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It's too early to know if it's an aberration or a trend -- but in recent years some of the largest, most destructive tornadoes have struck east of the Mississippi River, hitting more densely populated cities and suburbs. The movie "Twister" described an F5 as "the finger of God." They are beyond words. Bedrock and high water tables can make it prohibitively expensive to excavate for a basement; the only thing that makes a 200 mph EF-5 super-tornado survivable. On April 28, 2002 an F4 tornado tracked a little more than 30 miles south of the White House, leaving behind a trail of significant damage in La Plata, Maryland. "You chop up my favorite show with your warnings -- but we never see anything at our house. Mobile homes are far more vulnerable -- some can flip in a light 70 mph breeze.
A convergence of meteorological and socioeconomic trends has left America more vulnerable to a catastrophic tornado; a single long-lasting tornado hitting a major urban center -- potentially putting thousands of lives at risk. 2011 brought six EF-5 tornadoes, as big and violent as they get. Many homeowners don't have safe, underground options. The National Weather Service does a remarkable job, but their mandate is to spot and warn for every tornado. But 70-85% of rotating storms and subsequent tornado warnings wind up being false alarms, interrupting TV shows, irritating Americans watching "The Voice" and "60 Minutes." Viewers glaze over and tune out. Most homes away from the coast are simply not designed to withstand a moderate or severe tornado.
My personal opinion: I think its borderline criminal this hasn't happened yet.
I'm waiting for someone in Congress to step up and surprise us all by doing the right thing, and enacting legislation to make this a LAW.
This is the result of white sunlight being scattered (filtered) by big hailstones suspended aloft. On those rare 2-3 days a year a "High Risk" is issued, batten down the hatches. One of my companies, Ham Weather, has a (free) link showing storm reports, with 5-minute updates.
When the sky turns an evil shade of green trust your gut. Now you can see, in close to real time, which storms are actually producing damage on the ground. This is the future: warning people in the immediate path of tornadoes, the "polygon" issued by each local NWS office -- the "high-threat area".
"Tornado Fatigue" and a "Siren Mentality." Alabama meteorologist and storm-tracking legend James Spann isn't alone in worrying about too many tornado warnings issued for brief, tiny EF-0 tornadoes. There are too many warnings for minor tornadoes -- which winds up annoying viewers trying to watch "Dancing with the Stars". "You're responsible for your own personal safety, and the ultimate safety of your family." Technology can help to underscore the gravity of a specific tornado threat. Use hailstone size to gauge the severity of a thunderstorm updraft. The most dangerous "cells" are isolated, often forming 20-75 miles ahead of the main band of thunderstorms. Images from Tuesday's outbreak near Lancaster, Texas. A $20-50 NOAA Weather Radio is the only device that will send out a loud, audible shriek if a tornado is moving into your county, even if the power goes out.