Tornadoes cannot be predicted to exact location or their strength. We meteorologists can tell when conditions are more favorable for tornadoes to develop. That’s it!
Once a tornado develops, it can be detected either by radar or by visual confirmation by a trained spotter.
There are times when a tornado can go undetected by radar. Marion in particular is in a spot about 100 miles from a radar site. Its closest radar in Jacksonville is about 100 miles away, and Tampa’s radar is also about 100 miles away. Melbourne’s radar is even further at about 110 miles away. Marion’s location puts it in a radar hole.
To better understand how this works, you must know that a radar beam transmits its signals in an upward angle. This means that due to the curvature of the Earth, the farther you are from the radar site, the higher the storms must be to be well-detected by the radar. When this occurs, there is no warning that could be issued, simply because there is not one detected.
The tornado that touched down near Ocala on Sunday went undetected by radar because the rotation was likely under 7,000 feet in the air. The radar beam captures anything over 7,000 feet because of the distance to the nearest radar. This tornado is not the only one in recent years that slipped under the radar; in 2015, another tornado in Marion County also went undetected by radar.
The National Weather Service discovered a tornado touched down after surveying the damages. Seeing that trees were flattened and pointing at different locations was key to deciphering that it was indeed a tornado. With approximated winds between 95 to 105 mph, the EF-1 tornado damaged hardwood trees, some going down through homes traveling for about a mile.
It is crucial that residents are aware of this radar hole. You must know that all storms are dangerous, and your location can put you at a higher risk of threats going undetected. Preparation and weather understanding are key to how safe you will be during the next storm.
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