Today's sobering headlines involve the recent spate of deadly tornadoes that have cut swaths of destruction across the South. The death toll alone, not counting injuries and economic damage, is nearing 200. Here we are in our technological age, with AccuWeather (located here at Penn State, one of the Meccas of meteorology). But people are still swept up to Oz.
I was for a few years a weather forecaster in the US Air Force. That was some time ago, when technology was much less advanced than it is today. We studied severe storms such as the tornadoes so typical of spring in the US. They're due to the collision between warm, muggy air from the Gulf of Mexico, meeting cooler, drier air sweeping down from Canada (the first map below, from AccuWeather). The denser air mass undercuts the warmer one, pushing it up, where it cools, condenses, and releases tremendous amounts of latent energy. The whole system is steered rapidly along to the north and east by the jet stream, a strong wind high in the atmosphere, like corks floating along a river.
For a number of known reasons, these mass collisions also typically involve zones where air converges on a line or point. In these places, swirling convergence leads to thunderstorms of majestic power, and they can spawn the trailing intense vortices that are the tornadoes.
Whether the desired precision can ever be achieved is one of the many questions in science related to understanding complexities in Nature. Until it can, we may invest heavily and in general successfully in science technologies, but Nature's gremlins may still be able to hide between the bits and bytes even of the fastest computers.
And so long as that is the case, awful tragedies such as what has occurred in Alabama will still happen. And meteorologists will struggle to do better against what may be theoretically prohibitive impossibilities.