Advances in forecasting and radar technology now provide time for people to seek shelter as a storm approaches, saving countless lives.
“Floods and tornados are the biggest killers,” said Larry Vannozzi, meteorologist-in-charge for the National Weather Service’s Nashville office, noting that advances in early warning technology have come a long way in the past decades. “Back then a tornado might already be on the ground before warnings were issued. Now there is a lead time of several minutes in most cases.”
Vannozzi leads one of the 122 offices of the National Weather Service. The NWS employs 47,000 nationally and has an annual budget of around $1 billion. Vannozzi’s office serves 38 counties, including Warren County.
He addressed Noon Rotary recently and referred to the most recent tornado that hit Irving College on April 5. He helped do the survey on the twister that heavily damaged several structures.
“It was an EF-1 tornado with 90 mph winds,” Vannozzi revealed, adding the last tornado recorded in Warren County happened on April 27, 2011 during the large national outbreak. The biggest tornado in recorded Warren County history, he noted, happened March 13, 1961 in the Morrison area and was an EF-3 with minimum winds of 136 mph.
Vannozzi said tornados are one of the major threats in the Tennessee area and pointed to the steps people should take when a warning is issued.
“Get to a basement or interior room of the house,” he suggested, noting flying debris is the No. 1 killer in tornados. “Avoid outer wall and windows.”
Vannozzi also cautioned about floods, noting they claim many lives every year, many of which happen when motorists try to drive through flood water.
“It just takes 18 inches of water to float a car,” Vannozzi said. “Half the people who die in floods, die trying to cross flood water. Your car can easily become a boat in seconds.”
Vannozzi will be on the air for a half-hour discussion of weather, severe weather and weather forecasting on WCPI radio 91.3 FM at 5 p.m. this Tuesday, June 20, with repeats the next morning at 5 a.m., then Thursday, June 22, at 1 p.m., and Friday at 1 a.m.