The National Weather Service created quite a stir Monday, October 29, when it issued a tornado warning and advised Barnstable and Dukes County residents to take cover. We wonder what they were thinking—or perhaps why they were not thinking.
A tornado on Cape Cod is a very, very rare event and Monday’s weather event, while extreme in its way, had only the barest resemblance to a tornado. The weather service, if it can claim to live up to its name, should have known full well that that would be the case.
The schools took the warning seriously, as the school administrators should have. The kids might have enjoyed a break in the routine, but sending them down to the basement or into the halls to stand up against the walls was disruptive and served no purpose. The predicted wind speed of a so-called EF-0 is 60 to 65 miles per hour. That’s nowhere strong enough to cause concern in a school building.
No doubt about it, a 65-mile-per-hour gust is a hefty force. A few trees were knocked down. Lawn chairs were strewn about at Woods Hole Golf Club. But it’s hardly enough to damage a home or overturn a car. It was a good idea to come in from the outdoors, although we know of a few who ventured down to the shore to see if there was anything worth looking at.
The place where it would not be a good idea to be is out on the water. But the Steamship Authority boats ran despite the storm.
A friend who lived for some time in tornado country described what it is like to be around a real tornado: the sky turns almost as dark as night and you can hear the roar of the storm.
That does not remotely describe Monday’s weather event.
The National Weather Service should save its emergency warning system for events that must be taken seriously.