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SLIDESHOW: How US Tornado Forecasting Has Evolved to Save Lives

Beginning in 1882, following nearly 300 years of whirlwind, cyclone and tornado observations in the United States, U.S. Army Signal Corps Sergeant John P. Finley would lay the foundation for the tornado forecasters of the modern era.


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However, despite his appointment to investigate tornadoes and develop forecast methods, Finley would face an uphill battle for recognition due to the term ‘tornado' being banned from official Army Signal Corps forecasts because of limitations in observance methods and concerns of causing mass panic among the public at the time, according to NOAA's forecasting history report.

As advancements continued in understanding the science behind tornado formation, coupled with growing achievements in technology including radar, satellite imagery and computer models, the late 20th century finally provided forecasters with the ability to warn the public of impending tornadoes, drastically reducing the loss of life caused by the destructive fury of a thunderstorm.

SOURCES: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Archives, FEMA Photo Library and SPC (SELS) Photo Library.