NWS addresses concerns over lack of warning time ahead of EF-3 twister


BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Monday night’s devastating storm formed in a matter of minutes, claiming lives and destroying homes.

​”When you look back at the tornado history in Brunswick County this, unfortunately, is the strongest one that we have on record since the 50s,” National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Steven Pfaff said.

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Many people are asking why there wasn’t more warning for the strongest, and the only EF-3 tornado in Brunswick County’s history.

Steven Pfaff, a Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wilmington, says it’s a combination of several things.

“The time of the day was critical, most people’s situational awareness was at an all-time low. The fact that it was moving at 50 to 60 miles per hour,” Pfaff said. “Unfortunately, it was a culmination of rapid intensification and movement that posed to be problematic.”

This weather event also raises concern for the doppler radar in Shallotte.

Since being built in 1994, the trees in the area have grown substantially, causing something called “beam blockage.”

Due to private property surrounding the radar preventing the NWS from cutting down the trees, the only viable solution is relocating the radar, which is a $5.5M project but Pfaff says they are working on it.

“Each and every one of them, if they can take that radar out of the ground, carry it on their backs and move it right now, they would do so,” Pfaff said.

The meteorologist says it’s difficult to determine if the beam blockage played a role Monday night and going on to say that radar operators don’t look at just one section to make warning decisions.

“We have very viable radar data above 1,200 feet in this case because it was so close to the radar,” Pfaff said. “They’re looking at the whole volume scan of data and also supported by radars from Morehead City and Charleston,” Pfaff said. “That network helps provide additional information.”

Pfaff explains there are systems in place to help mitigate the beam blockage, like satellite data and volunteer weather watchers.

The National Weather Service is aware of the problem and Pfaff says they are in the works of creating budget proposals in the next few years to get the radar moved.