National Weather Service to use Impact Based Warnings this severe weather season

By: Matt Hoffman Email
By: Matt Hoffman Email

Menomonie, Wis. (WEAU) -- About 160 people were killed in the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri back in 2011. Making it the deadliest U.S. tornado since 1947. Now the national weather service has come up with a new warning system it hopes will reduce the number of people killed in severe weather.

The NWS says when the Joplin storm hit; it took as many as eight different types of warnings for people to finally take action. And that's something it wants to change by using impact based warnings beginning April 1st. Midwest National Weather Service offices will be taking part in enhancing the language of some of their severe weather warnings so that events like Joplin are not ignored.

"Partner groups like emergency management officials and even the media were looking for something to give them the idea that this isn't just another tornado. This has the potential to provide considerable or catastrophic damage,” says Todd Shea, warning coordination meteorologist at the La Crosse National Weather Service office.
Bruce Bratner is the emergency management coordinator for Dunn County. He says getting people to respond to warnings has always been a struggle.

"It's kind of like the cry wolf syndrome. Warnings are issued. Some areas are impacted. Some are not. So next time it occurs, well it didn't happen last time, so it's not going to happen in my area again."
To combat this cry wolf syndrome, local National Weather Service offices will issue impact based warnings for significant severe weather events like a large tornado that has been confirmed on the ground. The warning will include tags that describe what the hazard is, whether it was detected by radar or spotter, and what impact the tornado will have for people in its path.

"These are the additional pieces of information that we hope people can benefit from." Shea says these will only be used for particularly dangerous situations and they'll use language that is meant to get people to take notice and take action.

"We still need people to take all the warnings seriously. We still need them to use the information that's involved in the entire warning. While it's not the ultimate answer, we hope the additional info will make a difference," explains Shea.

The NWS says by expanding the experiment to the Midwest they hope to get a better sense of what kind of difference it can make. If it goes well like it has been in Missouri and Kansas it could expand nationally. Below is a link to more information and examples of the impact based warnings.

Impact Based Warnings Information

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