A tornado swept through Portland, Michigan without any warning from the weather service.
It was Monday at 2:30 pm when the tornado touched down and after only six minutes, left complete wreckage and destruction in its wake.
Four churches, a Goodwill store, a restaurant, a physical therapy center, several cars, around 75 homes, and dozens of trees were all rocked hard by the unannounced EF-1 tornado. A severe thunderstorm warning only came several minutes after the circulation was out of the area. It’s been recorded that the tornado carried winds up to 110mph.
It was very concerning for the residents of Portland that the storm warning came after the fact and never even mentioned a tornado appearing, let alone touching down.
Forecasters have revealed their reasons for not reporting these types of tornadoes sooner. They said they would prefer to survey the rotations in their assorted radar scans before taking steps to alert the public of a possible threat. Perhaps they don’t want to be viewed as the forecasters that cried wolf, or in this case, tornado.
Ernie Ostuno is a meteorologist that works for the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids. He says:
“We see a lot of these small circulations (on radar), and they’re very brief. If we tried to get warnings on all of these with lead time, we’d have a very high false alarm rate. These are quick-hitters, isolated, on the ground for a couple miles, if they’re even on the ground at all. … Unfortunately, we’ve had those two years in a row now.”
Although the weather service radar technology was upgraded following the Kentwood Tornado* last year, there was still a confidence issue with timing the proper warning.
“It was a typical case of where you’re on the cusp. We’ve been very lucky that we haven’t had a bad tornado outbreak, but it’s frustrating for us having to deal with these small, brief tornadoes that are very difficult sometimes, somewhat impossible to get much lead time.”
While I understand the concern with forecasters about being trigger happy with warnings, I think I’d rather be safe than sorry!
*A EF1 twister spanning around a 1000 feet touched down in Kentwood, Wyoming on July 6, 2014 without warning by the weather service. It traveled over 6 miles leaving over 40 homes and 15 businesses with an abundance of damage.