With the overly active 2020 Tropical Season and numerous parts of the United States affected by hurricanes and tropical storms, I have been debating the question, “Should the National Weather Service issue Tornado Warnings during land falling tropical systems?” With the implementation of our Tropical Cyclone Initiated Tornado Index (TCITI) to aid ITAS (learn more at www.theguardiancanary.com/why-itas/), we have closely monitored the verification rates of the Tornado Warnings issued by each NWS Office. While the NWS’s performance during Hurricane Isaias wasn’t terrible, verification rates for Hanna, Laura, and Sally were dreadful (See chart below).

2020 Tornado Warnings During Land Falling Tropical Cyclones
All Verification Numbers taken from https://mesonet.agron.iastate.edu/cow/

There are almost assuredly multiple factors that contribute to this extremely low verification. For example, during Laura, the NWS Lake Charles office was evacuated and the city took severe damage which would not be conducive to getting together survey teams to travel long distances to assess possible tornadic damage. With most states having mutual aid agreements with other states, recovery occurs much quicker than in previous decades, allowing damaged structures and trees to be removed before being assessed by the NWS. Perhaps, the damage cannot be properly assessed because of the sheer amount of damaged caused by the overall tropical cyclone winds. Maybe with the overwhelming amount of work incurred by a NWS Office before, during, and after a tropical event, the Meteorologist-In-Charge (MIC) and staff simply deem tornado verification not important.

Do The Tornado Warnings Issued Do Any Good?

But, what about the tornadoes that do verify? We know there have been hurricanes that have produced deadly, strong tornadoes over the past 70 years. From Beulah to Agnes to Ivan, even most recently with Isaias, these storms have spawned EF-2 or greater tornadoes that have produced injuries and fatalities. I guess the issue I have is most of the time, these areas that experience tropical tornadoes are already under Tropical Storm Warnings or Hurricane Warnings. Shouldn’t these people already be in a safe structure, hunkering down, expecting dangerous weather conditions? It’s redundant to tell people strong winds are coming and then here comes some more strong winds that can produce damage. Not to mention, these warnings probably exacerbate the public’s numbness to warnings with the numerous false alarms. I would love to see an in-depth study on the issue or to know of any conversations that have occurred at the NWS in regards to this matter. If you know of either, please email me at ceo@theguardiancanary.com.