Joplin and Minneapolis Tornadoes

UPDATE: Amazing 360° view from the damage path in Joplin. Hat tip: Jenna Blum, one of the “3 Chasers.” One of the most shocking (and that is the right word) aspects of being in the middle of an F-4 or F-5 damage path is seeing that you, as look around, are the tallest undamaged object.

ORIGINAL POSTING:

There seems to be a lot of misinformation about these two storms, lets take Joplin first.

Joplin

Photo by Jamie Green, “The Wichita Eagle,” of St. John’s Hospital in Joplin
which took a direct hit from the tornado.

The tornado hit the south side of the city. My son, Richard, used to live in Joplin. The location of St. John’s is indicated by the red pin in the map. I had asked him to reference his former apartment which is the purple pin.

I watched a major news network proclaim, moments ago, that Joplin was “caught off guard.” This is not true, there were advance warnings available from both the media and tornado sirens. Via one report, people continued to practice on the driving range as the sirens screamed (see my report regarding public officials training people to ignore tornado sirens in this report).

You can hear the sirens sounding in Jamie Green’s video available here. A screen capture from her video of the tornado as it caused power lines to arc.

The watch was issued 4 hours, 15 minutes before the tornado.

I don’t know why so many have apparently lost their lives but it does not seem to be lack of warning based on initial information.



North Minneapolis
One fatality has been reported, details from the Star-Tribune here.

Just yesterday, I heard a man tell me (and he was serious) that tornadoes do not hit cities with rivers. This, he said, was based on an Indian legend. I have no clue as to why this urban legend is so tenacious. Tornadoes do not care where rivers are located.  Think about it: Minneapolis has the Mississippi running through it as does St. Louis which was hit April 22nd.

Photo from the Minneapolis “Star-Tribune”

And, this comes back to “tornadoes don’t hit cities.” I heard that yesterday, as well. Just this year, St. Louis, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Joplin, Minneapolis, Jackson, and Raleigh have been hit.

I really worry these urban legends may lead to people failing to act when warnings are issued. When you combine this with the now-silly “all or nothing” siren systems that generate unnecessary false alarms it is a wonder the warning system is able to save as many lives as it does.

7 thoughts on “Joplin and Minneapolis Tornadoes

  1. My city, on the Mississippi River, was last hit by a tornado in the mid-1940's. The city is located on a high bluff and our version of the urban legend is that the city cannot be hit by a tornado because it won't be able to travel up the bluff/the bluff protects us, etc. Anytime I hear this I reference the buildings destroyed in the 1940's tornado. No one ever attempts a rebuttal. The past is easily forgotten/ignored, even when documented pictures remain in local history books.

  2. Thanks. These urban legends are a constant source of frustration to storm warning meteorologists.

  3. Last night, my weather alert radio kept sounding off. I'd check the latest warnings about the tornadoes near Reading or Pomona, then go back to what I was doing. The Bride of Monster was starting to get tired of the alerts, but I told her it was no big deal — you hear an alert, you check the details to see if it affects you.

    Then when the tornado warning was issued that clipped the corner of Johnson County, KS, Time Warner Cable here in KC put a red box at the top of every channel and replaced the program audio with the details of that warning. The Johnson County sirens all went off, and we could even hear them where I live, a half mile into Wyandotte County. The local KC NBC affiliate pre-empted SNL to track three separate areas of strong rotation, which made sense, because Johnson County is one of the five core counties of its viewing area, and even if the storm would only potentially affect a corner of the county, it's the right thing to do.

    I thought back to what you'd said about the all-or-nothing alert to Douglas County earlier in the day, and while I agree that we could fine-tune the granularity of these alerts somewhat, I'd rather have the system set off sirens in too many places than too few. I suspect the county emergency officials take the same position — they won't be fired for sounding the sirens over the whole county, but let them ever fail to sound one where a tornado warning is in effect, and they're guilty of not doing their jobs.

    If people would have just reacted to the sirens as I did to the weather alerts, by getting more information rather than simply ignoring them, maybe two dozen Joplin residents wouldn't have died. With the growing use of smart phones, there's no excuse for not setting down the golf club, checking for weather warnings in your area, and then making an intelligent decision about what to do about it.

  4. "maybe nearly a hundred and counting Joplin residents wouldn't have died."

  5. We had our own tornado adventure last night (with a French foreign exchange student): http://presteblog.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/le-national-weather-service-a-emis/. We didn't have an actual tornado (one was called in going over someone's house southwest of here, heading this way, but the storm passed to the south).
    I wonder if the STCOPAT warnings (which are more frequent than actual tornadoes here) have caused warning fatigue and ignoring warnings. You'd think this video would change minds, but …

  6. The F5 Smithville tornado apparently traveled a mile or so right along the Tenn-Tombigbee waterway before striking Smithville. Have there been any studies of tornadoes moving over large bodies of water? The Smithville tornado increased in forward speed and the damage intensity seemed to increase.