An Unwarnable Tornado

I was contacted by a reader, "JuniorTV," with regard to a fatal tornado in North Carolina that, he said, occurred without warning. Please see below for details. I spent some time looking into Tuesday's tornado.


The reader was correct, the archive shows no tornado warning was issued. 
College of DuPage
An appropriate tornado warning would have been issued around 12:10 to 12:15pm. 

In this case, it was an unwarnable tornado and I do not fault the National Weather Service.

The Charlotte Doppler radar shows nothing indicative of a tornado two minutes before it touched town. The left is the reflectivity data (the type you see on television) and the right is the Doppler wind data which shows no significant rotation. The timestamp on the radar images is Central, add an hour for Eastern since this occurred in North Carolina.

The tornado is just touching down at this point. There is no tornado signature in the reflectivity data but there is rotation in the Doppler data (circled, right). So, the first radar indication was at the same time the tornado developed -- no possibility of advance warning. 

At 12:28 EST, the indication of a tornado is better but not it is not conclusive.

At the 3-minute mark, there was little indication of a tornado in the reflectivity data. At right, there is enough rotation for a warning but by the time a warning could have been issued (roughly 2 minute process) the tornado had lifted and the rotation on radar had moved into the no data -- "ND" slice which is caused by a building the blocks the radar's signal. 

The write-ups we have been doing that fault the NWS are situations where the need for a tornado warning was obvious, or nearly so. This wasn't one of them. 

Thanks readers! I'm happy to hear from you. 

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