The warning coordination meteorologist of the Norman, Oklahoma NWS office did a very interesting presentation at a national storm chaser convention earlier this year. Rick Smith spoke about what goes on at his office during severe weather events and how chasers and spotters can be of greatest assistance. While some of the information was specific to his local office and does not apply to the northern Indiana office, it was nonetheless a fascinating presentation. You can watch it on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1CNFSkcagw or on the embedded video below.
Should a Facebook page run by amateur storm chasers promote itself as the best source for weather information? I can’t help but wonder how many (if any) naïve Facebook users foolishly rely on such pages for time-critical safety information, in lieu of the National Weather Service (NWS).
Recently, a Facebook page distributed the graphic above. I’ve blurred out identifying information, because who it was doesn’t matter to the point of this article. But the headline, “The #1 Source for National Weather” certainly caught my eye.
I’ve tried multiple times to contact the owners of the Facebook page that published that graphic. I sent a Facebook message and sent an email message to the email address on their website. I’ve received no response. So, all I know about them is what I see online.
From what I see, both the Facebook page and associated website are published by a group of amateur storm chasers, none of whom appear to have a meteorology degree.
In the U.S., only one source of weather information has the authority to issue the official watches and warnings that trigger weather radios, etc.
Don’t read what I’m not writing! There’s nothing wrong with an amateur-run Facebook page or website distributing interesting or important weather information. I do it all the time on Facebook, this blog, Twitter, etc. What I don’t do, however, is claim that my information is any better than others’.
Why? Because I don’t want anyone to assume that my blog, Facebook page or Twitter feed (or anyone’s for that matter) is a safe and reliable way to get timely, live-saving weather alerts, especially NWS warnings. Not even the NWS’ own Facebook and Twitter feeds are timely enough for that (yet).
That’s also why I consistently encourage readers – for their safety – to maintain timely access to NWS products (e.g. via NOAA Weather Radio, smartphone apps triggered by NWS products, Wireless Emergency Alerts, etc.).
All of us who publish weather information on social media and other Internet channels have a responsibility to inform and remind readers that in the U.S., only one source of weather information has the authority to issue the official watches and warnings that trigger weather radios, etc.: The National Weather Service. Likewise, we must not publish anything that could potentially mislead readers into believing that our social media feeds can keep them as safe as do directly received NWS warnings.
Our readers’ lives could depend on it!
What do you think? Use this blog’s comment function to let us know.
My feet get warm easily. I have a pair of Chacos brand sandals that I wear almost every day during warm weather. But not on days that I might need to serve as a storm spotter.
If severe weather is coming our way, I usually change into a sturdy pair of ankle-supporting hunting boots I bought on sale at Cabela’s, even if I’ll be staying home during the storm.
Why? On word: debris.
After a storm passes, I might have to walk through storm debris, which can include pieces of trees and pieces of buildings. The walking surface might be uneven. Some of the debris might have sharp edges.
I choose to protect my feet from all that, a practice I learned back in the 90s when I served as an emergency medical technician and communications technician on a Disaster Medical Assistance Team. It’s how I dressed my feet every day, even in tropical weather when assisting the victims of Hurricanes Andrew and Marilyn.
My advice: If you’re a storm spotter or storm chaser, get yourself a good pair of boots to wear anytime you’re in the field, even on hot, humid days. And no matter who you are, if you ever have to take shelter in your house from a coming storm, take the most protective footwear you have with you to the basement, interior room, etc. Put them on after the storm, before you step outside to survey the damage. Your feet will be much safer.
The Storm Prediction Center’s initial “Day One Convective Outlook” for today forecast “a significant severe weather event” from late this afternoon into this evening in parts of Oklahoma and Texas.
You can bet the roads in that area will be filled with storm chasers and spotters. Many will be broadcasting live video from their vehicles, so we can watch the action here in Indiana. You can find most of those video feeds on any of these sites: www.chasertv.com, www.severestudios.com or tvnweather.com.
This event also provides an opportunity to gain some early-season experience looking at the various weather and radar data as the storms develop.
|Storm Chaser Reed Timmer|
He gave an excellent presentation that focused on the science he does when he’s chasing. Yes, he does real science; he doesn’t just pay it lip service. I’ve attended several symposiums to further my education beyond what the NWS provides in basic spotter training but I still learned some things from Reed’s talk. His discussion of suction vortices in tornadoes was particularly interesting. So was his data plot that showed wind speeds during a tornado intercept dropping to 8 MPH and then increasing to 138 MPH (or was it knots … I don’t remember) in a second or less.