NWS: Butterfield tornado was tough to detect

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

National Weather Service was not expecting severe weather

The EF-0 tornado that struck Butterfield Thursday came unexpected and without much help in identification from National Weather Service radar.

Steve Lindenberg, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Springfield, said missing small tornadoes happens at times because size makes a difference.

"This happens from time to time and this one was in an area of stratiform rain and embedded in little thunderstorms not too high up in the atmosphere," he said. "There were not the kinds of conditions we normally get tornadoes out of."

Stratiform rain describes a system that builds more horizontally than vertically, bringing a steadier rain instead of spotty rain showers.

"This storm would spin some, then lose its rotation, and we were doing things to detect it, and had trouble getting a good lead time for this situation," Lindenberg said. "When we got the damage report, that's when we issued the severe thunderstorm warning, and that's when we saw a little bit of the circulation. It was a very narrow path this tornado took, and that makes it hard for radar to detect."

Butterfield was not the only area hit by a tornado Thursday, as the National Weather Service said a second tornado hit in portions of Douglas County, just northwest of Ava. That storm hit just after 5 p.m. and damaged trees and road signs, and it destroyed an old barn.

Lindenberg said residents should always be aware of storms approaching, and that any storm could bring potential danger during tornado season.

"If we are under a slight risk of severe storms, keep watch for anything that might develop," he said. "We had low-level rotation showing across the area, but it wasn't very deep, so we did not anticipate a tornado."

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