A tornado passed through Sebastian County on Tuesday, officials with the National Weather Service have confirmed.
The Weather Service office in Tulsa said a tornado with an EF0 classification touched down near the southern limits of Fort Smith on Tuesday morning. The tornado caused limited damage before leaving the ground, according to a public statement on the Tulsa office's website.
The tornado, which had peak winds between 75 mph and 85 mph, touched down at 9:43 a.m. Tuesday in northeast Bonanza, traveled two miles and then ended at 9:45 a.m. in northeast Bonanza. It "formed along the leading edge of a bowing severe line segment of thunderstorms" as it approached the weather surveillance radar in Fort Smith, the statement reads.
The tornado "damaged or destroyed several barns and snapped numerous large tree limbs as it moved east-northeast within the Cedar Creek valley, north of Highway 45," the statement reads. A weather team from the Tulsa office surveyed the damage from the tornado on Wednesday, office meteorologist Amy Jankowski said.
The team members were able to determine the tornado from the damage they observed, Jankowski said.
“If the tops of the trees are snapped, but not the bottoms, or they seemed to have been twisted at the top, that can be indication of circulation versus straight-line winds," she said. "I’m sure they looked at the barns themselves, how sturdy they are, what anchors them to the foundation, if there was a foundation."
Jankowski also said the team members assessed other storm elements, like the force of the winds, from their damage observations.
The information in the statement may change after final review before it is published in the National Weather Service Storm Data Center, the statement reads. But as far as officials at the Tulsa office are concerned, the tornado is confirmed, Jankowski said.
Jeff Turner, Assistant County Administrator for Public Safety in Sebastian County, said the damage from the tornado will not cost the county anything. He said on Wednesday that he thought the members of the weather team were "going to have a hard time" determining if the storm was a tornado due to the limited damage.
Turner said the confirmation of a tornado on Tuesday does not affect the damage in Sebastian County one way or another.
“It’s more for scientific purposes, that sort of thing, proving that what they saw on the radar is what they say it is," Turner said.
Following this line of thought, Jankowski said the confirmation of a tornado in Sebastian County verified the Weather Service's tornado warning. Weather Service officials issued a tornado warning for the Fort Smith area between 9:30-10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Jankowski also said Weather Service officials like to confirm tornadoes in the public's interest.
“There is a lot of interest in tornadoes, just generally speaking," she said. "People like to know if it was a tornado or if it was just wind damage."
In reference to storm damage, the confirmation of a tornado only makes a difference if the damage it caused is enough to document, Turner said.
“If we truly had damage that we were going to document, then we might have something down the road where we might make a declaration, that sort of thing," he said. "A lot of it is just for pure knowledge and knowing exactly what happened."