|The model guidance also is improving dramatically. Perhaps this forecast is a little too good to be true. That a 23 hour forecast from a convection allowing model can nail a supercell to within 3 mi of it actually occurring is incredible.|
|This is the storm that was forecast so well, I could've camped on Lake Thunderbird to wait for the tornado. If only I could depend on that more than once in a full moon.|
More typically convection allowing models yield usable forecasts with several hours to half a day lead time. Ensemble model systems can be helpful in determining the mode of severe weather.
The tweet has the same expected time of danger as the highway sign. This kind of messaging consistency is highly desirable.
The NWS provided advice when watches were issued.
Note this advice strongly encouraged people to travel with a destination in mind well before the warnings came out.
And when the warning goes out, the NWS provided this advice. There is nothing in the advice at this late hour that discusses driving somewhere.
|What was the reaction on the El Reno day? Not what was desired.|
|The panic was strong enough to overwhelm many driver's sense of responsible driving leading to this self-organized contraflow. However, the word 'organized' may not be the best term to apply when the underlying forces are caused by panic.|
Significant casualties occurred as a result of people fleeing from the tornado threat and into flood zones. Some people lost their lives when they hid in a drainage tunnel.
High vulnerability lies in our collectively poor housing quality, maybe not as high as being in a vehicle but high nonetheless.
To help people manage their own risk, we need to give them better guidance. Thus our warning system needs to change. Recall the single threshold and lead-time paradigm today in the NWS. This will change.
Part of that change will come about with better input available for the NWS forecaster to make better decisions.
That's what the Hazardous Weather Testbed is all about.
The HWT allows forecasters to try out new technologies, give feedback, and improve the input.
Phased array radar is one of those new technologies that could revolutionize forecaster input.
|Super-rapidly updating model guidance is another game changing input paradigm. But the technology will not be ready for some years if forecasters want new model guidance every several minutes as input into short-term warning updates.|
But such wonderful new technological input may seem lost when the warning output from the forecaster is 40 years old. We can do better.
Maybe we already are. On the El Reno day 2013, the NWS OUN office was putting out information by the minute, much more frequently than the 40 year old warning model. This output went out via multiple channels each day of severe weather.
In the future, warning output may allow warnings to follow storms. Thus no one place gets their lead-time shafted by discrete, static, polygon issuance.
It's major events like the Moore tornado 2013 that give us learning moments about how to build better.
Aerial and ground surveys help us assess the damage intensity and its spatial extent.
Our surveys were also assisted by radar data at first to help narrow down the damage swath. It was the PX1000 radar data run by the Advanced Radar Research Center that helped spot the small loop the tornado enacted near the Moore Medical Center.
Several teams rated 4000 damage indicators. This segment was near the Plaza Towers Elementary School that was destroyed by the tornado and where 7 students were lost. This imagery is from the Google Crisis Response imagery.
Many houses have no continuous load paths. This picture is a screaming example of what the lack of a continuous load path can do. Well, I guess someone sleeping in an upstairs bedroom would be OK in this picture but what a ride it would've been.
One could build a steel reinforced concrete dome house for the ultimate in tornado resistance. But how many home buyers want to live in a home that looks like a space ship?
The labor might be a bit more, but what home buyer would turn this down if they knew how easy it is to do? This could save on a lot of damage.
Look what strapping did for an apartment complex in Joplin.
This apartment complex was in EF 2 winds yet did not suffer the level of damage commensurate with such winds for apartments of just standard construction.
These houses also had a continuous load path with steel reinforced CMU walls and proper roof attachments. The only Achilles' heel for any of these buildings still are the windows.
This office building in Woodward, OK would've done okay if it weren't for the windows inflating the building and blowing off the roof. Can more be done with windows?
This hospital had laminated glass on one floor and none of it broke in the Joplin tornado. It's more expensive, just like a storm shelter. But who in Moore would complain?
Part of building better is understanding how buildings perform in real tornadic winds. Guess what, tornadic winds don't follow straight lines.
A lot of different assumptions have to be made when the peak horizontal wind is at 3 m above ground vs 30 m or even 300 m. It's time to throw the old thinking out.
Videos such as this one in Leighton, AL show compelling evidence that intense vertical winds begin below car top level. Wind engineers now realize this is true. Horizontal winds don't just pick up cars with no initial sliding or rolling.
And they are doing something about it. This simulator in Iowa State already is providing wind engineers data about how much stronger tornado wind stresses are than winds from other storms.
Mobile radar is also providing some compelling evidence that tornadoes are stronger than the damage-based climatology suggests in areas where there's not much to damage.
To recap, I put this talk out there to highlight some of the learning moments that struck a chord with me. I believe that the quality of severe weather forecasts has gone up considerably to the point where societal and communication issues dominate in any disaster. Getting people to react properly by learning good risk management is key. We've only scratched the surface in this respect and we can do so much more. I believe that any K-12 school curriculum should contain a required course on risk management, whether it's managing funds to managing safety. Now that's not to say that forecast improvements will help. They will. They will help as long as the method of communication keeps up with the forecast capabilities so that they continue to be useful.
But in order to help the public, and officials, manage their risk, the research community needs to continue to help the NWS change its warning paradigm. No longer should the NWS be the sole providers of warnings. They should also be providers of warning guidance so that all users can create their own warnings based on their own vulnerability. Fortunately the momentum behind the FACETS program holds promise because it has grabbed the attention of NWS and NOAA management. Now it must grab the attention of other sectors, especially the private sector. They are the ones that can provide a broad variety tools to help users manage their risk.
Finally, let's do something about the built environment. I'm getting tired of seeing one FEMA/NIST/NSF report after another talking about the inferior quality of our housing construction. Fortunately, after three violent tornadoes visiting the city of Moore, I hear that housing codes may be upgraded. The same has happened in Joplin, MO after their tornado. Now I only hope that one day a disaster isn't required for codes to be upgraded. Can we actually be proactive? Well, I'm not holding my breath. Sometimes, most of the time, it takes a consumer to want a better built house, to want better from their home builders. I don't know the answer to this except more vigorous education. Grab them when they're young, before they fall into the trap of valuing more frivolous furnishings like granite countertops above those things that could save their lives (e.g., shelters, sprinklers, continuous load paths). Yes, that's another call for education in the K-12 grades.
* I do not assume any responsibility for the risk chasers put upon themselves should they decide to transect tornadoes with their armored, or otherwise, vehicles.