Measuring a storm: How the National Weather Service rates tornadoes


AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Scientists at the National Weather Service finished assessing the damage of the Dallas tornado around 3:00 p.m. this afternoon. They gave it an EF3.

“October tornadoes are not that unusual to the east of where we live," said Doppler Dave Oliver. "You know we start to get the cold fronts and the dry air, and that starts to take away the ingredients that we need for storms and tornadoes. A little further east, Dallas, Houston, the Gulf coast, they still have those ingredients as the cold fronts arrive, and that’s exactly what happened last night.”

Meteorologists and the Director of Emergency management can’t just look at a tornado and know what category it is. They have to first asses the damage by surveying the area, taking pictures and using a unique app.

“Based on what kind of building it is or structure, and how much damage it is. There have been studies done, and we can tell an estimate of what the wind speed had to be to create that kind of damage,” said Michael Gittinger, National Weather Service Amarillo, warning coordination meteorologist.

The Dallas National Weather Service team is estimated to have around 25 employees. They send out scientists to asses the damage based on how many tornadoes and damage there was.

“We like to send out teams of two for safety reasons. So we may send out, and depending on staffing and what the weather is the next day. We may send out two or three teams to do assessments on what the damage is, and the EF ratings are,” said Gittinger.

Although the Panhandle is starting to feel the cold and has less chance of having a tornado, the area hit last night, might not be done yet.

“Notice what’s going on in the Gulf Coast, that’s what went through Dallas last night. So in those areas, we still have a lot of moisture, a lot of heat, and that front to lift the air. It’s a prime recipe for more tornadoes,” said Doppler Dave Oliver.

Some of the contractors working on Xcel Energy projects in the Texas and New Mexico service area have been released from scheduled construction jobs to travel to Dallas to help with power restoration.

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