Sunday, April 15, 2012

Some Thoughts About Yesterday's Tornadoes: We Have Tamed the Weather!

Photo by Melanie Metz, taken yesterday near Lyons, KS (scroll down for a related photo)

One hundred twenty one of reports of tornadoes in 18 hours. Five deaths.

Here is an interesting fact: All five deaths were in Woodward, OK* where an unknown technical problem prevented the sirens from sounding. In other words, little or no warning and people died. 

With the other 120 tornadoes zero deaths. Even though many of the tornadoes occurred in darkness. 

Why? Amazingly accurate forecasts and warnings days in advance. On April 9, this blog posted the graphic below outlining where tornadoes were likely Friday and Saturday -- six days in advance!
On Friday, for only the second time in history, the NWS Storm Prediction Center issued this forecast of maxed out tornado probabilities which was also posted on this blog:
click to enlarge
Note the sentence under the graphic, "Long-track, violent tornadoes are possible stretching into the overnight hours Saturday night!"

Now, here is the NWS SPC preliminary map of tornado paths which, in fact, stretched into the overnight hours last night,
What do you see? Long track tornadoes stretching into the overnight hours! Compare the location of the tornadoes (red) to the forecasts (above). Wow -- SPC nailed it!

As I write these words, there is a resident of a mobile home park in southeast Wichita talking about how he saw Merril Teller of Wichita's KWCH TV and he and his wife decided to take shelter. A mobile home and automobile landed on top of his home destroying it. But they were safe because of the warning. 

KWCH TV had an interview with a worker art Spirit Aerosystems who said, "we had plenty of warning." They took shelter and they were safe. 

At McConnell AFB, KWCH is reporting that they flew out out the KC-135 tankers well ahead of the tornadoes, saving the taxpayers millions. 

Both yesterday and in Dallas two weeks ago, multiple tornadoes strike populated areas and warnings save scores of lives. What other science delivers this type of value at little or no incremental cost?! If you doctor saves your life, you write a check. Public storm warnings are free (no incremental costs above the taxes you already pay).

Tornado damage in south Wichita. From KWCH TV via Facebook.
To my colleagues at the National Weather Service, the television stations in the central U.S., and at AccuWeather -- great job!! Through your very hard work and dedication we have "tamed" the weather. 


At AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, we provide business-to-business storm warnings tailored to their exact requirements. For example, Union Pacific Railroad was stopping trains based on our warnings to keep them out of harm's way. I took this photo yesterday afternoon of a stopped train east of Pratt. In the background is the thunderstorm that produced the tornado in Melanie's photo (at top).

I'll have some thoughts on yesterday's storm chase later today. 


*The 1947 long-track tornado named the Woodward Tornado killed 181, 107 in the city. No where along its path was there any warning. It was during an era when the Weather Bureau forbade itself from issuing tornado warnings. The story of the horrible 1947 Woodward tornado is the second chapter of Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather


Addition 5:22pm Sunday: National Weather Service map of the tornadoes and the tornado warnings. The Wichita tornado was F-3. The Kanopolis tornado (WSW of Salina) was F-4!

3 comments:

  1. Great writeup. Meterologists get ridiculed for inaccurate forecasting, but people don't take note of the countless times their forecasts save lives. Kudos to you, as well, as your blogs and tweets were recycled several times over and reached thousands of people.

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  2. they actually had a day 7 outlook area for the 14th. check out my video http://s259.photobucket.com/albums/hh287/jnc3985/?action=view&current=marquettetornado.mp4 :)

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