|Above are from news reports on the Good Friday St. Louis Tornado|
|Lambert International Airport|
And now the amazing news: According to CNN, no serious injuries. Think about that: In the city where, historically, more people have been killed by tornadoes than in any other, no serious injuries.
Why? Luck, yes there is always an element of that. But the main reason for this ‘miracle’ is the amazing tornado warning system quietly built by meteorologists the last 50 years.
A map of the tornado’s path through densely-populated areas
from the National Weather Service in St. Louis.
The precision with which tornadoes can be tracked these days is amazing as this real-time blog posting from last night indicates. We not only knew the location of the tornado, we knew it was doing serious damage due to the debris ball on radar.
|Click to enlarge radar image. NWS data via WeatherTap.|
Is the warning system perfect? No. In fact, in Warnings I highlight one of the major deficiencies and it has to do with aviation. The Federal Aviation Administration refuses to allow control towers, air route traffic control centers, and pilots (when they are getting their ‘official’ weather briefings) to get tornado warnings!!!
The FAA has this myopic view that tornado warnings should not be used in aviation because they do not originate as aviation products. There was near miss at the Daytona Beach, FL airport on Christmas Day 2006. Last night, at Lambert International Airport, it was the real thing: People on planes moved around by a tornado and, in at least one case, trapped for hours as a result.
Unless the Federal Aviation Administration changes its position, there will be a major disaster at some point in the future.
That stated, it is amazing how many lives the saved by the storm warning system. The storm warning system seems to operate below everyone’s radar. We never seem to get credit for all of the lives we save.
If this sounds like an interesting topic (and, it is!), pick up a copy of Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather. Written in the style of a mystery novel, it is an uplifting and fun read that tells the story of how we unlocked the mystery of storms so we could save lives — just as meteorologists did last night.
Note: Expanded and bumped.
If you are a weather geek or just interested in a “blow by blow” description of the storm, just scroll back two pages on this blog. Also, if you would like to read an excellent write up about the meteorology surrounding this tornado outbreak, just click here.
And, if you would like to see detailed radar data (including Doppler winds) from the STL WSR-88D when the storms were in the St. Louis area, click here and scroll down.
Giant hail fell from the STL tornadic thunderstorm. If you want to see a photo, go here and scroll down.