NOAA report recognizes ‘tornado dead zone’

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A destructive EF-1 tornado touched down in Dunnellon and Ocala on Saturday, causing severe damage. The storm which lasted 35 minutes continued without a single warning. Since then, FOX 35 News has been working to find out why.

FOX 35 has discovered a 2017 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which clearly indicates that they are aware of this “tornado dead zone” and have no intention of making a change.

“We are supposed to die in bed because officials decided not to put in place a system that gives us adequate warning? This is nonsense,” Dorinda Sears said.

Dorinda Sears lives in the Villages. She is outraged by the NOAA report which acknowledges the lack of radar coverage in one of Central Florida’s fastest growing communities and there is nothing they are going to do about it.

“Apparently the officials don’t live in the villages or anywhere else here, so they don’t have to worry about themselves,” Sears said.

He goes on to say that forecasters should use tools other than radar to send vital warnings. The report states that “for tornadoes that result in death, damage and injury, trained forecasters are able to overcome aspects of reduced radar coverage, resulting in warning performance that shows no statistical difference significant between inside or outside 6,000 feet”.

This means an EF-5 tornado with winds of up to 200 mph could be missed.

“Specifically, the smaller tornadoes. That’s the hardest to catch. The bigger ones can see it quite clearly on the radar, but the little ones like the one you experienced this weekend are hard to catch,” said said Sumter County Emergency Management Director David. Casto.

The “tornado dead zone” includes parts of Marion, Sumter, and Putnam counties where there is a lack of low-level radar coverage to spot tornadoes. On top of that, the Jacksonville radar that should cover that area is down for routine maintenance for another week. This affects more than 2.5 million people!

“It would be nice to have closer radar, but it’s an act of Congress that has to happen because it’s a national program,” Casto said.

Now, the same area is bracing for another round of severe weather with limited tornado radar coverage. Many wonder who is watching to keep their families safe.

“Little ones can kill. What difference does it make if you get killed by a big one or a little one? Your death all the same,” Sears said.

The NOAA report emphasizes people on the ground to alert authorities to a twister. In Sumter County, they have a group of certified weather watches dedicated to storm detection.

“They are the eyes and ears of the National Weather Service,” Cotes said.

RELATED: Parts of central Florida fall into tornado detection ‘dead zone’

RACES program volunteers. The group of around 20 volunteers are activated when a severe thunderstorm warning is issued

“They’re not storm chasers. They’re just individuals who are interested in the weather,” said Casto, who oversees the program. “They are trained specifically to look for certain features and extreme weather conditions. Especially tornadoes.”

If they spot extreme weather, from hail and damaging winds to a tornado, they report it.

“If they can see a funnel cloud that cannot be picked up, they are trusted agents, so the National Weather Service will recognize that they are trained observers, recognize their credentials and will say OK, this person knows what he is talking about and will issue a warning.”

RACES volunteers will be activated tonight for the storms. You can get updates on the storm from Alert Sumter or FOX35 Orlando.

Get the latest forecasts, sign up for weather alerts, and view live interactive radar for Orlando and Central Florida.

Watch FOX 35 News for the latest updates.


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