Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:09 PM GMT on April 16, 2012
Damage surveys continue in the Plains in the wake of Saturday's major tornado outbreak. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logged 110 preliminary tornado reports, with an additional 10 reports from Sunday. At least one tornado was a violent EF-4, which hit mostly unpopulated areas in Ellsworth County, Kansas. The only fatalities from the outbreak occurred in Woodward, Oklahoma, where an EF-3 tornado hit at night after lightning knocked out the town's tornado sirens. Six people were killed, three of them children. A preliminary rating of EF-3 has also been given to a tornado that hit the south and southeast portions of Wichita, Kansas near 10:30 pm CDT Saturday night. The tornado did significant damage to McConnell AFB and to a nearby trailer park. All of the residents of the trailer park were in the trail park's tornado shelter, which undoubtedly saved many lives. Two residents required hospitalization. Damage from the Wichita tornado has been estimated at $283 million.
Figure 1. Radar reflectivity image of the EF-3 tornado that hit the south side of Wichita, Kansas, causing damage estimated at $283 million.
Video 1. Storm chaser video of one of Saturday's impressive tornadoes near Salina, Kansas. At about the 3 minute mark, you'll see what appear to be cows moving very fast in a mighty tail wind.
Video 2. Storm chaser video of the nighttime Wichita, Kansas tornado of April 14, 2012.
New dire language in tornado warnings
National Weather Service offices in several states in the Plains are experimenting this year with new wording in public advisories when a particularly dangerous tornado has touched down. If spotters confirm that a large and damaging tornado is on the ground, the NWS has the option of including some rather dire wording to get the public to take action. About 3/4 of all tornado warnings are false alarms. This primarily occurs because the NWS will issue a warning for a rotating thunderstorm spotted on radar, and these thunderstorms don't always have funnel clouds that reach to the ground. But when spotters actually verify that a tornado is on the ground, and that tornado has a long history of causing damage, issuance of one the new direly-worded advisories may help give the public the message that this tornado is not going to be a false alarm and they better take it seriously. Such an advisory was issued for Saturday's Wichita, Kansas tornado, which turned out to be an EF-3 that caused major but not catastrophic damage. The dire wording of the advisory predicted the type of damage associated with a violent EF-4 or EF-5 tornado, "with complete devastation likely." The damage from this tornado fell short of that mark, but I believe it was a reasonable usage of the new type of advisory:
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE WICHITA KS
1033 PM CDT SAT APR 14 2012
...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR WEST CENTRAL BUTLER AND EASTERN SEDGWICK COUNTIES UNTIL 1100 PM CDT...
...TORNADO EMERGENCY FOR EAST WICHITA...
AT 1031 PM CDT...A CONFIRMED LARGE...VIOLENT AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE...AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 35 MPH.
THIS IS A PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION.
SOURCE...SPOTTER CONFIRMED TORNADO.
IMPACT...THIS IS A LIFE THREATENING SITUATION. YOU COULD BE KILLED IF NOT UNDERGROUND OR IN A TORNADO SHELTER. COMPLETE DESTRUCTION OF ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOODS IS LIKELY. MANY WELL
BUILT HOMES AND BUSINESSES WILL BE COMPLETELY SWEPT FROM THEIR FOUNDATIONS. DEBRIS WILL BLOCK MOST ROADWAYS. MASS DEVASTATION IS HIGHLY LIKELY MAKING THE AREA UNRECOGNIZABLE
LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...PARK CITY...NORTHEAST WICHITA...ANDOVER...BEL AIRE...KECHI...JABARA AIRPORT AND BENTON.
THIS IS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO WITH COMPLETE DEVASTATION LIKELY. YOU COULD BE KILLED IF NOT UNDERGROUND OR IN A TORNADO SHELTER. DO NOT DELAY...SEEK SHELTER NOW! IF NO UNDERGROUND SHELTER IS AVAILABLE SEEK SHELTER IN AN INTERIOR ROOM OF THE LOWEST LEVEL OF A STRUCTURE...OR IF TIME ALLOWS...CONSIDER MOVING TO AN UNDERGROUND SHELTER ELSEWHERE. MOBILE HOMES AND OUTBUILDINGS WILL OFFER NO SHELTER FROM THIS TORNADO.
TORNADOES ARE DIFFICULT TO SEE AND CONFIRM AT NIGHT. TAKE COVER NOW.
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