Atmospheric Scientist here at Weather Underground, with serious nerd love for tropical cyclones and climate change. Twitter: @WunderAngela
By: Angela Fritz , 4:04 PM GMT on April 16, 2012
The Storm Prediction Center and the National Weather Service did a fantastic job in preparing and warning the public of this past weekend's outbreak. Six people lost their lives this weekend, and while those six deaths are a tragedy, many more were prevented by excellent forecasting and dissemination. The challenge that these forecasters have to overcome is the complacency that accompanies many warnings that either don't result in a tornado, or don't result in a tornado that directly affects some parts of the warning area.
The Storm Prediction Center's forecast of this weekend's event 7 days in advance. The SPC has begun to experiment with longer-term forecasts of severe weather. The day 2 forecast was rare for SPC -- a "high risk" hasn't been issued in a day 2 forecast since 2006. Source: SPC.
Map of tornado watches (grey), tornado warnings (red), and actual tornado touchdowns (black dots) for April 14th at 12pm through April 15th at 9am. Watches are coordinated between the Storm Prediction Center and the local Weather Service offices, and warnings are issued by the local offices. Source: NWS.
New this year are strongly-worded warning text like this one out of Wichita, Kansas on Saturday that Jeff included in his blog this morning:
"IMPACT...THIS IS A LIFE THREATENING SITUATION. YOU COULD BE KILLED IF NOT UNDERGROUND OR IN A TORNADO SHELTER. COMPLETE DESTRUCTION OF ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOODS IS LIKELY. MANY WELL BUILT HOMES AND BUSINESSES WILL BE COMPLETELY SWEPT FROM THEIR FOUNDATIONS. DEBRIS WILL BLOCK MOST ROADWAYS. MASS DEVASTATION IS HIGHLY LIKELY MAKING THE AREA UNRECOGNIZABLE
It's hard to say if strong words helped people take action ahead of these storms, but I doubt anyone can argue that more graphic warning language will help in the long run, especially in situations like last year's Dixie Alley outbreaks, and the Joplin tornado, when life-threatening situations impact densely populated areas.
Kudos to the SPC and NWS to a job well-done this weekend.
The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.