They could hear the wind. They could hear the rain. But what people in Muscatine, Iowa on Monday, June 24th, 2013 could not hear were the sirens when a tornado tore through town.
“There weren’t any sirens, no warnings, or anything,” says Muscatine resident, Helen Schultz.
On Wednesday, June 26th, 2013, Helen and others were still wondering why. While crews continued to clean up at Krieger Collision Center, News 8’s Angie Sharp spoke with Muscatine County’s Director of Emergency Management, Matt Shook.
“We take actionable information from the National Weather Service when they have definite indications of a tornado forming or the potential for a tornado to form,” says Shook.
But even with a siren less than half a mile from where the tornado hit, it stayed silent on Monday. Donna Dubberke, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service of the Quad Cities, says that’s because the tornado was essentially invisible on their radar until it was too late.
Unlike super cell tornadoes, like the ones that hit Oklahoma this year, which start in the middle of a storm and work their way down from the clouds, the tornado in Muscatine formed at the edge of a rapidly approaching, squall line of storms and was created from the ground up.
“Unfortunately, with the fast movement of the storm when it develops in town like it did in this case, there is no opportunity,” says Dubberke. “The best you can do is put out the warning when it develops as soon as you see it and that’s the best that can be done given the state of the science today.”
“We followed procedure exactly to the letter,” says Shook. “It was just that the storm was unpredictable and a lot stronger, I think, than anyone would have guessed.”
The proof of that is in every downed pole, uprooted tree, and mangled piece of metal around Muscatine… easily seen. But this atypical twister is also proof that Mother Nature can easily hide, even from meteorologists.
Dubberke says more research needs to be done on this type of tornado, but they’re hoping this particular case has some clues that will help them better predict this type of natural disaster easier and earlier in the future.