Friday, May 24, 2013

Five Tornado Myths Examined

The Washington Post asked me to comment on some tornado myths. With their permission, the article is here. It will be in the "Outlook" section of the Sunday print edition.

As I expected, driving out of the path is controversial. Except for one thing. It was done in Moore Monday. By the daughter of the Chief Meteorologist of the NWS in Norman!

So we are clear: People will only stay in shelter for so long. The "warning" -- "get in shelter and stay there!," should be 15-20 minutes in duration.

I am proposing we modify "watches" to give more specificity and keep them in effect for shorter periods of time... as part of my paper to the AMS Meeting in Nashville next month. Giant watches like Saturday's for Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska are just too big and yield too little information to be of optimal use.

Example of a Watch That is Too Large (in my opinion)


  1. I always remember Lamoni Iowa for the fact it was always in any tornado watch than for ever having been there.

    It helps if you don't have to be a 3rd or 4th grade geography buff and get out a map for a watch to relate to the locations.

    However it is a hard call as to what to do differently to fix that.

  2. One way to deal with objections to the cost or feasibility of community shelters is to first consider what facilities are already in place that could be used in a pinch -- underground parking garages or tunnels between buildings on a hospital or college campus, for example. Probably just about anyplace that was designated as a "fallout shelter" back in the Cold War days could be repurposed as a public tornado shelter. Once you figure out where these facilities are and how many people could be served by them, then you can consider where new shelters would be needed. Using what is already there could mitigate the cost considerably.



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