Why wasn’t there a warning before Saturday’s tornado in Mesquite?

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The tornado that moved through portions of Mesquite on Saturday morning came with no official advance warning from the National Weather Service.

It touched down at 7:35 a.m., minutes after the weather service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for portions of Dallas County, including downtown Dallas, University Park, Mesquite and Garland.

No deaths or injuries were reported, but homes and a church were damaged. Surveyors also found roofing, fences, signs and poles in the tornado’s path that had been destroyed.

“This wasn’t a tornado in the traditional sense with a clear funnel cloud,” meteorologist Steve Fano said.

Because there were no reports of a funnel cloud or clear indications of tornado development on computer radars, no tornado warning went out.

With a line of storms like Saturday’s, it’s possible for small tornadoes to develop briefly with little to no warning, Fano said.

“That’s why severe thunderstorm warnings are to be taken seriously,” he said.

Without any pictures or funnel cloud sightings, the weather service looked at clues in the storm’s damage to confirm the EF-0 tornado. One of the key indicators was the direction of the debris.

When debris appears to have been blown in one direction, that’s typically an indication of damage caused by strong straight-line winds.

But when it looks like it’s been tossed in different directions, that’s a better sign of tornado damage because tornadoes move in circular patterns, Fano said.

Among the places hit the hardest was a home on the 1500 block of Allen Drive in Mesquite and Emmanuel Pentecostal Church, about a block away from the home.

The tornado damaged the church’s activity center and maintenance building and caused a power outage, according to the church’s Facebook page.

The church’s pastor, Chad Flowers, said in a Facebook video Monday afternoon that power had been restored and that the campus’ facilities were operational again except for the gymnasium.

Saturday’s tornado produced winds between 75 and 85 mph. It was the first in Dallas County since February 2018 and only the third since 2016, according to the weather service.

by Jesus Jimenez (2019, Mar 11) Dallas News

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Kyrie Wagner