Xenia Tornado: Technology changes in 40 years

XENIA, Ohio (WDTN) – The roar of the Xenia tornado came at a time when weather technology was in its infancy.  The vintage World War II radar offered only green blobs for meteorologists to track.

Now, we have crisp, clear images showing the structure of thunderstorms.  Today’s radar scans storms every four and a half minutes.  This allows meteorologists to issue warnings as soon as a thunderstorm begins showing signs of rotation.

Warnings were being used back in 1974 but with so many tornadoes that day the information was backed up and many warnings made it to people after it was too late. Now, The average lead time for tornado warnings is 13 minutes but can be as high as 20-30 minutes.  Today NOAA weather radios sound when a warning is issued.  But there are so many other options as well.

“It’s basically another source. It shouldn’t be your only source,” Storm Team 2 Meteorologist Jamie Jarosik explained.

Social media and text alerts allow warnings to be available in the palm of your hand.  And now through the internet and websites severe weather information is always available.

“We also have live stream online so if your power goes out you have that alternative source on your phone. You can be in your safe place whether it’s under the stairwell in the basement or in a closet and watch that live streaming video,” Jarosik explains.

Getting to shelter during a tornado warning is second nature for those in Xenia. The city has been hit by two deadly tornadoes. The EF5 in 1974 and another strong EF4 twister in 2000. Both tornadoes are reminders to take every severe weather warning seriously.

In 2011 tornado sirens brought an entire room of people to its feet.  During the middle of a Xenia school board meeting the moment the sirens went off everyone evacuated not taking any chances with severe weather.

The 1974 tornado has changed the mindset of those in Xenia. Technology and communication has improved but taking action when the warnings are issued and waiting for the all clear is the big lesson from 40 years ago.

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