April 12, 2022
Melissa and I have automatic alerts on our phones to warn us of the potential for severe weather. We were working in our respective offices yesterday when Melissa’s alert went off saying we were under a Tornado Warning. We were surprised as my alert had not notified me and usually the sirens go off well before the phone alerts. I went outside to looked at the sky and it was warm and dead calm (not a good sign). Immediately above our house were fluffy white clouds, but the skyline just to the north was dark and ominous. When I went back inside and turned on the TV, the weatherperson declared there was a tornado on the ground just to the north. That was when the county sirens finally blared their alerts.
When I looked online, I found the importance in knowing the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning when alerts come through on your phone or on TV. A tornado watch is issued by the NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center and are commonly issued a few hours before a potential severe storm. These alerts warn of a developing threat for tornadoes and indicate the need to be prepared and remain vigilant. Watches are issued for broad areas where conditions exist for the development of a tornado. Tornado warnings are alerts issued by local offices of the National Weather Service (NWS). These are more urgent alerts where people need to seek shelter right away. They are issued for highly localized areas where a tornado is imminent or has been detected on radar, and often minutes before a tornado strikes.
Severe thunderstorm warnings are alerts of imminent severe weather and are based on specific criteria and existing reports received by the NWS. The criteria include hail that totals more than 1 inch in diameter and wind speeds of 55 mph. Lightning and heavy rain are not criteria for a severe thunderstorm warning. Trained NWS spotters will verify reports of rotation or storm damage, which gives meteorologists confidence in what they are seeing on radar. The storm cell passed out of our area, but the TV station continued to track first the tornado and potential severe weather across the state. The main cell was centered in the ominous clouds I had seen following the first alerts. As I watched the radar, a secondary cell split off and moved north toward the town where I work. As the tornado abated and the storm moved out of our area I got bored as the same information was repeated over the next several hours. As much as I appreciate the alerts, the warnings do not seem to hold my attention.
THOUGHTS: By the evening news the only clear indication was a tornado had touched down and caused some damage. More damage was caused by the high winds and baseball sized hail that fell on some areas. The alerts had worked and there did not appear to be injuries associated with the storm. I did not notice damage as I drove the path of the storm to work this morning, but when I arrived, I noticed several men with chain saws clearing brush from around the trees at the front of the property. When I asked, they said there was no damage. They just decided this was the day to trim the limbs. Storm alerts only work if they are heeded. The same could be said concerning response to the pandemic. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.