UPDATE: Columbia under tornado watch; chance of large hail, strong winds Thursday evening

Thursday, March 27, 2014 | 4:16 p.m. CDT; updated 8:20 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 27, 2014
Dark clouds move in over MU on Thursday as the area experienced hail, strong winds and tornado warnings. Columbia and parts of Boone County were under a tornado watch until midnight Thursday.

COLUMBIA — Much of the area was under a tornado watch Thursday evening as scattered thunderstorms threatened to batter Columbia with large hail and strong winds. 

The scattered thunderstorms were expected to last until about 7 p.m., said Jayson Gosselin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in St. Louis.

In the western part of the state, the storm system has been accompanied by large hail, ranging in size from a quarter to a half-dollar. The hail is expected to cause damage to vehicles, according to a severe-thunderstorm warning issued by the weather service. There's also the possibility of strong winds, which could cause damage to trees and power lines in central Missouri.

Gosselin said the area could also see isolated tornadoes. Shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday, the weather service issued a tornado warning for southern Boone County and a tornado watch for most of central Missouri. The watch will remain in effect until midnight Thursday.

The potentially hazardous weather is being caused by warm, moist air mixing with a cold front, Gosselin said. The storms should weaken as the system moves into the eastern part of the state, where the air is more stable, he said.

After the storms move out of the area, the temperature is expected to drop into the mid-30s overnight, about 10 degrees below the average for this time of year, Gosselin said.

The weather is expected to improve dramatically during the weekend. The area will see temperatures in the mid-50s Saturday and the upper 60s Sunday, Gosselin said. The weekend should also be dry in the wake of Thursday's thunderstorms. The next chance of precipitation is Sunday evening.

Supervising editor is Edward Hart.

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Mark Foecking March 28, 2014 | 6:34 a.m.

I'm glad we got the rain (although we still need a lot more) but I am not sure we need to call tornado warnings as often as we do. In most cases, there is no spotted tornado, just a radar signature of rotation. I understand the reason for caution, and support caution, but we could be setting people up to where they disregard warnings ("the boy who cried wolf").

Perhaps two levels of warnings would be appropriate - one a rotation warning, and if a tornado is then spotted, an actual tornado warning.


(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 28, 2014 | 8:47 a.m.

MarkF: I share your concern. The verbiage and emotion I heard on TV and radio seemed almost....panicky.

On the other hand, perhaps "panicky" was warranted in this case.....these WERE unusual pop-ups and happened in a real hurry. For me personally, this event was a "What tha...?" that had me headed for the computer when I saw those clouds....I wasn't watching ANY media at the time.

It's a tough balancing act, to be sure, that's taking place in the relatively new environment of LOTS of information with the ability to quickly disseminate it. Sometimes, TMI is hard to evaluate.

But, since I'd hate to be the one calling the shots, I'm willing to give the meteorologists the benefit of the doubt on when to call a warning versus when not to.

(Report Comment)

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