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Posts tagged: tornadoes

The lessons of Joplin, MO for Spokane…

Good afternoon, Netizens…


Having watched the news regarding the F4 tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, and given the number of times I have chased tornadoes through Tornado Alley, my heart is heavy with sorrow for those who died or were injured during this record-breaking multi-cyclonic storm. Unfortunately, storm chasers never truly had an opportunity with this storm as most storm chasers with any brains to back up their nerves of steel would never chase funnel clouds in the dark, which is when the storm reached its peak.


It would be redundant of me to cite Joplin's statistics, as the national news media have already smothered our senses with news overload regarding a city in Missouri some of us may have never seen. Suffice it to say people in Joplin are living in a chainlike web of sorrow and pain tonight, and it is not over by a long shot, as they are currently under a tornado and severe thunderstorm warning once again.


However, it stands to reason there are some lessons which Spokane could learn in the aftermath of such a horrific storm, despite the fact Spokane only rarely has tornadoes, and as far as I can tell, has never seen an F4 storm.


First, do we even have emergency sirens? Granted, we probably do not have enough danger of tornadoes to mandate having workable sirens mounted throughout the city. However, such devices could easily be part of a more generic set of warnings. Perhaps we could even sound the sirens to let the public know of unforeseen hazards, such as train wrecks or other dangerous situations. If nothing else, using city-wide sirens as a storm warning might buy unknowing citizens of pending hazardous weather by encouraging people to turn on their radios and televisions for the latest news updates and thus to take immediate shelter.


Awareness of weather threats should be taught early to our students in the hopes they will always be aware of dangerous weather. I will never forget the day about ten years ago a tornado manifested itself in North Spokane while I was sitting in a former Denny's Restaurant. The funnel appeared to be making a bee line for the restaurant, and to my utter chagrin, most of the restaurant staff and patrons eagerly ran to the windows to get a better look. It was fortuitous that the storm went back aloft, for had it not done so, the statistics could have been terrible. Education and awareness is everything.


Duck and cover is not dead yet. In the Midwest, throughout most of Tornado Alley, students are still taught the old-fashioned “duck and cover” drill, a hallmark of the Cold War Days when we lived in fear of an atomic bomb. In Spokane we only average three or four tornadoes per year, and only a few of them ever achieve even an F2 category. Still, having school children aware of duck and cover might make the difference between life and death should a tornado strike.


These are just a few things, idle speculation on my part, that we could stand to learn from the meteorological depravity that hit Tornado Alley in the last few weeks. Of course, your results and opinions may differ.



F4-F5 tornadoes flatten parts of Alabama…

Good morning, Netizens…


Late yesterday and throughout the night last night, parts of Alabama and Mississippi were decimated by a series of violent tornadoes that ranged from an estimated F4 or F5 on the Fujita Scale that hit Tuscaloosa, Huntsville and Birmingham, such as this photo of the tornado that flattened portions of Tuscaloosa late in the day yesterday. This area of the United States is no stranger to tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, but never so many and of such severity in such a short period of time.


A huge storm front, ranging across four states, killed a still-unknown number of people and injuring hundreds of others. It flattened not only homes in its path, it flattened businesses throughout much of the Huntsville area, leaving emergency services and medical service providers ill-equipped to cope with the trees across streets, people trapped in houses and businesses and other injuries.


It is not quite turning daylight now, and with the new day, it is expected the number of dead and injured will rise.


Unfortunately, there is still a forecast model that suggests the severe weather will persist for portions of today.



The twister explosion back east…

Good morning, Netizens…


Living in the Pacific Northwest, there are many who wonder at people who, after loading down their vehicles with an imponderable stack of highly-technical equipment, and taking their lives in their hands, go chasing severe storms in other areas of the country. A classic example of a reason why people do such things just struck in parts of North Carolina and other parts of the South where a record-setting number of tornadoes touched down over the weekend.


There was a time, years ago, when I regularly chased tornadoes. It was before the full development of NEXRAD Radar, when storm chasers didn't have hardly any of the modern-day gadgets that modern-day meteorologists routinely possess. We studied the clouds, and when the circumstances were right, we called local authorities notifying them of a potential tornado touchdown; it wasn't perfect but it was what we had. Even today, given the arsenals of electronics and meteorological software storm chasers sometimes miss storms that later generate tornadoes. In some instances storm chasers cause the sirens to blow but no funnel clouds ever form. It is an imperfect science to some degree.


In Sanford, North Carolina, a representative for a flattened Lowe's Hardware store admitted to various members of news agencies that they had heard the sirens blowing in the distance, notifying anyone within its range to take cover immediately and yet it wasn't until customers physically saw the tornado looming across the street before anyone took action. Fortunately, the Lowes store in question had a disaster plan and followed it. Despite the store being more or less flattened around them, no one inside the store was killed.


All the storm chasers in the world would not have made much difference to the folks in the store.


According to several severe weather warning centers, there were at least four storm chasers who had been following the progress of the particular storm front which spawned so many tornadoes in such a short period of time. In fact there were at least two different videos of the storm as it developed, each shot by storm chasers. Still, in other areas, people died, some of whom had no warning at all of impending severe weather.




There is obviously a great deal more education, awareness and advance notification that needs to be done before tornado warning system will work 100% of the time.



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