Storm Week: National Weather Service - Before The Storm

The National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma is a crucial place for severe weather forecasting across the country and especially in Texoma.  The Storm Prediction Center and the Norman National Weather Service Office both reside at the National Weather Center and both play a vital role in the severe weather process.

The Storm Prediction Center, or SPC, is where severe weather coverage begins. These meteorologists are in charge of issuing the severe thunderstorm and tornado watches for the entire country!  On major severe weather days, they try to give the public as much time as possible to prepare for storms.

"On the big active days we try to issue the tornado watches earlier," said David IMY, a forecaster at the SPC.  "The goal is typically to get the tornado watch out 1-2 hours before the
tornadoes develop."

This is just the start of the severe weather forecasting process.  With every
watch created, the SPC communicates with the local
National Weather Service office.

"We call it Watch collaboration," said Imy. "The SPC proposes the watch and for all
of the local offices that have county in that watch.  An agreement is
made about what the watch type should be, tornado or severe
thunderstorm, and also about the counties and towns that should be in it."

Imy also talked about the future of tornado watches, explaining that in about five years he hopes that tornado watches are not issued for a given county for too long, they will be more efficient.  For example, instead of a watch being issued for a broad region from 2PM to 10PM, a watch would only be issued for a dozen counties for 3-4 hours and then the watch would expand as the storms moved.

The watch is only the beginning, after the watch is issued the reins are handed to the National
Weather Service. Most of Texoma is under the watchful eye of the Norman, Oklahoma
office.  It is the only office in the United States that is right across the
hall from the SPC.

"When you can have a personal touch face to face I think it adds a lot
to the communication," said Scott Curl a meteorologist at the Norman National Weather Service Office.  "It breaks down a lot of barriers that you might otherwise have if you don't have that face to face time."
The meteorologists in this office are in charge of issuing all
warnings for Oklahoma and most of North Texas.  These meteorologists use
many tools to decided whether or not a storm deserves a warning.  Some
of the most important tools are eyes out in the field.
"We do rely on a lot of information coming in from emergency managers and the media," said Curl. "Without the spotters and the media relaying information to us, we don't know.  That always helps us in our warning decision process."

Curl explained that the decision process has changed over the years and now they even try to issue severe thunderstorm warnings as a storm is growing.  The storm may not have severe characteristics yet, but a warning is issued if large hail or damaging winds are imminent.

There is a lot that happens at the National Weather Center in Norman, but how does that information get out to you!? 
The watch and warning information comes from Norman, Oklahoma but the Skywarn 6 Storm Team gets that information to you.  Side by side with our Skywarn 6 Live 3D Vision Radar we have a chat with not only the National Weather Service, but emergency managers and storm spotters out in the
field.  The meteorologists get up to the second information as they are using the radar.  Viewers get up to the second information just when the Skywarn 6 Storm Team hears about it.

The watches and warnings are pulled into every computer in the Skywarn 6 Weather Center as soon as they are issued in Norman.  If a watch or warning is issued and a meteorologist is not on your screen, then there is a computer in the weather office that puts the crawl and weather map on over programming.  As soon as that watch or warning is issued, its brought right on the screen so everyone can be informed!

The information does not solely come from the National Weather Service and SPC.  Yes, they officially issue the watches and warnings, but the Skywarn 6 meteorologists are looking at the same data on the computers in the weather center.  All of these different computer models help them determine exactly what is going to happen with the weather.

The Skywarn 6 Storm Team communicates with the government agencies in Norman and uses the latest and greatest technology in the studio to bring the best severe
weather coverage to you.

Ben Walnick, Newschannel 6