A Tornado Warning Is a Tornado Warning Regardless of Its Conveyance

Controversy pertaining to the 
Dallas Tornado and its warning. 

Let's sort through the issues.

1. The first is that the official NWS warning was issued two minutes after the tornado touched down. This is true but not the main point. Their tornado watch for Dallas was issued nearly two full hours before the tornado touched down. It forecast a major tornado risk.
Others were emphasizing the tornado threat, including yours truly, before the tornado touched down.

2. Next, the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram continues with the "no warning" theme. It is true that the NBC station, carrying the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, didn't initially interrupt the game.
The station, KXAS TV, has acknowledged its mistake of not interrupting. But, it turns out the people in question were warned. Here is a quote from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's story:
"We got a warning on our cellphones but that was it."

A tornado warning is a tornado warning regardless of how it arrives!

Take shelter when you receive a tornado warning regardless of whether it comes from television, a siren or a smartphone. It is ironic that smartphone warnings would be devalued by some affected by the tornado because, starting at 10am Sunday and has it has in the past, this blog emphasized using the smartphone as a "tornado alarm" because the primary tornado threat would be after dark.
When properly configured, a smartphone can be placed next to your bed and it will allow you to be awakened by a tornado warning for your specific location. It doesn't have the false alarm issue that NOAA Weather Radio and some other sources have. Increasingly over time, smartphones will evolve to be the primary tornado warning device.

Over and over, meteorologists have emphasized how important it is to have more than one way of receiving the warning. The Dallas Tornado is testament to that value of that advice.

3. A significant criticism of the National Weather Service: they did not have their radar (KFWS), which covers the DFW Metroplex, on tornado mode (called "SAILS"). The five-minute data interval was far too long for this situation. While both of the FAA's Doppler weather radars had technical issues Sunday evening, the DFW TDWR, which surveys the atmosphere at 1-minute intervals, clearly showed the tornado at 8:56pm (below) which was two minutes before KFWS depicted it.
DFW TDWR at 8:56pm. Circle is the tornado's location 
The DFW Metroplex is covered by more radars than any other metropolitan area in the United States. Anecdotally, I have run into a number of NWS employees who seem overly focused on their radar and seem to downplay the other radars in the area. Getting the warning out two minutes more quickly on a major tornado in a densely populated area is highly valuable.

My recommendations, which apply across the nation,
  • FAA needs to keep its TDWR radars in tip-top condition at all times. The semi-frequent outages of seven to ten days need to cease. The failure of the Love Field TDWR couldn't have come at a worse time. 
  • The NWS needs to be more aggressive at using data from other quality radars. 
  • The NWS, whenever a tornado watch is issued for their county warning area, should immediately go to SAILS mode with their radars in the affected area. 
This will probably be my last posting on this tornado but I will provide more information if it becomes pertinent. 

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