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Thread: The "first" tornado forecast...

  1. #1
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    Default The "first" tornado forecast...

    I found this interesting account of the "first" recorded tornado forecast and I thought others might enjoy it as well...we've come a long way in 60+ years:

    http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/GoldenAnniv.../Historic.html


    JB

  2. #2
    Joey Ketcham
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Bailey View Post
    I found this interesting account of the "first" recorded tornado forecast and I thought others might enjoy it as well...we've come a long way in 60+ years:

    http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/GoldenAnniv.../Historic.html


    JB
    That is a very well written piece. I was fortunate enough to be able to make it down to Norman in 1998 when they held the Symposium marking the 50th anniversary. A lot of great speakers; Al Moller, Chuck Doswell, Howard Bluestein and Erik Rasmussen just to name a few were on hand. I even remember Tim Marshall being there as well.

    http://www.kschaser.com/gallery/thumbnails.php?album=24 - some of the pics from then.

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    Member Jeff Duda's Avatar
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    If you're a member of the American Meteorological Society, check out the December 2009 issue. There's an article about the first tornado forecasts back in the 1880s when John Finley studied the patterns involved with several hundred tornadoes. A man named Edward Holden then designed an advance-warning system involving the use of telephone lines tied to alarm bells. Unfortunately, since the word "tornado" was banned from any forecasts until 1939, his system, despite being very similar to some of the warning systems used today, was never implemented.
    M.S. Meteorology, Iowa State University, 2011
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    Member Larry J. Kosch's Avatar
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    Post John Park Finley: The Early Tornado Forecasts

    Found a web site that listed a two part article about John Park Finley and how his pioneering research led to many of the tornado folklore and developments of our current weather forecast methodology:

    http://www.islandnet.com/~see/weathe...8/alm08may.htm

    He was probably one of the first tornado researchers sent out to survey tornado damages:

    In late May 1879, Finley was ordered to survey damage from a tornado outbreak that occurred in the Central Plains states of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa. Travelling cross country via horse and buggy, he interviewed eyewitnesses and gathered facts and observations of the damage.

    From the eyewitness accounts, Finley established the sequence of weather conditions before, during, and after the tornado passage. By studying tree fall patterns, he determined the wind direction at the time the trees fell. He also analyzed the construction of buildings and found that those not well anchored were more likely to be damaged by high winds.

    From his data analyses, Finley produced a general tornado weather scenario:

    "As an area of low barometer advances to the Lower Missouri Valley, warm and cold currents set in towards it from the north and south, respectively. Warm and moist regions emanate from the Gulf and the cold and comparatively dry air from regions of the British Possessions [Canada]. The marked contrasts of temperature and moisture, invariably fortell an atmospheric disturbance of unusual violence, for which this region is peculiarly fitted...."

    This report was completed in the autumn of 1879 and published as a Signal Service Professional Paper in 1881.


    The second part of the article is located at the end of the first article. Makes for interesting reading to keep SDS away!!
    Larry J. Kosch
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    Member Joshua Nall's Avatar
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    I was doing some trotlining with a guy up at Lake Greeson a couple weeks ago, which is just east of Dierks Lake. The community of Dierks is located in Howard County, AR very near the lake. We stopped there for a burger and in the burger shop was a series of pictures showing the history of Dierks. One of the pictures showed significant tornado damage and the caption below the picture claimed the first tornado warning issued by the NWS was for this tornado that destroyed parts of Dierks, AR. I can't remember the date, but it would have to be the March 21st, 1952 outbreak. I wondered then if the NWS, then known as the Weather Bureau, called them warnings back then and if this really was the first one ever issued. I suppose it could have meant the first one of the outbreak, since I read that this was indeed the first tornado of the day. Or it could have meant the first one ever issued in AR. Anyone know?

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    Based on the research for my book Warnings, it is highly unlikely a tornado "warning" as we think of them today was issued by the Weather Bureau in 1952.

    However, the Weather Bureau's Washington, D.C.-based "severe weather unit" (SWU) started issuing what we today call tornado watches that year and they were called "warnings." One of the first was in Arkansas, so it may be true.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Smith View Post
    Based on the research for my book Warnings, it is highly unlikely a tornado "warning" as we think of them today was issued by the Weather Bureau in 1952.

    However, the Weather Bureau's Washington, D.C.-based "severe weather unit" (SWU) started issuing what we today call tornado watches that year and they were called "warnings." One of the first was in Arkansas, so it may be true.
    Mike, wasn't the term "tornado alert" analagous to today's warning back in the early days? This is only a vague recollection on my part; I could be totally off base.
    Mike Johnston

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    Mike,

    To my knowledge, tornado "alert" was never an official term.

    It is accurate to say that there was a great deal of confusion in the Weather Bureau of the 1950's in that while SWU issued forecasts of tornadoes over broad geographic areas (called "warnings" at the time and equivalent to today's "watches"), there were no procedures to follow if a tornado was imminent. In fact, while I have not been able to find a document to pin this down, several retired Weather Bureau meteorologists firmly state they were forbidden to issue what we would call a warning today.

    As far as I can determine, the first time the Weather Bureau issued something close to today's warnings was Joe Audsley's message in the Ruskin Heights Tornado of May 20, 1957:

    At 7:23 PM RADAR AT THE AIRPORT SHOWS AN ECHO WHICH APPEARS TO BE VERY SEVERE JUST 3 OR 4 MILES SOUTHEAST OF OLATHE KANSAS MOVING NORTHEASTWARD. WE HAVE JUST THIS MOMENT RECEIVED A REPORT OF A TORNADO ON THE GROUND MOVING RAPIDLY NORTHEASTWARD AT THIS EXACT SPOT. END. JFA

    When I interviewed Joe for Warnings, he told me that he believed that he and Bob Babb (the other meteorologist on duty at the Weather Bureau office at Kansas City's Municipal Airport) would be fired for issuing that message!

    Over the next couple of years, the ban on tornado warnings disintegrated and the current watch/warning system began in the early to mid- 1960's.

    Mike

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    Member RWilbanks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Johnston View Post
    Mike, wasn't the term "tornado alert" analagous to today's warning back in the early days? This is only a vague recollection on my part; I could be totally off base.
    Here in Michigan, most everyone that I talked with in the broadcast industry from the 1950s and 1960s, used the term "Tornado Alert," when disseminating information to the public, regarding a confirmed sighting issued by the U.S. Weather Bureau. Likewise, the term "forecast" was used until 1966, when it was changed to the present day "watch/warning" terminology that use today. This practice was started as a result of the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak.

    In addition, some of the local Civil Defense and U.S. Weather Bureau information that used to be in the files at our station, used the term "Tornado Alert." I wish I would have saved them before they went out into the dumpster. They would be fun to look at today.
    "Enjoy and explore our nation's U.S. Highway System, you'll be richer for the endless experiences that await you!"

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    The online history of the SPC and its predecessors (NSSFC, SELS, SWU) states that the first tornado forecast/watch ever issued for public (civilian) consumption -- it was actually called a Severe Weather Bulletin -- took place on March 17, 1952, but the only tornadoes that occurred that day occurred outside of the forecast area. The first "successful" tornado forecast was made four days later for the outbreak that included the Dierks tornado.

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