Ban on Word Tornado Lifted On This Date in 1952

| March 17, 2012 @ 2:30 pm

The U.S. Army Signal Corps began taking weather observations and issuing warnings to mariners in November 1870. In 1877, a man named John Park Finley enlisted. He was trained in meteorology and climatology and had a tremendous interest in meteorology. In 1879, Finley was assigned to study tornado events across the Plains states.

Through his research, he came to the conclusion that tornadoes could be forecast. In 1884, he issued the first set of parameters for forecasting tornadoes. Many of them are still in use today. He would go on to issue the first operational tornado forecast that year. But his superiors in the Signal Corps believed that Finley’s forecasts were more harmful than the storms because of the panic they created. In 1887, a ban on the word “tornado” in Signal Corps forecasts was instituted. That ban would remain in place for sixty five years.

The ban stayed in place after the Weather Bureau, now the National Weather Service, took over forecasting from the Army. A tornado that wrecked 52 large aircraft at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., on March 20, 1948, spurred Air Force meteorologists to begin working on ways to forecast twisters. The Weather Bureau also began looking for ways to improve tornado forecasts and established the Severe Local Storm Warning Center, which is now the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

The ban on the word “tornado” fell on March 17, 1952 when the new center issued its first tornado “forecast.” The forecasts were the forerunners of the tornado watches we know today.

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Category: Met 101/Weather History

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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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