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Better Severe Thunderstorm and Tornado Warnings

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The National Weather Service in Norman, OK and San Angelo, TX are going to be participating in the Impact Based Warnings experiment this year. The experiment is going to help the NWS communicate severe weather threats better to the public.

"After the Joplin, Missouri tornado in 2011, social scientists and communication experts started to look at why there was such a high death toll. One of the things they came up with was that the NWS was not communicating the threats properly, said Rick Smith, Warnings Coordinator for the National Weather Service in Norman, OK.

The Impact Base Warnings experiment will not change how the NWS issues severe thunderstorm or tornado warnings. It is only going to add some information about the potential impacts of the storms or tornadoes.

"There will also going to be some coding so there will be what we call tags at the bottom of the warning. If we are expecting golf ball sized hail, it  will specifically say hail 1.75 inches. It will be coded in such a way automated systems can pick up on it," said Smith.

If there is a tornado, the NWS will categorize each tornado into different categories.

"There are basically three different levels of tornado warnings. There is a default level, which is what we will issue most of the time, and it doesn't have a tag. It is just for radar indicated developing tornado," said Smith.

The second level of tornado will be labeled considerable. Before the NWS labels a tornado considerable, it is going to have more confidence that a tornado is on the ground.

"The third level is catastrophic that would be for a large confirmed tornado. We are confident that it will cause major damage. It would be like the El Reno or Moore tornadoes," said Smith.

Smith said these tags aren't just for the public. He thinks they are going to help television meteorologists and emergency managements as well.

The Impact Based Warning experiment will start sometime in March. Montague, Young, Jack, Childress, Cottle and King Co. will not see any Impact Based Warnings this year because the NWS offices in Lubbock or Fort Worth forecast for those areas.

James Parish, Skywarn 6 Meteorologist

 

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