Days of Dangerous Tornado Lead to Lessons Learned

March 2012 saw an unprecedented outbreak of tornados around the U.S. With over 100 tornadoes being reported nationwide on that day, some of the hardest hit areas in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area had no early warning, and the way the Doppler radar is set up in the area, they also had no idea of what was to transpire in the early morning hours. While mistakes were definitely made during the disaster, and equipment was proven out of date, what lessons could state and local officials gather from such an outbreak?

Joint Command Center

One area that was lacking in the aftermath of the tornado was the absence of any real command center, according to While officials across the various emergency response departments were in a constant state of communication, it was felt the establishment of a joint command center would have better served the needs of the individual departments and overall coordination.

More Widespread Doppler Coverage

The way the Doppler radar was set up meant that Charlotte, which has no radar system of its own, suffered from the occasional moment, up to minutes long, where the area has no coverage at all. Plenty of time for a tornado to form and do some damage. Until areas like Charlotte have their own Doppler coverage, they will be subject to the mercy of whatever mother nature decides to throw at them.

Better Damage Assessment Totals

When the Charlotte area was hit by severe weather in March 2012, it was deemed to not have suffered enough damage and thus did not warrant FEMA assistance in recovering. Since then, local emergency officials have developed ways to get more accurate totals of damage in the hopes that in the future they will qualify for national disaster aid.

Early Warning Is Key to Survival

Due to their lack of a siren system, officials in Charlotte recommend area residents get a weather radio to give them an early warning when bad storms are in the area. This strategy, while not ideal, saves the local government the expense of having to purchase a siren system, which can cost in excess of $50 million dollars initially, and then around $6 million annually.


For more information about lessons learned from the Charlotte area tornado disaster, visit: