern standard was an F3.

      I am certain it was a strong F3 just on the basis of the missing brick home. The people there as I understand it, had a weather alert radio, they got to the basement in time and were relatively unharmed. While I did not have a weather alert radio that night, you can bet I went out and bought one the next day! Still have that radio, I highly recommend them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t fret my friend. It’s not impossible that it was rated higher retroactively, just less likely. The reason that they created this enhanced Fujita scale is that previously structural engineering concerns were not taken into account. For instance a brick home might be destroyed. but what they do now in damage surveys is to look at how well that house was built with to begin with. I attended a talk with the guy who helped develop the new scale. He was a structural engineer. He was talking about a roof that was completely ripped off a garage, but when the looked carefully they found that the contractor took some shortcuts and never bolted the roof to the walls making it much easier to move. They found all sorts of things like this at many damage surveys of tornadoes and decided they needed to build in something into the scale that took into account the quality of the structures being damaged.

        The damage survey originally could have simply made a bad call on the rating, or it could be that they were wrong on their assumptions about winds that could destroy a brick home. I think part of what happened with the EF scales is that they develops a new set of table of winds correlating to certain kinds of damage. So maybe it did go up. From the sounds of the damage it does sound like an EF4.


  2. Does this mean that Mother Nature is all wet?


  3. SD — you have tornadoes to worry about … we have earthquakes! In particular, the one that those in the know are saying is overdue … the Cascadia subduction zone. As you probably know, It runs 700 miles underwater along the Pacific Northwest, from Canada to California (I live in So. Oregon … inland, thankfully). “They” say it’s likely to be a niner. And unlike tornadoes, we won’t get any warning.



    • Get out Nan! Get out while you still can! πŸ˜‰

      I am aware of the faultline following the west coast. I’m also aware of the devastation the big one could bring out thataway. Not to mention the tsunami it could create. I am glad you are well inland πŸ™‚

      Yes, we do get some advance warning of severe weather. It usually gets overhyped and the day after we are all like “whew!”

      Another tornado story, I was aware of severe weather moving in, had the tv on, and I heard a tornado warning on the same exact road where that house got destroyed, which is close by. I looked at the radar, assesed location and movement, realized it was heading straight at us. And I said “everybody get in the truck NOW! Knowing which way it was headed I went in the opposite direction, I got a glimpse of a wallcloud as we rounded a corner. We circled back around following country roads. Got back home and it looked like it had snowed. There was hailstones everywhere. The yard was full of them. Where they rolled off the house they were in large piles. There wasn’t a tornado on the ground when it came through here, but it spawned one a few miles further on. We were again lucky. My neighbors had to replace their vinyl siding, it looked like they had been shot up with machinegun fire. I was protected from the windblown hail by the treeline and had no damage except a few branches down.

      I know you aren’t supposed to get in a vehicle and run for it, but I know the lay of the land, and knew the path it was taking…

      I have some family out in your neck of the woods somewhere. If I ever get out that way I’ll buy you a coffee πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A COFFEE??? Surely you can do better than that! πŸ˜„

    Stay safe.


  5. Do you ever use litres, metres and kilometres! I had to get a conversation table just to understand your gallons and all. Hope you are not anywhere downstream should the water decide to make a new route

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry Mak I was brought up in a U.S. weights and measures society. I did learn about the metric system in school, but it hasn’t gone mainstream yet. So the result is I have to resort to conversion charts every time someone uses metrics on me πŸ˜‰

      They did drop horsepower ratings on vehicles and went to litres. They do have road signs on interstate highways showing 100 kilometers or 62 miles to certain destinations. But other than that metrics is just not the standard yet. I think we are moving in that direction, but a long way to go yet. I do love the beauty of the metric system it makes more sense than the U.S. system, but I’m stuck in what seems to be a very long transition phase.

      …I don’t know of anyone who still uses rods or furlongs, but it is a painfully slow process I think.

      We live on a nice ridgetop. It would take a LOT of water to get to us. But it wouldn’t take much more to flood the roadways in the bottoms, which would certainly cause transportaion issues. The county just across the river from us has experienced considerable flooding. I suppose our topography and a little luck has left us in a bit better situation.


    • Oh! one other thing, so many vehicles now are using both standard (US) and metric bolts, you never know which tool set you are going to need just to change the damn oil, nevermind doing any real mechanic work. You have to be using both sets of tools the entire time.

      So if they ever decide to make a full conversion, I already have the tools…


  6. A basketball is roughly one cubic foot, so imagine that many basketballs rushing past you per second.


    • I dont think even the Globetrotters could keep up with that many basketballs.

      …now I’m wondering how many barges it would take to hold that many basketballs πŸ˜‰ Of course if you have never been inside of a barge you have no idea how massive they are. I was a deckhand as a young man, I had opportunity to make extra $$ sweeping the empties. I seem to remember the rule of thumb was a barge had the volume of roughly 10 boxcars. Making one standard (downriver*) tow of 15 barges the equivalent of 150 boxcars. I’d not enjoy having to wait for that train at the crossing.

      My handy dandy calculator tells me that 430,000 basketballs would fill a non mind numbing 6 barges per second. Based on cubic foot measurements, averaging for equal amount of raked and box barges, which would be @ 70,000 cubic feet per barge.

      * An upriver tow on the lower Mississippi could run twice the number of the downriver tow. The current being the mitigating factor. It is easier to slow for hairy situations moving upriver, and generally more empties move upriver than down making for less mass to be in control of. I have worked 30 barge tows. They are massive. Generally smaller rivers are restricted to 15 barges because of lock capacities. The lower Mississippi has no locks.

      Amazing how much useless information one can carry around and not be 10 lbs. heavier.


  7. Scientific, or engineering, notation helps a lot.
    Some people have taken to calling such large numbers “MEGO” numbers. It stands for My Eyes Glaze Over numbers. Hard to get, or maintain a visceral sense of such large numbers. They are outside of human experience.


    • It is difficult to fathom such numbers excessive. I remember back when I was a still a kid, I thought I’d try to count to one million. That didn’t last long πŸ™‚


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