False tornado warning helped Orlando prepare for Charley

Sunday, October 02, 2005, Palm Beach Daily News

By Mike Lyons, Special to the Daily News
It wasn't that long ago that a hurricane was a rare event. In the 1970s, '80s and early '90s, a hurricane would come along only four or five times a year, often in the safe, far reaches of the tropical Atlantic Ocean.

<SNIP>

With so many potential hurricanes looming, helping people prepare for the storm and knowing how to react is a challenge for the National Weather Service. Last August, forecasters at the National Weather Service Melbourne office met that challenge as Hurricane Charley bore down on Central Florida.

Charley, a small, but powerful Category 4 hurricane, had slammed into Florida's southwest coast on the morning of Aug. 13. Hours after striking Charlotte Harbor, Charley remained a destructive, powerful hurricane as it headed for the Orlando-metro area with sustained winds topping 100 mph.

Forecasters at the Melbourne weather office feared that an update on Charley's dangerous wind conditions would get lost in the dozens of weather bulletins already issued from their office and the National Hurricane Center. Their solution was simple, yet brilliant: They put out a tornado warning.

"We ended up using a wrench for a hammer," said Dennis Decker, the warning Coordination Meteorologist with the Melbourne office.

There was no tornado, but the tornado warning got the attention of all the television and radio stations in the Orlando area. The warning allowed the National Weather Service to get the word out quickly that Charley's 100 mph winds were about 30 minutes away.

"When you do something outside of the box like that, you wonder how the people up the chain of command in the Weather Service are going to react," said Decker. "They basically confirmed that it was a good idea."

Complete article here:
http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/con.../lyons1002.html
 
I, for one, am a huge fan of the 'eyewall warnings.' In a scenario such as the one above...where, after moving inland, the eyewall of a weakening (though still very potent) hurricane moves over a metro area...a tornado warning really is probably the best way to let the public know how much danger they're in.

Also, as an added 'bonus,' there sometimes really are tornadoes embedded within the eyewall --though there are examples of bonafide eyewall tornadoes...recently, there were several gustnadoes reported by chasers in the Beaumont area as the decaying eyewall of Rita roared through -- so there really isn't a 'bad side of the coin' here. For anyone interested, STer Glen Romine and others have done some particularly interesting research in the study of eyewall tornadoes.

Basically, I just don't think that the Inland Hurricane Warnings carry as much weight with the public as they should, so, in searching for an alternative, I think these are a great idea.
 
Personally, I just don't see the need to issue TORs for eyewalls... Yeah, it's good to warn the people of the "oncoming" danger, but, ummm... Who in their right minds would wait 30 minuites before the eyewall to take cover?!

If nobody is hearing them, what's the point?
 
Originally posted by nickgrillo
If nobody is hearing them, what's the point?

Correct me if I'm wrong, because I could very well be, but I'm pretty sure the majority of the Orlando metro area still had power when the aforementioned TOR went out. Sure, in certain circumstances (e.g. Rita) few will get the warning, but in others (e.g. Charley) many will hear it, and it is because of the latter that this should become uniform NWS policy...JMHO, of course.
 
There was some discussion about this a couple of weeks ago ... http://www.stormtrack.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8650

Below is my post from that thread:
I just wonder what purpose an \"Eyewall warning\" would serve. I mean, assuming we're talking about a major hurricane, the folks in the warning area are very likely to be without power, and I can't imagine NWR's and local radio stations' transmissions (that is, if the transmitters have power) will be heard by folks in the area. If nobody in the area is going to get the warning, why issue it begin with? Again, this assumes that the storm is a major hurricane, since most non-major hurricanes don't have \"tornado-like\" winds. In addition, all areas where the eyewall of a major hurricane is expected to make landfall should certainly be under a mandatory evacuation, so the folks in those areas shouldn't be there to begin with. Not saying that these people don't deserve to be served by the NWS, but they won't likely be able to get the \"eyewall warning\" anyway.

I understand the purpose of the warning, and I don't have a problem with warning for areas that are likely to experience \"tornado-like\" winds. However, it seems to be more academic than practical in terms of illiciting a response from those in the warning area.
 
" but I'm pretty sure the majority of the Orlando metro area still had power when the aforementioned TOR went out."

But wouldn't the public already be getting that information from their TV's? I find it hard to believe wall-to-wall coverage was not in place, and since the TV mets are tracking the eyewall just like NWS mets do, it just doesn't seem like something that adds a lot of value...
 
Sam S typed

>Also, as an added 'bonus,' there sometimes really are tornadoes
>embedded within the eyewall --though there are examples of
>bonafide eyewall tornadoes...

Unproven. Unambiguous photographic or videographic documentation is needed. There have been *reports* of eyewall tornadoes, some of which even made Storm Data in order to verify warnings, however no actual confirmation.

In Hurricane Andrew, surface horizontal shear vortices appeared to cause intensification of damage within discrete swaths in the inner eyewall. Fujita surveyed these "mini swirls" with his usual thoroughness and was very careful NOT to call them tornadoes.

I'm not saying eyewall tornadoes can't happen, just that there is no firm confirmation of them yet.

>recently, there were several gustnadoes reported by chasers in the >Beaumont area as the decaying eyewall of Rita roared through

Gustnadoes are not tornadoes, but shallow vortices which fail to extend into the cloud. For more discussion see
http://www.cimms.ou.edu/~doswell/a_tornado...o/atornado.html

As for the warnings themselves, a team made up of folks from NHC, SPC, HRD, Eastern Region, Southern Region and HQ is developing a custom warning for such situations to replace the non-tornadic tornado warnings now used (as the article alluded) to hammer a nail with a wrench. After all, the real intent of these warnings is to give emergency alert (EAS) priority the same as for a tornado warning, an order of magnitude more precise in space scale (10s versus 100s of km) and time (single hour or two versus 10s of hours) than traditional hurricane warnings, and with the flexibility to extend inland as with Orlando. This way, emergency responders can themselves be notified to take immediate protective cover, for the most damaging part of the hurricane is about to strike. The TOR warning for Orlando was well received. However, overuse (as may be happening now) could change things.

I'm confident there will be such a destructive (eyewall) wind warning eventually. How long? Beats me. Red tape including new header development, required notification periods, and layers of approvals at various levels (including FAA) might mean more of this eyewall-TOR business until then.
 
I don't understand why one SHOULDN'T be issued. Even if it doesn't save anyone in that particular instance, better safe than sorry, right?

Nick is right, you should already be taking cover during a hurricane warning, but I doubt many people do. But as Roger mentioned, a hurricane warning might be in effect for 10 or 20 hours prior to landfall - that's quite awhile to be sitting in your closet or bathroom waiting. And even when winds do pick up a bit - say 50-70MPH - it isn't really THAT significant in the grand scheme of things, which is usually what is experienced up until the eyewall hits. So up until the eyewall, people are likely looking out their windows, fetching trash cans, stepping out to have a cigarette, etc..

When the TOR is issued, if they happen to have a NWR (NOAA wx radio), and hear the words "destructive winds to 120MPH causing widespread tornado-like damage", I think they will then decide it's time to throw in the towel and REALLY hunker down.
 
"if they happen to have a NWR (NOAA wx radio)"

We're talking about the real world though - not people like us. Of all the friends and families I hang out with, I know of a grand total of zero that have an operational NWR in their house.
 
"if they happen to have a NWR (NOAA wx radio)"

We're talking about the real world though - not people like us. Of all the friends and families I hang out with, I know of a grand total of zero that have an operational NWR in their house.

You'd be pretty surprised... Out of all the people I know, not many own NWRs. However, I have a few cousins (along with aunts and uncles) down in Adrian, MI... And a few of them do indeed own an NWR. Perhaps, people in rural areas are more consious?
 
"if they happen to have a NWR (NOAA wx radio)"

We're talking about the real world though - not people like us. Of all the friends and families I hang out with, I know of a grand total of zero that have an operational NWR in their house.

Either way though, the fact that those people might not have a NWR doesn't justify not issuing a warning, IMO. If there is any possibility that people will get the warning, then I think it would be justified. I mean, even if the people don't get the warning, the amount of resources used in creating such a warning are pretty slim.
 
"if they happen to have a NWR (NOAA wx radio)"

We're talking about the real world though - not people like us. Of all the friends and families I hang out with, I know of a grand total of zero that have an operational NWR in their house.

You really should encourage them to purchase one. Or better yet, they do make pretty good holiday gifts.

Regards,

Mike
 
Strangely enough, I don't actually remember any tornado warnings from that day, though I don't doubt they were issued. There was an early squal that came through at 2:30PM bringing about 20 minutes of very heavy rains and wind. That sent pretty much everybody for cover, and there they stayed. From then, it was like a ghost town through the time when the eye finally came through at about 9:15PM. In the interest of erring on the safe side, I'm all for issuing tornado warnings for the eyewall. But given how weird things get hours before the eyewall even arrives, you'd have to be absolutely oblivious to the entire world to miss what was coming and need that extra warning.
 
I agree with Mike, unless they get NO coverage, they should have one, i got one for my grandparents and they really rely on it for weather updates (has battery backup)
 
Two things here...

1. I know a ton of people (who don't like weather) that have NOAA Weather Radios. That could be because of the number of tornadoes in this area? This area takes the weather radio thing seriously. The local media runs commercials advertising them - as PSA's. Good stuff.

2. I think the eyewall tornado warning is worth the effort of the NWS. It tells EXACTLY what counties should expect the HIGHEST winds. This really does narrow it down. I believe it is a valuable tool for the local radio stations and the television stations who are sending the warnings out. Doesn't really matter if people have a weather radio or not - they will get the warning from someone.
 
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