Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tornado confirmed: Why we care

Why the fuss over a tiny tornado.

Tornado confirmed: Why we care

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It won't rank among the great weather events in civilization, but as we reported, the National Weather Service has confirmed that what hit Chester's West End Sunday afternoon was a tornado.

It ranked an EF0 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, and the scale doesn't go any lower than that. The damage path was about 80 yards wide and covered about three blocks near the Commodore Barry Bridge.

The peak winds were 75 m.p.h., according to the weather service. By contrast, the gusts that ripped through Glenmoore, Chester County, back in June were estimated to have reached 90 m.p.h.

The weather service, however, found no evidence to indicate that a tornado hit Glenmoore, and attributed the tremendous damage to straight-line winds.

So what difference does it make whether roof-ripping winds blow straight or in circles? I once put this question to a weather-service higher-up, and his answer was absolutely none. So why does the weather service bother to investigate reports of tornadoes. His answer: Because people want to know.

And, indeed, they do.

A tornado is something special in the public imagination. The thought that these unusual violent, circular winds materialized in our very neighborhoods is at once a frightening, powerful and perhaps even magical concept.

Straight-line winds can certainly be more damaging, but never more interesting.

 

Inquirer Weather Columnist
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About this blog

Everyone talks about the weather, and here we write about it.

When we’re around and conditions warrant, we’ll keep you updated about what’s coming, but we will do our best always to discuss weather and climate developments in context and remind you that nothing in the atmosphere happens in a vacuum.

Tony Wood has been writing about the atmosphere for The Inquirer for 26 years.

Reach Tony at twood@phillynews.com.

Tony Wood Inquirer Weather Columnist
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