NWS: radar, geography lead to tornadoes going undetected - WNEM TV 5

NWS: radar, geography lead to tornadoes going undetected

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The National Weather Service said many conditions can lead to an undetected tornado.

That’s partly what is to blame for a lack of warning issued during Sunday’s EF-1 tornado in Owendale.

Rich Pollman, the warning coordination meteorologist for the Detroit National Weather Service office, said not all tornadoes are evident on radar.

TV5 went to work asking the tough questions about Owendale’s tornado.

"Some of the tornadoes develop very quickly in severe thunderstorms and they develop in a process that's very close to the ground versus our super cell thunderstorms that are more likely to be towards the higher end of the EF scale," Pollman said.

In fact, their Doppler radar, which can beam back updated imagery every two minutes during a severe weather event, isn't as accurate in the Thumb as it is closer to its home outside Pontiac. That may have contributed to missing the tornado.

"The Earth curves. Our radar beam, even though we're shooting parallel to the Earth's surface, it is going to be higher in the storm over Owendale," Pollman said.

Weather spotters are important too.

In Huron County, fire departments are often the eyes and ears for reporting severe weather.

In Owendale, the tornado was only on the ground for five minutes. By the time the calls came in, the storm had already passed.

"There just wasn't enough radar data to give that 10 or 15 minute lead time on that tornado," Pollman said.

Anyone interested in becoming a weather spotter can go to the National Weather Service page for details.

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