The National Weather Service has created an Impact Based Warning system to improve severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings. The program will add additional information to the severe weather alerts.
The goal is to help the public respond quickly and appropriately during weather emergencies.
The experiment began after a tornado struck Joplin, Mo. in 2011, killing 158 people.
Bob Weisman, a meteorology professor at St. Cloud State University, said the Joplin tornado was not the largest compared to other tornados. But it did result in the most deaths since tornado information began being recorded in 1950.
This information lead National Weather Service researchers to explore possible causes. They hypothesized that streamlined, detailed weather warnings might alleviate the problem.
Weisman said, “Surveys have shown that the public will tend not to do anything if they hear conflicting reports. People need to hear one message when you’re talking about only giving them a few minutes to take action.”
Weisman is also concerned that people don’t take warnings seriously.
In reference to the National Weather Service study, Weisman said, “People had said, ‘We hear sirens go off all the time; we don’t even bother to take action at the first one.’ But a siren is not the first indication of a warning.”
Weisman also said that many people don’t take weather alerts seriously unless TV stations interrupt programming “This would mean, in the St. Cloud area, that nobody would ever take action because the Twin Cities will probably not interrupt programming for a tornado in St. Cloud.”
The new weather alerts will use the language, “This is a particularly dangerous situation,” to emphasize the severity of the storm. The alerts then include information specifying:
Weisman said, “It’s important to convince people that this is the time to take action. The time to think about preparing and what you might do is when a “watch” is issued. When there’s a warning that covers you, that’s the time to take action.”
By Natalie Davis