Determining the strength of a tornado is more than just observat - WSMV News 4

Determining the strength of a tornado is more than just observation

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Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Nashville were out surveying the damage from a series of tornadoes that struck Middle Tennessee and parts of Southern Kentucky on Saturday night.

Four tornadoes ranging in intensity from EF-1 to an EF-2 touched down in a number of communities, but the strongest tornado hit a subdivision near Clarksville called Farmington, leveling one home and damaging dozens of others.   

Meteorologists can follow the track of a storm looking at Doppler radar, but determining if a tornado caused damage and its strength is a matter of observation and science.

There is a story in all the wind damage, and a trained professional like Larry Vannozzi, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Nashville, can spot it.

Looking at the damage to homes in Clarksville, Vannozzi can easily tell if it has the signature of a tornado or straight-line winds.

"You can see this insulation on all four sides," said Vannozzi. "It really shows that winds from all directions hit this home, not just one direction."

Determining the strength of a tornado requires a marriage of observation and science.

Vannozzi inputs his observations into a damage-assessment tool kit program that was developed by meteorologists and civil engineers.

"In this case here, if [I] pick a one or two family residence, and the walls are collapsed, the program tells me the average winds that hit this house are 132 miles an hour, the equivalent of an EF2 tornado," said Vannozzi.

Middle Tennessee's spring tornado season begins in March and end in late May.

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