[ Updated] The Second Missouri Tornado Warning Miss of the Night!

This is a lengthy post, so please allow me to summarize it. There were at least two, possibly three tornadoes in far northeast Missouri and west central Illinois Friday night and pre-dawn Saturday morning. All were completely unwarned.  

The data below demonstrates there was clear rotation with these storms but I don't seriously fault the St. Louis office of the National Weather Service because they were so far distant from their radar. The fault lies with NWS Headquarters which turned down Congress' offer to purchase a radar for this and a number of other serious radar gaps around the nation. 

[This is a revised report given a more precise time of arrival of the tornado. ]
Some background: The initial report of the Baring Tornado that was sent to me gave a time of 11:30pm Central Standard Time (below). 
However, upon checking radar, there was nothing near Baring at 11:30 CDT. There were also no tornado warnings for northeast Missouri last night, at all. But, we know there was a tornado. 

So, I looked one hour later (11:30pm CST = 12:30am CDT) and, sure enough, there was impressive rotation at that time (scroll down). I would have issued a tornado warning based on the Lincoln, IL radar. I believe it is entirely possible there was a second tornado after midnight. 

It turns out that neither of those times were correct for the tornado that struck Baring. 

Per the St. Louis' National Weather Service's ground survey, the tornado struck Baring at 11:13pm CDT. 

Surprisingly, the data on the St. Louis radar leading up to near 11:13pm shows a couplet visible for 10+ minutes from which a warning could have been issued. I will review below. However, my comments about the NWS HQ turning down the gap-filler radars are still absolutely true -- this EF-2 tornado would have been a cinch to warn of with a radar in northeast Missouri. It was speculative to issue a warning with the radar in St. Louis 133 miles away. 

This unusual tornado moved from southeast to northwest. 

For the distance, a decent couplet can be seen over Edina, MO. Associated with the tornado, it would move NNW toward Baring. I might have warned given this data. However, I'm not confident of that for two reasons: the distance (133 miles) and the desire to balance accurate warnings with false alarms. 

The radar was set to tornado scan, 80 second intervals (well done, St. Louis NWS!) and the couplet is a little less impressive as it moved toward Baring.

The couplet has weakened a bit on Baring's threshold, but it is still visible. 

The couplet (right) comes roaring back with more than 102 mph of gate-to-gate shear. This is why having the radar so far away makes it difficult to warn. The radar beam is too high up and there often isn't good continuity in the features. At left is the reflectivity data (the type you see on TV) and there isn't much there). However, I would almost certainly have warned here given the continuity with the couplet and its rapid strengthening. 

The couplet (right) is still present and very close or over Baring. And there has been a jump in intensity in the reflectivity data. Is this due to lofted debris? Possible.

The couplet starts to move away from Baring and soon weakens. I cannot account for the NWS's 11:13pm time as it seems a few minutes too late. 

-- original report, based on the reported 12:30pm time --
This is the story of what might have been a second tornado in the area.
We had another completely unwarned tornado. The second in northern Missouri in seven hours. This one caused injuries and significant damage. The story of the earlier miss, in Ray County, is here

Fox Weather
Baring is a tiny town in northeast Missouri, best known for being on the BNSF Railway's "Transcon" from Chicago to Los Angeles.  The story (with an incorrect time of occurrence of the tornado, it hit about 12:35am) is here

It was the responsibility of the St. Louis NWS office to warn Baring. I am going to give them a fair amount of slack as the responsibility for this situation belongs to NWS Headquarters. 

Here is the St. Louis' radar at 12:32am this morning. The arrow points to significant rotation within a small weather system (known as a "bookend vortex") that, itself, was rotating. 
However, because it was 133 miles from the radar, it is fair to say the St. Louis office wasn't sure what it was dealing with. I'm not at all sure I would have warned, given this radar presentation. The well-known northeast Missouri radar gap is one of the worst in the nation. 

But, there are two twists to this twister story. 

The first is that Congress offered to authorize and fund more radars so the NWS could fill these gaps. A committee of Congress reached out to me and asked for a report, which I gladly provided (free!) showing the gaps and the justification for each. That would have been the basis for placing about 12-20 "gap-filler" radars.

Everything was going well until the NWS -- amazingly -- said no. That story is here
So, the people of Baring, La Plata, Kirksville and the surrounding region have little chance of an advance warning in the middle of the night -- the most dangerous type of tornado situation!

The second twist is that the second-closest radar, in Lincoln, Illinois, 155 miles away, saw a strong signature of a tornado! I would not have expected that.

12:27am from Lincoln, Illinois WSR-88D
The rotation is less broad than St. Louis' -- even though it is higher in the atmosphere. But, it is pretty strong, and strengthening. 

The "gate-to-gate" rotation is strong for so high up in the storm. Given the strengthening nature of this small area of rotation, within a larger area of rotation, a tornado warning may have been possible -- except the wrong radar is showing it. St. Louis could have accessed the Lincoln radar but it is quite likely "they didn't know what they didn't know."

While the rotation hasn't moved much (not uncommon in this type of situation), the more than 100 mph of gate-to-gate rotation means a tornado warning should have been issued -- had this been visible on the STL radar.  The"102.9" is the wind speed being measured on the radar. 

The tornado is striking Baring with more than 120 mph of gate-to-gate wind speed differential (I'm simplifying all this). While this is high up in the storm, it is clearly an indication of a strong tornado. Turns out it was an EF-2 which meets the NWS's definition of "strong." 

To be clear, I don't particularly fault the St. Louis office this morning due to the distance and what their radar was depicting. 

What this clearly demonstrates is that NWS' headquarters assertion that (paraphrasing) "we don't need more radars to effectively warn of tornadoes" was and is utter hogwash. Had a C-band radar been placed in northeast Missouri, warning of this strong tornado would have been a snap. 

This makes two missed tornado warnings in northern Missouri in just seven hours. Completely unacceptable! Please, please write your congresspeople -- today!


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