YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — In August 2021, York County emergency managers noticed something strange.

“There was a tornado that actually was confirmed down in the Winterstown area in York County, but there was no tornado warning issued for it,” recalled Shen Kreiser, York County Emergency Management’s nuclear planner. Kreiser also tracks weather emergencies.

Turned out, at about the same time, Lebanon County emergency managers were asking the same question, in their case after a tornado — which also caused no injuries and no major damage — touched down without warning between Fredericksburg and Myerstown.

The question both counties asked: “Why did that happen?” Kreiser said. “And we realized that it never showed up on the radar.”

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She said that’s because of a gap in National Weather Service (NWS) radar coverage at low altitudes, where severe weather can occur. That, in turn, is because parts of Midstate Pa. are about as far as you can get from the closest NWS radar sites in State College; Sterling, Virginia; and Mount Holly, New Jersey.

“Especially the eastern part of York County, you’re kind of juggling between the three,” Kreiser said. “And when we’re trying to figure out if something’s going on, it makes it hard for us.”

Kreiser’s concern after the tornados? “It’s only a matter of time before this is going to have greater impacts.”

And then it did, when six people died last week after a pileup along I-81 in Schuylkill County, which happened after no official weather warning.

Kreiser said York and Lebanon are working with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) to identify solutions — and potential funding to implement those solutions.

The solutions could be a mix of high and low tech — an additional radar site, perhaps, and “we have a really active ham radio community in York County that is all-weather spotter-trained. And so maybe we can rely on them more” as well as on coordination with small airports, some of which have their own weather radar, Kreiser said.

The existence of a weather radar gap, per se, isn’t what distinguishes the one here.

“There are obviously other areas in the country that have issues with having radar gaps,” Kreiser said. “But we have a very high population density compared to a lot of those.”