Another Bizarre NWS Tornado Warning Situation

An absolutely bizarre situation in central Kansas today when a tornado occurred -- with photos circulating on Twitter -- without a tornado warning. The dangerous tornado warning "cancer" continues to spread across the National Weather Service (NWS).

I'm going to run through the events of this afternoon and evening chronologically. Let's begin with my blog post (below) at 3:23pm. The times refer to when the message became publicly available. 

I forecasted a tornado threat, giant hail and wind gusts of 65 mph or stronger. All three types of weather occurred. 

A severe thunderstorm developed in central Kansas. It was moving southeast but I expected it to begin moving south shortly. I mentioned there was "a chance of a tornado or two."

This is my least favorite type of watch: a severe thunderstorm watch but with "a couple of tornadoes possible." I believe these should be tornado watches. Regardless, the NWS SPC in Oklahoma came to the same conclusion as I -- that tornadoes were possible in this area. 

3:57 to 4:42pm
The storm moved to the south and produced hail to 3" in diameter (baseball size). From time to time, the rotation would spool up a bit. An increasing number of meteorologists from around the nation on Twitter were wondering: why isn't there a tornado warning? 

A warning of baseball-size hail but no mention of a tornado threat.

The radar was shouting, "Issue a tornado warning!" At left, the reflectivity data (the type you see on TV) shows a developing and strengthening hook echo, a signature of a tornado. At right, the Doppler wind display has classic tornado rotation. It is incredible a tornado warning was not issued, especially given the atmosphere had significant values of the SIGTOR parameter (not shown) which indicated the atmospheric conditions were sufficient for tornado formation. 

I paused my coverage for a moment because I was confident the NWS was going to issue a tornado warning. I prefer for them to cover tornadoes so there isn't confusion. Yet, they didn't. I did not feel I could wait any longer. Because I believe the term "tornado warning" should be reserved for the National Weather Service to prevent confusion amongst the public, I simply stated that there was tornado and damaging wind potential at this point.

4:55pm or 5:28pm
This is utterly bizarre. 
It says, "4:55pm". At that time, the tornado was 17 miles from Windhorst. This particular item showed up twice in my Twitter feed, so I don't know when it was actually first sent. 

The statement says, "Capable of producing a tornado." " is the time to take your tornado precautions." What is the problem, you ask? 

There was no tornado warning out at 4:55, even though photos of the tornado were starting to appear on social media! Without a tornado warning, weather radios don't go off, apps don't go off, TV stations don't break in, sirens don't go off. 

At the same moment, this photo was on social media.

The tornado, from multiple angles, was appearing all over social media. 

4:59 to 5:01pm
"Someone needs to call and make sure DDC [Dodge City's National Weather Service office] isn't asleep..."  "...supercell with huge hook and [rotational] couplet. Reported funnel cloud, too. Not sure why this doesn't have tornado warning yet." These are just two of the many meteorologists from all over the nation were wondering why there was no tornado warning. 

No tornado warning was issued for another 20 minutes! The tornado dissipated without doing significant damage (as far as I know). 

A tornado warning, the first of the day, is finally issued. 

But, why? "The horse had left the barn," as we say in Kansas. The radar below, just before the tornado warning was issued, shows no sign of a tornado at all.
While the Dodge City office wrote, "radar indicated rotation," it simply isn't there. Yet, weather radios were going off, WEA was sounding, telephone warning services were dialing, apps were triggering and television and radio were breaking into programing. But, there is no indication of a tornado and no tornado occurred. It was a false alarm that hurts the credibility of the weather science community.

If the above statement pertaining to Windhorst was actually sent at 5:28pm, it would fit here. But, there was no indication of a tornado in that location at that time. 

Two years ago, the Dodge City NWS created a national controversy when, like today, meteorologists from all over the nation were pleading with them to issue a tornado warning. The mets were looking at this display:
The upper display was debris lofted by the tornado it (it was night). The lower display was the Doppler velocity showing a tornado rotation signature like the one this evening (scroll up).

Instead of explaining their astonishing decision not to issue a tornado warning, DDC issued the following terse reply:
But, it turned out there was an EF-2 intensity tornado that did damage! Criticism poured in from across the nation.
The office eventually issued an apology. 

But, the issue seems to be that nothing has been learned since that incident. Clearly, there are major problems with radar interpretation and tornado warning strategy at that NWS office as there are across the nation as the tornado warning "cancer" spreads

I call on the National Weather Service to stop denying a problem exists and to take strong, definitive action to stop this dangerous situation from continuing to worsen. Otherwise, another Joplin -- with triple digit fatalities -- is inevitable. 


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