So not to once again have to pull the, "one of us was there and it wasn't you card," but that's what I'm gonna do. Let's address what you purport to somehow be the only two possibilities as to why we could've possibly ended up in the situation we did:This simply isn't true.
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The linked video above starts about a block from the gas station, which SLT had just left, with the tornado already moving through Joplin. A tornado warning for the soon to be impacted areas (not another storm to the north) was issued at 5:17 pm. The tornado crossed Range Line Road at about 5:46 pm. There was almost a half hour of lead time from warning issuance to where the tornado crossed behind SLT as they fled south. So either:
Accidents happen, and we all make mistakes. But this idea that we did "absolutely everything correct" is patently false. Some folks need to take a hard look at why and what could have been done to avoid this situation. The answer isn't "nothing". How about we take responsibility for our actions so they don't keep coming back to bite us in the ass?
- Somebody wasn't paying attention, perhaps because the tour wasn't in an active chase mode anymore
- The warning was dismissed, perhaps because the tour thought they knew better ("storm will be undercut" or "the warning is for a different storm to the north").
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Pre-El Reno and in the panicky urge to escape, it's easy to excuse this, but we should probably also talk about why this route was chosen. SLT crossed Joplin's path *twice*, and needlessly. People in the van had already correctly identified that they had cleared the path of the tornado, yet there was this compelling urge to race northeast, blindly through the RFD core, to get back ahead of the storm. This is the stuff we need to fix. There's going to be more tragedies if we leave it to "dumb luck".
I think it's important for those looking to book tours to recognize that all of us storm chasers are basically self taught amateurs. There's no real training, regulation, or licensing for this, and you're putting your life in these peoples' hands. Make sure they have adequate insurance coverage, and if something doesn't seem right, you better speak up. Like, "Hey, why are we stopped in town for a pee break in an active tornado warning?".
Better idea: Acknowledge the mistakes, learn from them, and move on. The choices made that day - even if well intentioned - wound up taking 3 vans filled with tour guests dangerously close across the path of an EF-5 tornado. TWICE. If the group had been hit and people killed, we wouldn't be seriously debating the appropriateness of those decisions. I was with SLT on May 28, 2019. My van rolled 3 times and landed upside down in a ditch. Personally, I'd rather get "crushed" by a hail core.Could we potentially have made other decisions at Joplin? Maybe. Perhaps we could have gone north instead of south and chose to get crushed by the hail core in exchange for a shorter path out, who knows. But to characterize our actions that day around "getting too close" or "core punching an HP", etc. etc., or that the situation is in anyway comparable to the Lawrence, KS storm is simply incorrect.
In that situation, going south WAS the right decision: Here's the situation: You've got a mile and a half wide wall of water with a rain-wrapped tornado 2 or 3 miles away coming at you. The northern side of the meso, completely wrapped up, is already directly to your west, and the tornadic rotation is moving east-northeast. You have two choices: Go south to get out of the path AND avoid the hail, or go north, along side the tornado that has currently got a northerly component to it, hope to beat it, and drive into the hail core. In that situation why on Earth would you pick the northern option? As it happens (see the damage path in the figure I created on the link I referenced), the tornado turned more straight easterly, and then southeasterly. If you choose the north option and the tornado doesn't turn, you are in big trouble. I don't see the choice to take the south option as a mistake at all.Better idea: Acknowledge the mistakes, learn from them, and move on. The choices made that day - even if well intentioned - wound up taking 3 vans filled with tour guests dangerously close across the path of an EF-5 tornado. TWICE. If the group had been hit and people killed, we wouldn't be seriously debating the appropriateness of those decisions. I was with SLT on May 28, 2019. My van rolled 3 times and landed upside down in a ditch. Personally, I'd rather get "crushed" by a hail core.
And the reason to not pull the "I was there and you weren't" card, is because we don't need to be there to make an objective assessment of the situation. I have the same data and tools that were used in the decision making process. If you have additional info that supersedes this, like timestamped photos and video or GPS logs, then great! Please share it. But I shouldn't have to point out that when you're a client in the back of the van, or a driver stuck behind the wheel, you may not actually have the best or most complete understanding of what happened, despite actually being there.So not to once again have to pull the, "one of us was there and it wasn't you card,"
Note below that the active warning including the Conoco's location was indeed for the circulation that went on to produce the Joplin EF5, and with a half hour lead time.what you purport to somehow be the only two possibilities...
1. Roger was absolutely paying attention. While the rest of us went into the gas station to try to get candy/use the restroom
2. The active tornado warning was for a storm that we saw get undercut and posed no risk at that time.
So it's option #2 then. Ok.the attendants at the store would neither allow folks in, nor allow us to pump gas, because we were under a tornado warning. Of course, we’d been under tornado warnings for hours, so we were not overly fazed
It sure sheds a lot more light on what happened than these questionable assertions. Let's take a look at the radar:and as much as you may believe a forensic investigation into this solves the equation, it doesn't.
So this scan was after the gas station stop then? There was 20+ minutes between the stop at the gas station and escaping south on Range Line Road? Or you guys had no data and were unaware this was happening for 20 minutes? Or you were only considering the "undercut" tornado warning to the north over Carl Junction and Webb City? Where was the tour at this time? Did you guys see this scan and warning? Because it looks like you didn't, or you wrote it off. Although the tornado warning text cited a northeast moving tornado, the polygon suggested storm motion east-southeast. The prior warnings cited motion to the east. The watch cited storm motion to the east. So I'm leading a tour and carefully watching radar. Do I decide that this is a good time to unload three vans of tourists in a congested urban area to go candy shopping?The storm that produced the Joplin tornado was not yet warned at the time and given the lack of updated radar did not yet display a violently tornadic couplet.
That's not what I intended. It's obvious you guys were trying to escape. I'm trying to point out that these are ill conceived escape routes. There's this knee jerk reaction to cross the tornado's path to get to clear air. That was driven home for everyone after El Reno, but if you look back, there's a long history of these mistakes being made.The decision to get on I-44 to get "ahead of the storm", implying that we were trying to chase it, is also incorrect.
And yet you wound up crossing the entirety of the mile wide damage path. Unknowingly one ensnarled intersection, one snickers bar away from death. That's what we're trying to fix here. Not drag SLT through the mud, but fix critical errors that are getting people hurt and killed.In that situation why on Earth would you pick the northern option?
Before or by the time you're hitting I-44, all three vans correctly identified that the tornado was to their north or northwest, crossing behind them. You can hear this in discussions in the videos. I believe it was even you in the video from van 1 that says, "I think the tornado is right to our north". All three vans then proceed to head northeast on I-44 back toward the tornado's path. Yeah, the clear air is just ahead and you could make it. But it's three miles before the next exit. One Lone Star-Lawrence-esque tornado accelerating RFD surge, one blocked off ramp from death.And the whole "TWICE" thing: In that situation you are chasing visually
Not maybe. Definitely. It needs to be said over and over again, every season: If you need to escape, always pick the loss of all glass from forward flank softballs over racing a tornado across its path. Guaranteed crushed by hail > possibly crushed by wedge.Could we potentially have made other decisions at Joplin? Maybe. Perhaps we could have gone north instead of south and chose to get crushed by the hail core in exchange for a shorter path out, who knows.
We look at past events to better ourselves by identifying correctable and fatal mistakes that chasers are repeatedly making. The two biggest errors that we see over and over again, including on Joplin, 2011 El Reno, 2013 El Reno, and Lone Star/Lawrence:It's a shame that Skip felt he needed to try and link the two to somehow reinforce his analysis of Lawrence, which apart from that erroneous linkage
You take a pit stop mid-race, you're still racing. You take a break mid-chase in the middle of an active warning, with no visual reference, in an urban environment, and no well planned escape routes, that's fatal.We were not even really chasing
Roger panicked. Chasing was still in its innocent days before chasers started getting killed by tornadoes. SLT should not be raked through the coals for Joplin, and that's not at all what I'm trying to do here. Please don't get me wrong. But these were critical mistakes that need to be carefully examined in hindsight so that we can have the foresight not to repeat them. SLT took a woefully late escape route, and then raced to cross the full width of Joplin's path, either because they misjudged the storm structure, misjudged the radar, or simply had no situational awareness from which to judge (see above). And then to visually clear the tornado, and turn back toward its path through blinding RFD on a limited-access road, that's fatal.we gotta get south NOW!!