The National Weather Service has released its self-assessment of the handling of the deadly tornado that tore through northeast Iowa on Memorial Day weekend last year.
Eight people in Parkersburg and New Hartford died in the tornado, and there was millions in dollars in damage.
Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Jeff Johnson, says the assessment finds the response was handle very well. "Overall, I think the National Weather Se rvice, as well as its partners did a good job in the event," Johnson says, "with that said, there’s always a few things we can improve upon, which we found and we will take care of. But, the warning went out in time and the people responded, in the primary sense, the job was done with Parkersburg."
Johnson says one thing they plan to change is the language used to indicate the severity of the weather situation. He says a lot of their customers weren’t aware that the tornado watch in effect at the time was what is considered "a particularly dangerous situation" by the storm predictions center in an environment that’s ripe for really strong tornadoes.
Johnson says they will work this spring to add wording to its watched to heighten the awareness of the spotters and public when conditions are particularly dangerous. Weather professionals understood the potential, but Johnson says those receiving the warning didn’t.
Johnson says he doesn’t think the information was communicated well in the watch sent out that. He says they will try to express it more when the conditions are particularly ripe for tornadoes.
Johnson says they did get it right when the tornado watch moved to a warning. Johnson says the tornado warning was issued at 4:23 P.M. and the tornado hit at five P.M., so the lead time for the warning "was very good for tornado warning standards." The report also says the response from local officials was very good in reacting, even though the timing caught some county officials away from their jobs.
Johnson says the event happened on the Sunday of a holiday weekend, and two of the three county emergency management coordinators were out of town. But he says other officials in the counties did a good job of getting the spotters out and sounding the sirens, and after the tornado hit, he says the response was "tremendous."
You can view the entire NWS Parkersburg tornado report here .