Spann discusses 2011 tornado deaths at Nashville Severe Weather Awareness Day

Conference room at Nashville Severe Weather Awareness Day 2016Editor’s Note: The Nashville, Tenn. National Weather Service office and other organizations hosted an annual “Severe Weather Awareness Day” at Trevecca Nazarene University Feb. 27, 2016. What follows is a guest post from Ken Helms, AB9ZD, who attended the event.

I enjoyed the Severe Weather Awareness Day 2016 in Nashville yesterday.

Alabama broadcast meteorologist James Spann

The keynote speaker was James Spann, chief meteorologist for ABC in Birmingham. He discussed the 2011 super outbreak that killed 252 people in Alabama and he focused on what happened, why people died, and what needs to be done differently. Among the reasons he gave for the high number of deaths:

  1. Low income families didn’t get the warnings (can’t afford weather radios, smart phones, etc).
  2. Each local station had its own way of categorizing the severity of a storm causing confusion.
  3. Too many false alarms over the years so some people didn’t take the warning seriously (crying wolf).
  4. Warnings by the news media were given by county and not localized enough for people to know if they were really at risk or not.
  5. Many people didn’t have an effective place to shelter from a tornado (very few basements in southern houses).

Spann is a very passionate speaker on the subject.

There was also a panel discussion with five of the local TV stations’ meteorologists which was interesting.

Representatives from the NWS and the county EMA discussed area tornadoes including one that hit Gallatin (a city not far from Nashville) in 2006 that killed eight people.

Basic and advanced storm spotter training was included as well.

The event was held in a large room and was well attended. It was nearly standing-room-only for Spann’s presentation — there were no empty seats around me. Quite a few students were there. A group of meteorology majors from another Tennessee college sat in front of me. Attendance thinned out as the day went on.

ARRL booth at 2016 Nashville Severe Weather Awareness DayThey had an area set up for representatives from the local TV stations, colleges, and the NWS outside the conference room. Most were handing out brochures along with things like pens, pencils, ice scrapers, and stickers. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) had a table as well.

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