Here is a video that shows the meteorologist saying there is “no indication” of the tornado while it was destroying homes and injuring four.
Coverage of the destruction in Charlotte is here.
In both cases, the tornadoes were F-2 intensity and did significant damage. While I cannot speak for the National Weather Service, let me make a couple of generalized comments that might help.
These were not the classic supercell-type tornado (think Greensburg, Tuscaloosa, Joplin). We almost always know where they are and where they are going early enough to provide an effective warning.
Harveyville and Charlotte are a much smaller and short-lived type of tornado known as a “squall line” or QLCS tornado. While weaker, they are still dangerous as the tragic death in Harveyville demonstrates. From where I sit, if your home is destroyed, you don’t care what type of tornado struck it.
For reasons that are not clear to me, the NWS is really struggling with the issue of different types of tornadoes (note: highly recommended link if you are interested in the topic). So, as previously discussed, beginning April 1, their offices in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield (MO), Topeka and Wichita will start issuing four levels of tornado warnings:
- Severe thunderstorm warning with the sentence “a tornado is possible.”
- The “ordinary” tornado warning.
- The “particularly dangerous situation” tornado warning (what should have been issued given the type of tornadoes that struck the Charlotte and Harveyville areas)
- The “tornado emergency” tornado warning where they forecast “catastrophic” damage.
- We do not advise people to prepare differently, so what is the point?
- The very real risk of confusion. What is a school principal supposed to do with a “severe thunderstorm” warning that says a “tornado is possible”? Will anyone be able to keep straight whether a particularly dangerous situation is more or less dangerous than a tornado emergency?
My unsolicited advice to the NWS is to forecast trying to forecast what type of damage the storm is going to do and redouble efforts to get the warning scientifically correct. That includes obtaining more frequent radar scans of the storms, wider distribution of the FAA’s Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (and, it looks like the NWS is making progress on this one!), and ways of getting the warnings distributed more quickly.
So, Jenny, this is my analysis of the situation. Hope it is helpful. Thank you again for the question.