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Poorly Warned Tornado Causes Two Fatalities in Michigan

We've had another tragic tornado with no advance warning. This one occurred in darkness in central Lower Michigan. Details are here:

Hopefully, the NWS will conduct a damage survey on what was at least a "strong:" tornado.

Per my interpretation of the radar, this was what we at WeatherData taught as an "isolated supercell ahead of a line" as a relatively high risk tornado situation. These days Cameron Nixon calls it a "line catching up to a supercell merger." With that bit of insight, rotation rapidly ramped up starting about the 8:11 CDT (local time is Eastern) image and reached the point where we would have issued a tornado warning for our clients by 8:17 (image below).

As things stand, there was lofted debris by 8:31pm, suggesting the tornado touched down shortly before that time (see article at link). Since the warning wasn't issued until 8:34, the lead-time was negative three minutes.

The tornado warning wasn't issued until 8:34pm CDT (again, local time is Eastern). And, that warning cited "radar indicated tornado" rather than "radar confirmed tornado").

Whether earlier warning would have saved lives, of course, is unknown. But, a nighttime strong tornado is a very dangerous situation and the deterioration in the NWS's tornado warning program means another Joplin is inevitable unless this is changed. If you haven't already, I urge you to call your congressional delegation. Thank you.

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Watching the coverage from WILX 10 based in Lansing, their on-air mets were telling people in Ingham County to shelter a couple minutes before a tornado warning was issued there. It is frustrating to see the NWS sitting on the warning decision. I truly understand that it's stressful being the one who has to "push the button" for the area they're responsible for. However, with all the talk of how people should react to warnings, it's difficult to make the decision to shelter if the early warning is lacking. THE NWS can put the "tornado possible" tag on a rotating severe storm all they want but a lot of media won't be in continuous coverage for a SVR warning and most crawls aren't that detailed. Most social media posts aren't that detailed either. The waiting on a warning is also hamstringing on air mets, radio DJs, EMs who are waiting to activate sirens, cable overrides, texts and social media posts, WEA algorithms waiting on a TOR WRNG, or destructive SVR WRNG. Not to mention a few warning siren systems activate automatically from those algorithms. The injured and deceased deserve an explanation as to why something that would have likely been warned for from the late 90s until recently wasn't warned in time from what is supposed to be the official source of warnings. I would like to hear from NWS forecasters as to what the directives are regarding warning thresholds these days, how they've changed, and any technology, comms problems, or management issues they may be experiencing.
 
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Go right ahead.
Hey Mike, just an fyi on your blog piece. I'm actually in the St Louis area. I was streaming the coverage that night which I do for a lot of events from TV stations that stream their coverage. It's how I've really come to appreciate the media's role in severe weather situations All my points still stand though and I appreciate you sharing my thoughts on your site. Have a good weekend and keep up the awareness on the matter.
 
I have been relatively quiet on this subject until now, trying to give the NWS the benefit of the doubt. But there is no doubt now that something has changed - the number of strong tornadoes that have been unwarned at the time they began is up significantly this year - and it doesn't just involve one or two NWS offices. Rather, multiple offices in different parts of the country. I am not sure if this is reflective of efforts to avoid false alarms, poorer training, something else, or some combination. But it seems pretty clear that something is going on that is different from the past.

I did see from media reports that at least some of the people on I-96, where the tornado fatality and most of the injuries occurred, were aware of a possible tornado before they were hit. So maybe the warning was out before the fatality and injuries occurred, or maybe they heard something from local media. Some were getting info from friends/family over the phone. Of course, even with a warning, a tornado moving along a busy freeway at night, probably rain--wrapped, is a situation where there is not much people can do. The only real answer would be not to have been on that road in the first place. So I don't know how much difference an earlier warning would have made. Maybe it might have gotten some people off the freeway before the tornado hit. I used to drive that stretch regularly in the 1970s and it was busy even back then. I am sure much more so now. From media reports, apparently a couple dozen vehicles were seriously damaged, including 17 semis overturned. One was lofted into the air with a 62,000 payload. Bad situation when a hard-to-see tornado moves right along a busy freeway.

On a related subject, I would guess that people at SPC would say that, if they had it to do over again, they would have issued a tornado watch. With a total of 7 tornadoes now confirmed, that is the most tornadoes on a single day in August in Michigan, ever. Like Mike, I am not a big fan of the severe thunderstorm watches that say a tornado or two possible. Earlier outlooks from SPC certainly did discuss the possibility of tornadoes, so why not just issue a tornado watch? If anyone at SPC is reading this, I would love to hear your thoughts.
 
Long ago…these positions were filled with folks who felt it a calling.

Now I think it is populated with folks who only see it as a job…to fill a quota… maybe by males who hated sports being interrupted and who would pull the trigger only if their own building’s roof blew off.
 
^ Yeah because there is just so much money to be made in operational meteorology, and all you need for an entry-level job is a PhD and a willingness to work the graveyard shift at a NWSFO in Timbuktu 🙄
 
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