MANSFIELD — Tornado warning sirens didn’t blare in Richland County late Monday night because the National Weather Service office in Cleveland didn’t issue a tornado warning.
There was not even a tornado watch posted by the weather service as the first of two powerful storms approached north central Ohio on Monday night, spawning an F1 tornado in southeast Richland County at 11:33 p.m.
Instead, there was a tornado warning issued minutes later — at 11:42 p.m. — for southern Ashland County, northeastern Knox County and most of Holmes County, according to the NWS website.
The twister popped up too fast in Richland County for a warning, according to weather officials.
Alexa Maines, a meteorologist with the NWS in Cleveland, said Thursday morning that tornadoes in such thunderstorms can “spin up quickly,” giving weather officials little time to react and issue warnings.
The NWS did issue severe thunderstorm warnings for the area in advance of the storms.
Maines said residents should “be prepared for any kind of severe weather” when such warnings are issued.
According to the NWS website, a severe thunderstorm warning “indicates imminent danger to life and property” and residents should “take shelter in a substantial building.”
“These kinds of storms can rapidly intensify and drop a tornado,” she said. “When a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, people should seek shelter.”
Maines said there are times when people may feel “warning fatigue” and not take NWS-issued watches and warnings seriously enough.
“They think it won’t happen (in their area),” she said. “Our office here in Cleveland is staffed 24/7. When we issue a warning, we don’t take it lightly.”
The tornado was a topic for Richland County commissioners on Thursday morning during a meeting with county Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Petrycki.
“Richland County took a very, very hard hit,” he told commissioners, adding the powerful back-to-back storms had “the recipe for everything to happen in Richland County and it did.”
More than 26,000 Richland County residents lost power Monday night and more than 9,400 were still without power on Thursday afternoon.
According to the NWS, damage assessment determined an F1 tornado with winds between 86 and 110 miles an hour touched down three miles west of Newville at 11:33 p.m.
The twister traveled an estimated 5.8 miles on the ground, according to Maines.
“The tornado touched down and destroyed an outbuilding near Possum Run Road and Snyder road,” she said.
“The tornado tracked eastward south of Possum Run Road and produced extensive tree damage as it moved east and remained south of Pleasant Hill Lake.
“The tornado then turned southeast and became more intermittent, lifting and descending before it entered Mohican State Park and produced additional extensive tree damage (in Ashland County),” she said.
An F1 tornado is considered “weak,” though Maines said it can still be dangerous.
By comparison, the tornado that hit Shelby on April 14, 2019, was an F2 with wind speeds of up to 125 miles per hour in producing extensive property damage. It traveled about 17 miles.
Maines said it’s fortunate Monday night’s tornado didn’t strike more heavily populated areas.
“There are still people who lived along the tornado track and who were impacted. But we are fortunate it missed more populated, metro areas,” she said.
Petrycki said the county received numerous phone calls Tuesday from residents in the area who believed a tornado had touched down.
When a damage assessment team with a drone arrived from Sandusky County to assist local officials, it was sent down to the area on Tuesday.
“They were out there every bit of four or five hours. They were out so long their batteries died,” he said.
“It took a little awhile to get the data downloaded so we could send it on to the National Weather Service,” he said. “They looked at it and told us it was a tornado. They have a lot more analysis to do.”
Petrycki said there was damage to a farm structure from the tornado, but it primarily went through fields and wooded areas.
A resident in the area contacted Richland Source and said tornadic winds had thrown tree limbs into the roof and the sides of his house.
Asked about the report Thursday, Petrycki said damage assessment work continued in the area.
He said the storm and its aftermath did identify “some shortcomings” in the county’s emergency response and damage assessment capabilities.
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM or TORNADO WATCH — Severe thunderstorms with large hail, damaging winds, and/or tornadoes are possible, but the exact time and location of storm development is still uncertain. A watch means be prepared for storms.
A tornado watch is issued by the NWS when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. Their size can vary depending on the weather situation. They are usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours. They normally are issued well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. During the watch, people should review tornado safety rules and be prepared to move a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING — A severe thunderstorm is imminent or occurring; it is either detected by weather radar or reported by storm spotters. A severe thunderstorm is one that produces winds 58 mph or stronger and/or hail 1 inch in diameter or larger. A warning means to take shelter.
TORNADO WARNING — A tornado is imminent or occurring; it is either detected by weather radar or reported by storm spotters. A warning means to take shelter. This is issued when a tornado is indicated by the WSR-88D radar or sighted by spotters; therefore, people in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. They can be issued without a Tornado Watch being already in effect. They are usually issued for a duration of around 30 minutes
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