A Better Eye On the Storm; May 2012; Scientific American Magazine; by Jane Lubchenco and Jack Hayes; 6 Page(s)
After the deafening roar of a thunderstorm, an eerie silence descends. Then the blackened sky over Joplin, Mo., releases the tentacles of an enormous, screaming multiple-vortex tornado. Winds exceeding 200 miles per hour tear a devastating path three quarters of a mile wide for six miles through the town, destroying schools, a hospital, businesses and homes and claiming roughly 160 lives.
Nearly 20 minutes before the twister struck on the Sunday evening of May 22, 2011, government forecasters had issued a warning. A tornado watch had been in effect for hours and a severe weather outlook for days. The warnings had come sooner than they typically do, but apparently not soon enough. Although emergency officials were on high alert, many local residents were not.