Marking 10th Anniversary Of Nashville Tornado - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Marking 10th Anniversary Of Nashville Tornado

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - This week marks the 10th anniversary of a time many Nashvillians will never forget.

A tornado blew through the Music City. It destroyed homes and businesses.

It also forced city leaders to evaluate public safety and make some changes.

On April 16, 1998, a tornado ripped through downtown Nashville. It was an F-3 storm with a wind speed between 158-206 miles per hour.

It killed one man who was in Centennial Park.

Afterward, city leaders realized they had no way to warn people who were outdoors.

"And really every second of advanced warning can be the difference between life and death," said Amanda Sluss, spokeswoman for Metro's Office of Emergency Management.

OEM is the nerve center for the city's response before, during and after a disaster.

Its changes in a decade include a computer system that controls 70 tornado sirens in the county.

"If the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning for Davidson County we will activate all 70 sirens at once," Sluss said.

If anyone is watching television, they will see those warnings on NewsChannel 5 as well.

"Not only was this thing headed for downtown Nashville, it was headed right for the TV station, and a little light went off here, you know," said NewsChannel 5 Chief Meteorologist Ron Howes.

Howes said since 1998 technology has improved to help him tell the public when a tornado is coming and where it's likely to hit.

"Back 10 years ago we had to estimate how fast it was moving and in what direction it was moving," he said. "And really, all we have to do now is hit this button and we have computer generated tracks for all the storms.

Not only does the new technology do a better job of  tracking the storm it also does a better job of predicting the storm's severity.

"We have an impact rating now about how likely this system is to produce hail and to produce a tornado," Howes said.

He can also look at the storm in three dimensions.

"So, we're able to look at small-scale changes in time and distance much better than we could have back in 1998," he said.

Even the weather radios are better. In 1998, the National Weather Service could only issue tornado warnings for a whole county. Now, they narrow it down to one area within the county.

So, if the region ever goes through this again, at least we'll be better protected.

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