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ONLY ON 3: Nat'l Weather Service clears air about UNCW 'tornado warning'

READ MORE: ONLY ON 3: Nat'l Weather Service clears air about UNCW 'tornado warning'
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The National Weather Service is clearing the air about yesterday's funnel cloud over Wilmington.

UNCW alerted students by issuing a tornado warning, even though one was never issued by the NWS.

The storm cell caused a lot of ruckus in Wilmington monday, but with the wild weather there was some confusion.

No warning from the National Weather Service, but a tornado warning from UNCW? So what happened?

"We had our radar operator interrogate the storm," NWS Meteorologist in Charge Michael Carapolo said. "We did notice some rotation basically at the base of the cell. It wasn't a thunderstorm, so that was our first clue to indicate whether it was tornadic or not. So the radar operator, he's in touch with the Doppler radar, and he's using all the tools available to him to make that decision. So in his mind, it was going to be pretty much not a threat."

Because the meteorologist did not believe a tornado would touch down, the National Weather Service instead issued a statement alerting the public of possible funnel clouds, which do not touch the ground.

At UNCW, they went for a pre-scripted tornado message, in order to get out a message ASAP. In the essence of time, the NWS says that's OK.

"The events of yesterday, as far as them putting out a tornado warning for the campus, we don't have an issue with that," Carapolo said.

Still, this disconnect may have created some confusion around town. Now, the weather service is working with UNCW to create more of these "ready-to-go messages" for situations like funnel clouds, so that they can alert the public quickly and accurately.

The National Weather Service says you should always use caution when spotting a funnel cloud like yesterday. Even though they may be weak, they can still produce winds as high as 60 mph, which is enough to produce minor tree damage.

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Except there was a tornado warning issued at 1:07 pm

####018001735####
WFUS52 KILM 031707
TORILM
NCC129-031730-
/O.NEW.KILM.TO.W.0006.140703T1707Z-140703T1730Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE WILMINGTON NC
107 PM EDT THU JUL 3 2014

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN WILMINGTON NC HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
CENTRAL NEW HANOVER COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST NORTH CAROLINA

* UNTIL 130 PM EDT

* AT 105 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO NEAR
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH...OR 6 MILES EAST OF WILMINGTON...MOVING
NORTHWEST AT 35 MPH.

* SOME LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE...
UNCW CAMPUS...

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

WHEN A TORNADO WARNING IS ISSUED BASED ON DOPPLER RADAR...IT MEANS
THAT STRONG ROTATION HAS BEEN DETECTED IN THE STORM. A TORNADO MAY
ALREADY BE ON THE GROUND...OR IS EXPECTED TO DEVELOP SHORTLY. IF YOU
ARE IN THE PATH OF THIS DANGEROUS STORM...MOVE INDOORS AND TO THE
LOWEST LEVEL OF THE BUILDING. STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS. IF DRIVING...DO
NOT SEEK SHELTER UNDER A HIGHWAY OVERPASS.

GET UNDER A TABLE OR OTHER PIECE OF STURDY FURNITURE. SEEK SHELTER ON
THE LOWEST FLOOR OF THE BUILDING IN AN INTERIOR HALLWAY OR ROOM SUCH
AS A CLOSET. USE BLANKETS OR PILLOWS TO COVER YOUR BODY AND ALWAYS
STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS.

&&

PLEASE REPORT HAIL...DOWNED TREES OR DAMAGING WINDS TO THE NATIONAL
WEATHER SERVICE IN WILMINGTON NC...TOLL FREE AT 800-697-3901...WHEN
YOU CAN DO SO SAFELY.

LAT...LON 3420 7780 3419 7779 3419 7780 3417 7781
3415 7783 3421 7791 3427 7786 3421 7778
TIME...MOT...LOC 1707Z 134DEG 30KT 3419 7782

$$

MORGAN

They Did The Right Thing

Im proud that UNCW values their students, faculty,and staff enough that they did not hesitate
when it came to safety. There was definitely rotation which the radars proved and many people witnessed. We all know tornadoes are fast and violent and many have lost their lives to them in the past few years so it was much better to be safe than sorry.

Don't cry wolf

This whole issue about UNCW issuing a tornado warning while the NWS did not boils down to one thing... You don't want to desensitize people with warnings about things that don't warrant it. There's not a turf war going on between the NWS and anyone else. They watch storm cells from cradle to grave - all they do is weather - and likely dismissed that one as being any type of threat long before anyone outdoors even noticed it. The Doppler radar calls attention to suspicious rotation. This was not some supercell outbreak where there possible candidates all over the place.

Nowadays, since they don't even need to record the voices for warnings, the total time between the meteorologist on Gardner Drive making the call that the cell warrants a warning, and the weather radios sounding an alert is less than 20 seconds including the time for the data bursts over the air triggering the radio. There are ways for entities like UNCW to even allow for the NWS to sound the alarm on campus with no manual interaction.

As a trained spotter, you learn that there's a very narrow definition of what a tornado is, and this did not fit the bill. There's been no reports of damage from that storm cell. There's not one tornado in any of the scary looking cloud formations on this page: http://www.stormeyes.org/tornado/faq/notahose.htm

If UNCW, the NWS, or anyone else issues a tornado warning, you would expect people to immediately find their way to the appropriate place within the proper buildings - NOT to go look to see if there's really a tornado coming. Just like when a fire alarm goes off, you expect people to leave the building. If the fire alarm system keeps sounding for no reason, as happened yesterday with the tornado warning, people start getting into the habit of ignoring the alerts.

The NWS offers spotter training to help them be the eyes on the ground. Here's a list of upcoming sessions http://www.erh.noaa.gov/ilm/skywarnspotter/

BTW: I have no connection to NWS, UNCW, or any county, state or local government. I am just one of the many people locally that have a better understanding of the weather we encounter due to the training that NWS offers.