Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Eleventh Anniversary of the Joplin Tornado

...was earlier today. The tornado killed 161 and injured 1,150. 

Until today, I had not seen this video. The tornado is on the ground, cars are flying through the air and something is missing: The sound of tornado sirens!

This was the worst failure of the modern tornado warning system (by the NWS and emergency management) since the Weather Bureau began issuing tornado warnings* in the late 1950's.

As I explain in When the Sirens Were Silent, the National Weather Service, multiple times, said the tornado was going to travel north of Joplin. Their reporting even fooled the weekend meteorologist and news anchor at KSNF-TV. Listen to meteorologist Caitlin McCardle speak in a normal tone of voice even as their weather camera shows the tornado is chewing up the southwest part of Joplin. When she realizes what is on the screen is actually a tornado, her tone changes completely, "Take cover! .. I"m telling you to take cover now!!"
When I interviewed Caitlin as I was researching Sirens, she said the was "shocked" the tornado was in south Joplin. 

But the problem wasn't limited to the National Weather Service: the sirens were not sounded for the Joplin Tornado until the first people had been killed by the storm (they were sounded earlier for a storm that didn't threaten Joplin). Sirens are sounded by local emergency management. 

The people of Joplin were sitting ducks. 

I'd like to tell you this couldn't happen again, but I cannot. I wrote a story for the Washington Post a year ago today about the growing issues in the National Weather Service's tornado warning program. Since the story was published, the problems have only grown worse (here, among many others).

Our nation desperately needs a National Disaster Review Board


* I'm referring to tornado warnings as we define them today. For a time in the 50's they called today's tornado watches, tornado warnings. 

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