Quality Damage Assessment Takes Time

Every day since the 24 May 2011 tornado outbreak in the southern Plains, I’ve been asked, “Do they have final ratings yet?” As of this writing, nearly a week later, final survey results are not yet ready for the Piedmont tornado, nor for the other two already-determined violent (EF4+) events of the day (near Newcastle and Goldsby, OK). That is fine with me. I rather would have the assessors get it right than rush to premature conclusions.

The media and others who want fast answers will just have to wait. The best results quite often are not the quickest! In fact, I’m amazed, and sometimes disappointed and suspicious, at how fast other events get rated, leaving me with the impression that the process was not done with due thoroughness and diligence. If it takes the names below such time to come to well-reasoned conclusions, how can many local damage rating efforts by those with far lower collective expertise and experience levels do it faster?

In multiple-tornado events with long paths, such as the 24 May path set, there is so much analysis of hundreds upon hundreds of damage indicators, ground and air, up-close and wide-view, across thousands of photos and video snippets, that hasty ratings are simply unwarranted.

At first, it pained me that I could not contribute to the surveys, having had to work a scheduled set of forecast shifts. No more…now I know that world leaders in tornado-damage assessment are on the case, including Tim Marshall, Jim LaDue, Greg Stumpf, Don Burgess and other experts who indisputably know what they are doing.

I know each of the aforementioned chaps and can assure that they are not puppets to politics in the process. They will not cave in to real or perceived pressure to hurry it up, or to rate at a high level just because the event was newsworthy or fatal. The ratings are in the best of hands. Have patience. We’ll learn of them in due time.

My friend and scientific colleague Jason Jordan of Lubbock was one of those on the damage survey teams, tasked with ground survey of the very same segment of the violent tornado that I witnessed, and further on into Piedmont. Meteorologists are human too; and it is clear that Jason was deeply affected in many ways by what he saw. Please read his BLOG entry here. I promise you will not regret spending 10 minutes to do so.


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