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Why are nocturnal tornadoes so dangerous?

Nocturnal tornadoes, or tornadoes that come at night, make up roughly 38 percent of all tornadoes in the United States.

These types of tornadoes are especially dangerous due to the fact that they tend to come with less warning than daytime tornadoes. This means that meteorologists at the National Weather Service and at television stations must rely on other methods of confirming whether a tornado has touched down.

There are three main ways to confirm that there could be a tornado on the ground when our eyes cannot tell us.

The first method is through damage reports. At 10:55 p.m. on May 22, 2019, our first report of damage came out of the storm that was moving through Eldon.

These reports reiterated to us meteorologists that we needed to pay extra attention to that cell as it continued traveling through Mid-Missouri.

We then were able to use wind signatures from radar images to see how the winds within the storm were moving. The red color symbolizes winds that are moving away from the radar tower while the green show winds moving toward the tower. When these colors are next to each other on the radar, that can be indicative of rotation within a storm.

Velocity Image for Wednesday 18, 2019

Finally, we can use what we call a "debris tracker."

This radar image shows the different items that are lifted in the air as a possible tornado moves across the ground. These items can be plants, chairs, metal or anything else the tornado can lift off of the ground. The debris tracker at 11:38 p.m. that night for Cole county showed us debris that was being lofted more than 10,000 feet in the air.

May 2019 tornado / Severe Weather / Tornadoes / Video / Weather / Weather Video

Maddie Est

Maddie Est appears on ABC 17’s weekend evening broadcasts. She grew up in St. Louis, and her passion for weather originated from a young age thanks to all the different weather that St. Louis receives. She is currently studying Atmospheric Science at the University of Missouri.


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