April 2022 is turning into kind of a once-in-a-generation absolutely-nutso month for tornadoes in the U.S.:
Now, out of Arkansas this week, we have not merely a tornado but a Tornado Emergency:
This storm was very much not a joke:
Because it happened at night, footage of the twister appears to be sparse, but radar signatures of the beast are...something else:
But what, you might ask, is a "tornado emergency?"
Just be thankful you've never been in one. They're the highest level of tornado alert possible; as a result they're comparatively rare, much more so than tornado watches or even warnings.
As a strengthening thunderstorm begins to rotate, the National Weather Service (NWS) can issue a tornado warning. This means that a tornado is imminent and that people in the path of the storm need to take cover immediately.
However, when a large, destructive tornado is already on the ground for an extended period of time and approaching a populated area, the NWS can issue a tornado emergency.
A tornado emergency means that significant, widespread damage with a high likelihood of numerous fatalities is expected to continue with a strong and violent tornado, according to the NWS. It's a call to action that people need to react to immediately. When one is issued, a confirmed tornado is causing life-threatening conditions and people need to seek shelter right away.
Basically a tornado emergency means: Get your rear in gear and get to shelter in the next four seconds.
Interestingly, tornado emergencies are a relatively new form of alert: While tornado warnings have been around since the late 1940s, the first tornado emergency was issued only in 1999.
Since then the National Weather Service has issued just 195 emergencies, or an average of eight per year; that might seem like a lot, but by comparison, on the afternoon of April 16 the National Weather Service had issued well over 100 tornado warnings in the last five days alone.
So, yeah, if you hear the words "tornado emergency" coming from that unsettling robot voice on your radio, don't waste time: Get moving, dummy!
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