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Texas tornadoes: How much warning time was possible? (+video)

Texas tornadoes that hit the Dallas area Tuesday resulted in no fatalities, in part due to timely warnings. But a new model could improve tornado warning times dramatically. 

How one grandma saved her grandson from a Texas tornado.
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Powerful Texas tornadoes that struck the Dallas-Fort Worth area Tuesday were as noteworthy for what didn't happen as for the damage the powerful twisters inflicted – no deaths reported so far, and only a handful of injuries in a heavily populated area.

For many, the remarkably low casualty rate is a testament to several factors: the twisters struck during the day instead of at night, warnings were timely, cooperation between the local media and the region's National Weather Service forecast office was good, and the Texas public is well attuned to tornado hazards.

Between 1981 and 2010, Texas saw more tornadoes, on average, than any other state – 150 a year, versus 78 for Kansas and 62 for Florida, according to records kept at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

Now, federal and university researchers are developing an approach to tornado warnings that could extend the lead time from 13 minutes or less today to at least 40 minutes, and perhaps longer.

Typically, forecasters issue a tornado warning if:

  • Spotters report a funnel on the ground.
  • Storm clouds that are rotating.
  • Weather radar picks up the characteristic hook-like signature of storm rotation.

It's virtually a warn-when-you-see-it approach.

Dallas's brief warning

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