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  • Writer's pictureTodd Yakoubian

Why No Tornado Warning For Lonoke County?

After a significant round of severe weather, a number of questions are being asked. One of those surrounds all the damage caused by a tornado in Lonoke county.

This event was well forecast almost 10 days in advance. Once we got within a couple days, we knew there would be a large number of severe thunderstorm warnings as a line of storms traversed the state. Because of the amount of shear available, tornadoes were a possibility. Most of those tornadoes would be embedded inside that line. Time and time again, we have seen this scenario in Arkansas. They are brief and intense tornadoes making them difficult to warn. Remember, we said numerous times you needed to take these severe thunderstorm warnings as seriously as a tornado warning for 2 reasons. First, winds equal to a weak tornado would be widespread. Second, a tornado can form with little notice.

The National Weather Service issues the official warnings and they were well aware of the situation. If you read each severe thunderstorm warning, you will read "tornado possible" in the statement. Because we receive radar images every couple minutes, a quick tornado developed and dissipated between those scans.

Look at the radar images below close to the time the tornado hit southern Lonoke county. The left image is the reflectivity (precipitation) and the right image is velocity. There was a severe thunderstorm warning in effect with the words "tornado possible" included. The radar suggests a small bow feature where the tornado struck. I don't think anyone would have looked at that and said, "there's a tornado right there". It looks like extreme high winds. At the end of the day, you have to realize severe thunderstorm winds and a weak tornado can cause the same amount of damage

The tornado near Seaton was on the ground for only 1 minute and tracked .4 miles.

Watch this quick clip from our coverage Friday night.

The National Weather Service did a great job warning these storms. Here is the full text of the severe thunderstorm warning issued at 12:39. The tornado hit Seaton at 12:58. That's almost 20 minutes notice high winds were about to strike and that's well above the average national lead time. Also, the warning text offers a recommendation of what to do.

BULLETIN - IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED Severe Thunderstorm Warning National Weather Service Little Rock AR 1239 AM CST Sat Jan 11 2020 The National Weather Service in Little Rock has issued a * Severe Thunderstorm Warning for... Northeastern Cleveland County in southeastern Arkansas... Southeastern Prairie County in central Arkansas... Lonoke County in central Arkansas... Southeastern Grant County in central Arkansas... Northeastern Dallas County in southwestern Arkansas... West central Monroe County in eastern Arkansas... Jefferson County in southeastern Arkansas... Northwestern Lincoln County in southeastern Arkansas... Southeastern Pulaski County in central Arkansas... Northwestern Arkansas County in southeastern Arkansas... * Until 130 AM CST. * At 1238 AM CST, severe thunderstorms were located along a line extending from Meto to near Estes to 6 miles west of White Hall to 6 miles west of Lamont, moving east at 30 mph. HAZARD...60 mph wind gusts. SOURCE...Radar indicated. IMPACT...Expect damage to roofs, siding, and trees. * Locations impacted include... North Little Rock... Pine Bluff... Jacksonville... Stuttgart... Lonoke... Hazen... De Valls Bluff... White Hall... England... Carlisle... Redfield... Altheimer... Humphrey... Fredonia... Humnoke... Keo... Ulm... Meto... McCreanor... Hensley Island... This includes the following highways... Interstate 40 between mile markers 161 and 197. Interstate 530 between mile markers 18 and 46. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS... A Tornado Watch remains in effect until 600 AM CST for central, eastern, southeastern and southwestern Arkansas. For your protection move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a building. Intense thunderstorm lines can produce brief tornadoes and widespread significant wind damage. Although a tornado is not immediately likely, it is best to move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a building. These storms may cause serious injury and significant property damage. Torrential rainfall is occurring with these storms, and flash flooding may occur. Do not drive your vehicle through flooded roadways. TORNADO...POSSIBLE HAIL...<.75IN WIND...60MP

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