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Posted 02/18/2023 in Informational

What is a Tornado Warning?


What is a Tornado Warning?

Tornado by Tims Ford Lake?  

What does a Tornado Warning Mean?


This winter, February 2023, we had a tornado warning in the Tullahoma, Estill Springs, and Lynchburg areas.  Unfortunately we do live in an area where we do get tornados though fortunately they are rarely strong (but we do get those also).

Lets dive into this a bit more with a few data points.  


What is a Tornado Warning?


According to Weather.gov, a Tornado Warning means that "a tornado expected. Seek shelter.  A tornado is occurring or will shortly at this location".  The tornado warning is issued by NWS.

More details.... "A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. 

Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm."

The Tornado Warning area is created to be within a "Polygon" -- see Polygon below.

Tornado Warning by Tims Ford Lake Area



What is a Tornado Watch?

A Tornado Watch according to Weather.gov means that weather conditions favor thunderstorms capable of producing a tornado.  These are created within a "polygon" see below.



Who Issues Tornado Warnings?


The National Weather Service (NWS) issues tornado warnings and watches.



Why Would I Receive A Tornado Warning if the Tornado is in Another City?

According to Weather.gov:  Tornado warnings are based on where the tornado is, direction of movement, and what towns/locations will be in its path. Generally issued based on expected track of tornado, which may include multiple towns, cities, or counties.  These tracks are placed into "Polygons" (see below).


What is a Tornado Polygon?

The National Weather Service uses an outline called a "polygon" which designates the area of concern -- the "warning" or "watch" area. The outline can be both of a county, or a particular area. You would see the "polygon" outline on the news or a weather app.  if you're interested in learning more about this, Weather.gov has a short PDF document to download with more details.


You can see from the image below, that the significant weather is only at the onset of the polygon, but the polygon is forecasting possible areas that could be affected.



Can You See a Tornado?


Maybe.  The Tornado itself is just twisting wind.  And wind is transparent.  If you see photos of a tornado, you may see water dropplets, the dirt, or particulate (or larger items) that the wind picked up.  Also, often times tornados are wrapped in heavy rain.



What Makes Tornado Sirens or Weather Radios Alert?


Tornado sirens alert typically due to either a Tornado Warning in a particular County or a polygon area. The polygon coverage area tends to be newer, so most sirens still are county based. The same for Weather Radio alerts. Some sirens may even cover a different type of area. To determine what area your sirens cover, contact your county.

There are wake me up apps for your phone, that can identify your location and compare it to a Tornado Warning Polygon -- then alert you with a loud noise if you are in a Tornado Warning Polygon.  One of these apps is called StormWatch Plus:   https://app.stormwatchplus.com/



See Tims Ford Lake Weather Radar and Forecast



How Fast Can Tornados Travel

According to weather.gov, tornados can travel as fast as 60 miles per hour in forward motion.  Though the rotation can be hundreds of miles per hour.



Pulling This All Together:


1)  The NWS issues a tornado warning on areas that either have a tornado or are likely in the path of a tornado.   Tornados can go as fast as 60 miles an hour.


2) Tornado Sirens are an audible indicator of a Tornado Warning.

3) Should you be concerned if you hear tornado sirens, or get a Tornado Warning where you are located?  Yes.  You need to go to your safe place.




NOTE:  I am not a Weather Expert, though I am an amateur weather nerd. Please make sure to use reputable locations to get weather information.  


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