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Devastating tornado strikes Joplin, Missouri


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Wow - just Read Mike Smith's new book about the Joplin, MO tornado. A damninnnnnnnnngggggg assessment against the Springfield, MO NWS. I don't think it could have been any more stinging than what is written in that book. Ouch.

Has anyone else read the new book? Took me about an hour to read it - was surprised to see just how sharp the negative comments were towards the NWS.

The book made a lot of mention that the NWS got the path-cast wrong - on more than one occasion/statement. Also mentions that their private service was more accurate.

Least surprising thing I've ever read...Mike Smith promoting something Mike Smith is a part of. It's like throwing stones in a glass house. Remember when their private service issued a completely unnecessary tornado warning for the U of Maryland last year? Didn't see a blog post about poorly-issued warnings for that one. As has been said, mistakes are made. Ripping a "competitor" (their words, not mine) while exalting yourself comes off poorly.

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Unfortunately this book is being sold in many outlets - to the public. I am not sure how someone outside of the meteorological community would view this. It makes the NWS look incompetent.

I do agree with Mike on some of the topics brought up within the book. Some of them are the same concerns raised in the service assessments. Of course service assessments are not read by the general public.

If this publication was for internal purposes then I would view it as a severe lashing against the NWS, some in the media (although they are excused somewhat in the book because they were parroting what the NWS said), and emergency management officials who didn't blow the sirens properly.

For a publication like this to be sold to the public - not sure it is helpful or useful. It does strongly promote their private warning service. I am not sure how many times their private warning service was mentioned - but several times. Emphasis was added that they got the track right and the NWS got the track wrong.

Critique is important within the weather community - there are several private and semi-private forms to do just that. Critique can be important in moving everyone forward - improving products issued for the public - improving siren policies - other. However, I would agree with some others with the same sentiment that the book is a bit disappointing in the approach. When one group/agency makes another group/agency look like fools - with little mercy - then eyebrows are raised that there is some sort of agenda at hand. I am afraid this is what the book left me wondering.

The book raises some important points - valid concerns - items of interest. The approach, though, was disappointing. The NWS had a very difficult job that day - emergency management had a very difficult job that day - the manner in which the storm formed, exploded, evolved made for a perfect storm of sorts. Unfortunate and so was the outcome.

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Unfortunately this book is being sold in many outlets - to the public.

I somehow doubt it will become a best seller. People can say whatever they want without an accountability for the facts and many folks will believe what they read. This will always be the case I'm sure.

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Would you go as far as to say the recommendations in the service assessment are not valid then?

Although I can't answer for him

I find the service assessments extremely valuable. I read them all - have them all printed out - keep them here on hand for review. I think the NWS, emergency management, media, and others read them - utilize them - take them for what they are. I learn something from each assessment and make changes accordingly. From talking with others - they do the same.

The process isn't perfect - it is evolving - will continue to evolve. The more we learn - the more we realize we have a lot to learn.

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If this publication was for internal purposes then I would view it as a severe lashing against the NWS, some in the media (although they are excused somewhat in the book because they were parroting what the NWS said), and emergency management officials who didn't blow the sirens properly.

Is he still going on about the sirens? I can't recall the last time, other than May 24th of last year (due to the amount of debris and people from outside the area here), that they were activated for 75+ mph severe t-storm winds. Mr. Smith made it seem like they were activating them for every t-storm warning, which wasn't true. I remember back in the 90's, i think it was, they decided that they would activate them for 75+ mph winds due to the city being hit with high winds that did quite a bit of damage and there was no siren activation for that.

Joplin's sirens are only activated if part of Joplin is in the tornado warning polygon or a spotter or someone sees an actual tornado. It is a 3 minute activation. There is a discrepancy in the times that the sirens were going off in Joplin. I posted at 5:17 on here that the sirens were going off. The city says they were set off at 5:11 but I think I posted that as they were going off, and the second tornado warning was issued at 5:17. The city also says they set the sirens off a second time at 5:31. The National Weather Service says the tornado didn't touch down until 5:34, and as you can clearly see on Jeff Piotrowski's video, the tornado was crossing Schifferdecker street and was very large by the time the sirens started going off which would give an actual time of the second activation around 5:36-5:37.

I would rather the sirens be on constantly when a confirmed tornado is moving into the city because if they were activated for another 3 minutes at 5:36-5:37 then the tornado would have been near the high school when they shut off again which was roughly halfway through the city.

The reason people thought the sirens 'went off all the time', was because of the weekly testing at 10 AM every Monday. So, Joplin has changed to testing every 2 weeks, and are upgrading the sirens with silent testing technology.

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Would you go as far as to say the recommendations in the service assessment are not valid then?

No. I'm talking about folks (MIke) looking for things that are wrong that are not worng...such as the storm track of the Joplin storm and the "no mention of Joplin" in the warning statements. Those are false accusations.

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No. I'm talking about folks (MIke) looking for things that are wrong that are not worng...such as the storm track of the Joplin storm and the "no mention of Joplin" in the warning statements. Those are false accusations.

Gotta profit off a tragedy somehow

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No. I'm talking about folks (MIke) looking for things that are wrong that are not worng...such as the storm track of the Joplin storm and the "no mention of Joplin" in the warning statements. Those are false accusations.

Ok,but you were agreeing with a post saying that people are just failing to accept that life sucks and crap happens. That's why I asked-- because by having service assessments in the first place, the organization is taking a position that there are improvements to be made to the service, and that we don't just have to accept that this tragedy should have happened in the way that it did.

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Re: the whole issue with Galena. From what I've read, it takes a few minutes to generate a warning. The forecasters were probably still writing the warning when the 5:38 scan came out. Notice that there were only three minutes between the 2nd (5:39) and 3rd (5:42) SVS's. This may be due to the fact that the forecasters noticed that the couplet was closer to Joplin than it was to Galena. I think the important part is that the 5:39 SVS mentions the tornado is moving into Joplin. That should be enough to sound any on-air met's alarms. Furthermore, on-air mets should check the radars themselves and know what's going on. I haven't read the book, but again the title of it implies the warning system failed, which, IMO, it did not.

There was not a single tornado emergency issued -- the SVS's I posted were all the ones associated with Tornado Warning #31.

I think, in general, the timescales associated with this particular event (i.e. the time of evolution from doppler-warned to confirmed to particularly dangerous tornado) were much shorter than average, shorter than the radar period or warning-writing timescale.

In 4 out of 5 cases, merging cells result in no intensification of the absorbing cell according to the SPC. This was not one of those cases obviously. In addition, the environment which would have supported an EF5 went from unimpressive to off the charts in 5 minutes roughly. There is NOT a meteorologist in this world who could have seen what was coming until the velocity scans came in probably about the time it was over Joplin. The point is, regardless of how advanced we think our radars are, some events just unfold so quickly that no one could have predicted it.

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Ok,but you were agreeing with a post saying that people are just failing to accept that life sucks and crap happens. That's why I asked-- because by having service assessments in the first place, the organization is taking a position that there are improvements to be made to the service, and that we don't just have to accept that this tragedy should have happened in the way that it did.

I was agreeing to the fact that folks (Mike) can't accept that a natural disaster can happen even tho folks are warned about it correctly. I was agreeing to the fact that it is dumb luck that a tor of this magnitude hit such a populace area. I always agree that service assessments should be done to see what can be improved upon after a big event. I never mentioned service assessments...you did.

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JoMo - a year ago today a lot of us on here were worried the worst had happened after your final post as the couplet approached. Through the interwebs, we tried to track down your location to see if you were in the path, hoping to give some inclination that we had not lost one of our fellow weather fans. We feared the worst and hoped for the best. It's amazing to remember that I was combing through google maps a year ago tomorrow night trying to identify if you survived...I still can't believe that's what we were doing - looking for your location to see if it was in the worst damage path - for any sort of idea of your well-being.

This likely pales in comparison to what you were going through a year ago tomorrow night - I can only try to understand through the amazing first hand account you've shared with us over the past year. JoMo Survived!!

The moment first word broke that you were ok - I remember yelling out to my wife 'He's okay!' She knew exactly what I was talking about...cried a little bit at that time -out of joy/relief (I'm sorry if that's weird - maybe it is, but it was so uplifting to see that in such a moment of tragedy, this community of enthusiasts had a member that made it). I'm a grown adult man, but at that time - it was a glimmer of hope in the shroud of unspeakable tragedy we had only begun to understand.

I've never met you, but I do want you to know that my thoughts and prayers were with you then, and they will continue to be with you and your fellow neighbors of Joplin as you relive this experience one year later.

Glad you're alive, my friend.

-Ryan

Very well said and my sentiments. Thank you JOMO for all the updates.
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I was agreeing to the fact that folks (Mike) can't accept that a natural disaster can happen even tho folks are warned about it correctly. I was agreeing to the fact that it is dumb luck that a tor of this magnitude hit such a populace area. I always agree that service assessments should be done to see what can be improved upon after a big event. I never mentioned service assessments...you did.

Well I responded to your post because you seem to have very little patience for all the "what can be improved?" types of discussion. It really was just a question....and now you have clarified your answer. Thank you.

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Well I responded to your post because you seem to have very little patience for all the "what can be improved?" types of discussion. It really was just a question....and now you have clarified your answer. Thank you.

You're welcome. Btw...I have very little patience for falsehoods.

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Ok,but you were agreeing with a post saying that people are just failing to accept that life sucks and crap happens. That's why I asked-- because by having service assessments in the first place, the organization is taking a position that there are improvements to be made to the service, and that we don't just have to accept that this tragedy should have happened in the way that it did.

You can engage me directly, it's simpler, I don't bite.

Obviously, there are things that can be improved upon in relaying information. However, given the state of that information, current implemented radar technology, where the tornado formed, how strong it was, and where it struck, I don't believe there are many more lives that could have been saved. I realize this will never be a popular opinion because people always want someone to blame. In this case, the drive to do so is not surprising, but the evidence used to do so is inadequate.

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I think that one had a very limited area of EF4 damage. I want to say only one structure but not sure.

The EF4 damage was confined to a single subdivision in the Bridgeton area where 2-3 homes were leveled at the end of a Cul-de-sac. 90% of the damage was EF1/EF2 with a few other pockets of EF3.

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JoMo - a year ago today a lot of us on here were worried the worst had happened after your final post as the couplet approached. Through the interwebs, we tried to track down your location to see if you were in the path, hoping to give some inclination that we had not lost one of our fellow weather fans. We feared the worst and hoped for the best. It's amazing to remember that I was combing through google maps a year ago tomorrow night trying to identify if you survived...I still can't believe that's what we were doing - looking for your location to see if it was in the worst damage path - for any sort of idea of your well-being.

This likely pales in comparison to what you were going through a year ago tomorrow night - I can only try to understand through the amazing first hand account you've shared with us over the past year. JoMo Survived!!

The moment first word broke that you were ok - I remember yelling out to my wife 'He's okay!' She knew exactly what I was talking about...cried a little bit at that time -out of joy/relief (I'm sorry if that's weird - maybe it is, but it was so uplifting to see that in such a moment of tragedy, this community of enthusiasts had a member that made it). I'm a grown adult man, but at that time - it was a glimmer of hope in the shroud of unspeakable tragedy we had only begun to understand.

I've never met you, but I do want you to know that my thoughts and prayers were with you then, and they will continue to be with you and your fellow neighbors of Joplin as you relive this experience one year later.

Glad you're alive, my friend.

-Ryan

This

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Also, I'd suggest reading Wurman et al. (2007), in which the authors use realistic models of violent tornadoes and previous fatality information to estimate worse case scenarios in populated areas. It's a reasonable attempt at an admittedly complex hypothetical scenario, but it shows just how bad tornadoes in urban areas potentially could be. It's just not a pretty situation.

http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/BAMS-88-1-31

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You can engage me directly, it's simpler, I don't bite.

Obviously, there are things that can be improved upon in relaying information. However, given the state of that information, current implemented radar technology, where the tornado formed, how strong it was, and where it struck, I don't believe there are many more lives that could have been saved. I realize this will never be a popular opinion because people always want someone to blame. In this case, the drive to do so is not surprising, but the evidence used to do so is inadequate.

lol...I don't see enough of your posts to know what your overall viewpoint on this is whereas I just happened to recall his general posture in this type of discussion. That's really all..and now he has answered my question.

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I'm pretty sure that's the case. I'm gonna start writing books too. F it.

Thats the only way I see it.

There is constructive criticism to improve things and then there is simply throwing an organization under the bus to benefit yourself and your private weather business.

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Something interesting I just noticed for the first time. Looking at the 2234z scan you can already see the rapid intensification of the meso just off the surface. The 1.5° tilt shows over 170kt g2g, compared to a broad 100kt g2g at the lowest tilt (0.5°). The next scan at 0.5° at 2239 jumped up to about 180kt g2g.

Definitely a good example of why it's important to keep an eye on the various tilts.

0.5°

jop1.png

1.5°

jop2.png

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The book goes into complete detail as to who made the reports and how the reports were either ignored or misrepresented in future warning/statements.

The book did raise one question - which is significant. Does the NWS have a problem with their pathcast system/algorithm? I noticed my local office issued a warning earlier this year and said a storm was moving northeast. The storm was actually moving east. I pointed this out to them and their response was along the lines of "oh that is probably just a product of the computer software"

Hmmm - is this a problem? Mike raises the question in the book. I have no idea if this is a bigger problem (as he mentions) or if he is incorrect. It did make me remember the incident earlier this year in my local region. If it is a problem then it is a fairly serious issue. If media is telling people a storm is moving northeast and the storm is actually moving east then that is a problem.

Of course anyone with any radar skills can determine for themselves what direction a storm is moving (talking about on-air mets here). However - should on-air mets be telling people something different from the NWS (and in the heat of battle would they even notice - or would they trust the NWS)? Obviously I already know the correct answer to the question.

I've long since given up on the NWS path-cast system.. the storm vectors that are included in the warnings are almost always awful and a lot of the time the projected paths aren't very accurate. Really, do we need to rely on computer algorithms for this? I'm an on-air met and I have no trouble saying something different from the NWS if I know the NWS info is wrong and mine is right. It's our job to tell the public what's going to happen, not to tell the public what the NWS says is going to happen.

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...

Joplin's sirens are only activated if part of Joplin is in the tornado warning polygon or a spotter or someone sees an actual tornado. It is a 3 minute activation. There is a discrepancy in the times that the sirens were going off in Joplin. I posted at 5:17 on here that the sirens were going off. The city says they were set off at 5:11 but I think I posted that as they were going off, and the second tornado warning was issued at 5:17. The city also says they set the sirens off a second time at 5:31. The National Weather Service says the tornado didn't touch down until 5:34, and as you can clearly see on Jeff Piotrowski's video, the tornado was crossing Schifferdecker street and was very large by the time the sirens started going off which would give an actual time of the second activation around 5:36-5:37.

I would rather the sirens be on constantly when a confirmed tornado is moving into the city because if they were activated for another 3 minutes at 5:36-5:37 then the tornado would have been near the high school when they shut off again which was roughly halfway through the city.

...

I still don't understand how even after an extremely devastating blow to the city, and number of near misses over the last decade, Joplin won't be using multiple siren activations aside from another sounding 10 minutes after the warning is issued if a tornado is confirmed or something along those lines. Topeka has the same sirens as Joplin and they will sound here throughout the entire warning. On Apr 27 they went off at least 6-10 times or more, and that was just for a doppler indicated tornado. They also continued to blow them even after the warning expired. My landlord says she heard them on and off over 40 minutes. One three minute window to hear them outside is not enough...especially in a large city where greater numbers of people are always coming and going.

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I've long since given up on the NWS path-cast system.. the storm vectors that are included in the warnings are almost always awful and a lot of the time the projected paths aren't very accurate. Really, do we need to rely on computer algorithms for this? I'm an on-air met and I have no trouble saying something different from the NWS if I know the NWS info is wrong and mine is right. It's our job to tell the public what's going to happen, not to tell the public what the NWS says is going to happen.

I agree 100%.

I have caught errors on this subject more than once. It is a concern. I am going to bring it up again with our local office. Especially after the answer I was given earlier this year.

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This is actually the first I've heard of the "Joplin effect", basically talks about how the community came together and how people want to help those that help themselves :

http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2012/05/24/the-joplin-effect/SxylpZvUwFPR1MxF36CdsI/story.html

Associated Press video about Insulated Concrete Form houses:

Interview with CJ Tate, the young mother who lost her son, Skyular Logsdon in the tornado:

Interview with a resident who lost his home:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IZUn3n7jGo

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I still don't understand how even after an extremely devastating blow to the city, and number of near misses over the last decade, Joplin won't be using multiple siren activations aside from another sounding 10 minutes after the warning is issued if a tornado is confirmed or something along those lines. Topeka has the same sirens as Joplin and they will sound here throughout the entire warning. On Apr 27 they went off at least 6-10 times or more, and that was just for a doppler indicated tornado. They also continued to blow them even after the warning expired. My landlord says she heard them on and off over 40 minutes. One three minute window to hear them outside is not enough...especially in a large city where greater numbers of people are always coming and going.

Different areas have different siren policy.

Quad City area blows them for 70 MPH winds and hail.

http://www.crh.noaa.gov/dvn/?n=sirenqcmetro#faq9

OKC area for a lot of stuff:

http://city-sentinel.com/?p=835

This Wisconsin area does 3-5 mins as well:

http://www.co.chippewa.wi.us/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=326&Itemid=389

Jasper, IN only activate for tornado warnings:

http://www.14news.com/story/16654320/jasper-making-change-to-storm-siren-policy

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  • 2 weeks later...

Almost half of the FEMA housing residents have found places to go. This should increase as more housing/apartments are being built. One that was heavily damaged was just opened a few days ago.

http://www.joplinglobe.com/topstories/x1968180907/Almost-half-of-tornado-affected-residents-have-left-FEMA-housing

Here's a list of apartments/housing units and when they open (not counting the ones that have already opened)(Hampshire Terrace was the complex you saw on TV a lot):

Plaza Seniors, 1501 Rex Ave., 56 units, to be open this summer.

Plaza Senior 2, 1501 Rex Ave., 20 units, to be open this summer.

Plaza Apartments 1 and 2, 1715 Rex Ave., 174 units, to be open this summer.

Plaza Towers, 1631 Rex Ave., 54 units, to be open in September.

Bartlett Hills (Joplin Public Housing units), 24th Street and McCoy Avenue, 75 units, to be open this fall.

Murdock Apartments, 21 S. Rhode Island Ave., 44 units, to be open in late October.

Hope Cottages, 32 scattered single-family homes throughout tornado area, four units available each month beginning in November, low-income tax credit.

Delaware Duplex Community, 20th Street and Maryland Avenue, 20 units, four units available each month starting in September.

Union City Homes, scattered single-family detached homes throughout tornado area, 38 units, first unit open in October.

Eagle Ridge walk-up apartments, 611 W. 25th St., 40 units, open in spring 2013.

Parkwood Senior Housing, 1300 N. Range Line, 42 units, open in spring 2013.

Hampshire Terrace II, 2100 Hampshire Terrace, 84 units, open first quarter of 2013.

Canyon Trails, 1300 W. 17th St., 52 apartments and duplexes, open spring 2013.

Forest Park Apartments, 29th Street and McClelland, 32 units, first 12 units open December 2012.

Fry Construction, 1800 and 1900 S. Connecticut, 18 units, unknown opening date.

Apartments at 2900 S. McClelland, 28 units, unknown opening date.

Chelsea Clinton was back in town again for the re-opening of Cupcakes by Liz a few days ago. The piece should air on June 11th on NBC (Nightly News I assume)

http://www.joplinglobe.com/topstories/x1968180921/Joplins-story-keeps-captivating

El Vaquero has announced they are coming back. Lots of people liked to eat at that Mexican restaurant on Main.

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