On Wednesday, 19 August 2009, the seven county Twin Cities urban metro area experienced five tornadoes on a day considered unfavorable for Upper Midwest tornadoes. Only three times in 60 years had this many tornadoes occurred in a given calendar day within the urban metro area, which has an estimated population of three and a half million people. While all of these tornadoes were rated on the lower end of the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale, with no injuries or fatalities, the surveyed damage showed the tornadoes had the potential to do so. Furthermore, these tornadoes occurred in a metropolitan area, sometimes incorrectly thought to be unfavorable for tornadoes. The unique circumstances surrounding a touchdown of this nature, as well as the potential impact on life and property, initiated a great deal of public and media attention, and were the motivation for this research.
This tornado touched down around 1:50 PM CDT, four miles south of downtown Minneapolis. It tracked almost due north, another climatologically rare characteristic, into the southern portion of downtown, where it ended shortly after. The timeline of this tornado was analyzed with the utilization of pictures, videos, and public reports along its path. A look into social networks was conducted, due to the fact that they were recognized as one of the earliest means through which the tornado touchdown was reported. Use of such social networking websites is presently being experimented with by the NWS for possible future incorporation into operations. Consequently, a hypothetical discussion on the supplemental role said networks may have played in traditional warning operations on that day will be included. Web usage statistics will also be shown and compared to other severe weather day usage numbers in an effort to better understand the demand for information before, during, and after the event. Overall, a subjective analysis of these data was made in an attempt to quantify at least some portion of the societal component of this event, and in hopes of gaining findings for future use.