Editorial: Daytons call is in bad taste

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It is easy to blame the National Weather Service for the tornado that killed a 10-year-old girl.

But it would be wrong.

Blame the real culprit: the weather.

Sen. Mark Dayton, a Democrat from Minneapolis, on Tuesday called for an investigation into the National Weather Service on why the agency did not issue a tornado warning before a tornado struck Rogers and killed Jaymi Wendt.

The Associated Press reported: &8220;Dayton said he will ask the inspector general of the Commerce Department to conduct the investigation. The National Weather Service is part of the Commerce Department.

&8220;Weather Service officials have said there was no time to issue a tornado warning before the twister struck. The twister left a 10-year-old girl dead.&8221;

Three things to consider:

1. The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch. That means weather conditions are right for tornadoes to form. The watch had been in effect for several hours by the time the tornado hit Rogers. Granted, radar technology has advanced so fast that tornado watches occur more often than they did 10 or 20 years ago, so people have become desensitized to them.

2. Tornadoes have to start somewhere. They don&8217;t always form out in the country, get spotted by radar or a farmer, then roll into town sounding like a freight train. Sometimes, they form right above a town. By the time radar picks it up, the town is gone. In this case, 17 homes in Rogers were destroyed. It is foolish to think that radar, meteorologists and local officials will act faster than Mother Nature every single time.

3. There&8217;s a random factor to consider. People who survive tornadoes often remark how they were in the basement one moment and outdoors the next. There&8217;s a lot of debris that flies, and unfortunately, when the house collapsed, the debris killed Jaymi. If the nature of the wind and direction of debris during the collapse had been different and Jaymi survived, would Dayton still call for an investigation? We doubt it.

Our hearts go out to the Wendt family as it does whenever a loved one dies from a tornado in the Midwest. It is a sad aspect of living in our region.

But turning the death into a political grandstand is unnecessary. Dayton claims the Weather Service has offered &8220;excuses.&8221; In reality, the Weather Service has been forthcoming in explaining the matter.

&8220;It&8217;s very unsettling to us not to be perfect,&8221; Craig Edwards, head of the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, said Monday. &8220;We have a lot of angst in our office today.&8221;

Voters can see Dayton&8217;s ploy. He should know better.