Early Morning Tulsa Tornado Rated at Least EF-2; Without Warning Claims Untrue

| August 6, 2017 @ 1:57 pm

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The NWS in Tulsa continues to investigate damage caused by an early morning tornado that affected the Midtown area of Tulsa. The investigators have already found EF2 damage in the 41st Street corridor.

The tornado struck at 1:18 a.m.. early today, injuring perhaps as many as 40 people, mainly from flying glass at restaurants in the area.

Did the tornado strike without warning?

While there was no tornado warning in effect at the time of the touchdown, there had been a severe thunderstorm watch all evening. The severe thunderstorm watch went into effect for northeastern Oklahoma at 7:16 p.m. That watch was extended until 4 a.m. before its original expiration time of 2 a.m.

The NWS Tulsa issued a severe thunderstorm warning at 1:08 a.m. that included the area impacted by the tornado. That warning had a lead time of ten minutes. That warning did not contain a TORNADO..POSSIBLE impact tag in it, but the impact decision tags are not receiving dissemination anyway.

There were no WEA alerts to cell phones from the government. Interestingly, WEA Alerts to cell phones do not broadcast severe thunderstorm warnings, a fact we learned on WeatherBrains two weeks ago. Should that be changed?

Polygon based warning apps like MyWARN broadcast the severe thunderstorm warning in seconds after it was issued. Forty-one people in the polygon got that warning immediately.

There was a Tornado Debris Signature with the damage on the 1:21 a.m. radar scan as debris was lofted by the storm.

The NWS Tulsa put out a tornado warning at 1:25 a.m. But that was 7 minutes after the tornado struck.

Eight MyWARN users were in the tornado warning polygon and got the alert from the newly updated app.

Some people in Tulsa are crying foul that the sirens didn’t sound and that the NWS didn’t do their job. You can’t rely on sirens to wake you anyway and it might have been hard for folks in the restaurants that were struck to hear them anyway.

The NWS had a severe thunderstorm warning in effect. The tornado was part of a Quasi-Linear Convective System, or what we used to call a squall line. The incident just points out the difficulty in forecasting tornadoes with this type of system. It is virtually impossible to pick out tornadoes in these systems. Just as soon as you warn for them, they are gone. These whack-a-mole warnings can create way more false alarms than positive hits.

The incident points out the importance of taking severe thunderstorm warnings seriously as well as the necessity of having multiple ways to receive warnings.


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Bill Murray is the President of The Weather Factory. He is the site's official weather historian and a weekend forecaster. He also anchors the site's severe weather coverage. Bill Murray is the proud holder of National Weather Association Digital Seal #0001 @wxhistorian

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