Site Investigations

The Severe Weather Damage Site Investigator

TORRO’s most productive area of research involves members conducting tornado damage site investigations.

Our aims are:
  • To establish the most likely cause of the damage (i.e. tornado, downburst, other thunderstorm-related winds etc).
  • To record the type of damage and its locations (usually with descriptive notes and photographs).
  • To obtain statements from eyewitnesses.
  • To assist with media enquiries at the scene (usually only applies to the larger events).
Once the site investigation is complete: This research helps to ensure that events are properly recorded and logged. Without it, many events would remain unrecorded, and the nature and extent of the damage illusive. For example, the true extent of damage is often considerably larger than may initially be indicated by media reports or eyewitness information. It is only by careful site investigation that we can truly hope to understand more about the incidence and distribution of severe local storms and their associated damage in the UK and Ireland.

A large team of scientists, researchers and enthusiasts carry out various activities to support the site investigations. These range from obtaining satellite images, radar data, synoptic charts and other reports, to providing maps and live assistance to the investigator. TORRO hopes that by directly involving its members in such activities, they will learn more about tornadoes and other severe weather events. Visiting damage sites is often a fascinating experience, and it is hard to leave without a greater appreciation of the power of tornadoes and other damaging wind events. It is only by conducting this important research that we can hope to develop a credible database of tornado and other storm-related damage events for the UK and Ireland.

TORRO has a core network of members who are willing to undertake site investigation work. Our network of potential site investigators spans the furthest reaches of the UK and Ireland. Members have a wide range of experience levels, but in practice no prior knowledge is required: the main requirement is for careful and accurate documentation of the facts. With sufficient information, analysis of the findings at a later date can usually determine the cause of the damage, even if this is not established at the time of the site investigation.

In some events, members are alerted to the risk of severe weather by TORRO convective discussions and advisories. This helps us to keep an eye out for any damage reports, which in turn can help ensure a quick response, should anything occur. It is not unusual for an investigator local to an event to attend the scene well before the press has arrived, sometimes within an hour or so. TORRO also has good links with the UK Meteorological Office, and is grateful for the many hundreds of reports that they deliver to us.