The first blog post on this subject did just what I wanted it to do… start a good dialogue about the warning process.
This post will address point number one… about the false alarm ratio being too high, and trying to warn for small, spin-up tornadoes in a quasi-linear convective system (QLCS, or a squall line as us old timers used to call it).
Reviewing the comments on this point… the hard core weather weenies, geeks, dweebs, and nerds generally disagree with me on this. And, I must point out I am weather nerd. About as big as they come.
The weather enthusiasts believe there should be an attempt to warn for every tornado. Even the EF-0s within a QLCS. They can’t believe I would want to stop that.
Of the comments I have received from TV meteorologists… 100 percent are in agreement with me. Some comments from them…
“Just read your blog post about the warning process and I think it was PRICELESS!!!”
“Great, great, great post on the warning process and how it worked on 4/27. I was speaking with a group of middle-schoolers and they said “they always issue tornado warnings and nothing ever happens.” Out of the mouth of babes, you know…”
Of course, perhaps being the target of hate, rage, and anger when we are cutting off popular prime time TV programs for extremely marginal tornado warnings skews our opinion. The old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is one of the greatest lies on the planet. We have taken much, much heat in recent years for being on TV when the weather simply isn’t that bad.
Comments from friends with the NWS were generally a little defensive, which I totally understand. I never meant the initial post to be critical of NWS employees and how they do their job… they are just doing what is asked when it comes to QLCS spin-ups. And, let me say the men and women of the NWS Birmingham and Huntsville were heroes on April 27. Their work was as good as it gets that day.
But let’s make it perfectly clear. It doesn’t matter what TV meteorologists, the NWS, or emergency managers think… it is all about the people. Joe Q. Public… the non-weather geek with a casual interest in weather, that needs to respond to warnings. And, I would say reaction to the initial blog post from the public was very favorable. But, then again, a weather blog is just that… I would suggest many “average” folks won’t be on our blog unless we have unusual or active weather.
I also note than in many articles written by news organizations about people in the April 27 tornado outbreak, there were so many quotes from people that were desensitized to tornado warnings.
In this blog post, one writes…
“Josh and I have a name for the weather scene up here in T-town, it’s called “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” I say this because at least twice a month we hear about how bad the weather is going to be, or there’s a tornado warning get in you safe place, but nothing ever happens.”
“Hoffman thought it was a false alarm. “It was kind of a cry wolf situation because we get tornado warnings and it never really amounts to anything”
I don’t see how anybody can debate the public in many cases is apathetic to warnings before of the cry wolf syndrome. I say it again, it is real, and dangerous.
I am glad a good, healthy, conversation has started on this subject. I wrote the initial post because I have looked so many people in the eye in recent weeks that have had relatives, loved ones, neighbors, or friends killed on April 27. This is very serious business.
Here is a summary of where I stand on this issue…
*A FAR (false alarm ratio) of 80 to 90 percent on tornado warnings is way too high. I don’t understand anyone that would defend this one. If nothing else, we all have to work together on lowering the FAR is the warning process is to get any better.
*We are not good enough to provide tornado warnings for small spin-ups with a QLCS in MOST cases. Humility is really missing from our science. By the time you pull the trigger on a warning for this, more than likely the small tornado is long gone by the time the warning reaches the masses. We are simply not able to do this right now with any consistency or accuracy.
*The main threat from a LEWP situation with a QLCS, we all know, is damaging straight line winds. In some cases, widespread damage can result. This should be handled by severe thunderstorm warnings, with strong wording. Unfortunately, most people don’t listen to severe thunderstorm warnings, and if we keep going down this path, they won’t listen to tornado warnings.
*On moderate and high risk days, YES… you have to warn for every potential tornado… linear or cellular. I should have made this statement in the first post.
* I totally understand the decision to provide long form coverage for every tornado warning for any county in our DMA (TV market) is a choice… nobody forced us into this, but we didn’t have as many false alarms in the 1990s, when ABC 33/40 was formed and the policy was made. I am big on keeping promises… and we will continue to honor the commitment we made in 1996. You break a promise once, then your word is no good. Whether is comes to severe weather coverage, a marriage relationship, or anything else.
*I fully realize some people won’t do anything when the weather is dangerous, no matter what. The FAR could be zero and some won’t respond to tornado warnings. Can’t do anything about that.
We can ALL agree we must reduce the false alarm ratio and make the severe weather warning process better. Excellent research is now being done on the April 27 historic tornado outbreak and the loss of life… we will know much more later this year, and I am so glad the annual meeting of the National Weather Association will be in Birmingham in October. We have much to discuss.
And, let’s keep the dialogue going.