This all begs the question “How can it be?” with all the incredible advances in forecasting and warning systems, that there was such a high number of fatalities? Over the last few decades, the yearly statistics showed a downward trend in the number of fatalities. Also, adjusted for population growth it looks even more optimistic. That is until last year.
A few decades ago the public had a lead time of next to nothing when a tornado warning was issued. Now, though, that lead time is on average, 20 to 25 minutes. Is it perfect? the answer is far from it. But it's the best we have at this time. One of the problems is the system was built in the 50's and 60's. An era when many things we understand now were unknown. Don't get me wrong this is not a swipe at the NWS. IMO the NWS does an outstanding job, but the fact is some NWS field offices do a better job than others. I think the NWS needs to do a better job on giving local field offices better guidelines on what to do during a severe event. Base on my experience, the NWS issues too many false alarms. I know they mean well, But again IMO, the NWS should stop issuing tornado warnings on areas of spin up's along a squall line (QLCS), these kind of tornadoes are almost impossible to predict and are extremely hard to see on radar. Even if it is a tornado they normally last only a few minutes. As we saw in the stage collapse at the Indiana state fair, the main danger in these situations is powerful straight line winds, not tornadoes. All this does is force Mets to go on air and talk about something that if it was a tornado, it has most likely dissipated by the time they go on air. I feel this leads to people during an actual tornado warning into thinking "here we go again, I'm going to make a sandwich and put that new DVD movie into the player". instead of paying attention when a real tornado emergency is in progress.
The second point covers the severe weather warning net. The NWS has 120 field offices across the country with highly sophisticated Doppler radar at its disposal. They are using the best equipment in the world to forecast severe weather.