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Officials say too little information for Monday tornado warning

Randolph County emergency management director says sirens didn’t sound Monday because radar never indicated a tornado. (Garrett Bergquist/KRCG 13)

Randolph County’s emergency management director on Wednesday said Monday’s tornado had already done damage by the time officials were aware of it.

Jim Charrier said his office sounds the county’s emergency sirens anytime National Weather Service radar indicates a tornado. On Monday evening, he said radar returns showed a line of severe storms but never indicated a tornado. The county also sounds sirens if spotters on the ground report a tornado, but he said the first calls his office received were damage reports from the area around Higbee and Renick. Charrier said the tornado was hard to spot because it was dark. Even under ideal conditions, there's usually little warning.

"We're looking at 4-5 minutes, if we're lucky, for people to seek shelter and get under cover," he said. "So at night, when it's dark, it really cuts down on that time."

The National Weather Service said Monday evening’s tornado covered a distance of a little more than 11 miles, with wind speeds of up to 100 mph. Two people were reported injured. Randolph County falls under the jurisdiction of the agency’s Kansas City office.

Al Pietrycha, the office’s science and operations officer, said there was an active severe thunderstorm warning at the time of the tornado, but his office had no indication a tornado had formed. No tornado warning was ever issued.

Pietrycha said the agency has three radars in Missouri, one each in Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield. Because Randolph County is far away from all three of those radars, he said the radar can only pick up high-altitude weather. He said weak tornadoes are especially hard to detect because they don’t produce strong radar returns. The National Weather Service rated Monday’s tornado as an EF-1.

Charrier said the best way to improve storm warnings in north-central Missouri would be for the National Weather Service to install a radar in that area.

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