Like everyone, I am processing the events that took place in the southeast last Wednesday.
It is now the deadliest tornado day since The Great Depression, and that’s just one horribly sad record that was set in that 24-hour period.
I’m hoping to take time with you to find a “teachable moment.”
In my time that I’m not working as meteorologist at KJRH-TV in Tulsa, I am a graduate student at Oklahoma State University. This semester, I’ve had the privilege of teaching a broadcasting class. It’s my first true experience in teaching. I’ve learned that the textbook provides only half of the lessons that we learn. Life gives us the rest.
The other night, I was watching the network news. I won’t name the network, and I won’t name the correspondent. The correspondent is a degreed meteorologist. This person said within their reporting that some people complained about the lack of warning on TV.
I was shocked and stunned at this statement.
The severe weather outbreak was forecasted days in advance. Watches and warnings were issued well ahead of time. Television stations were on the air all afternoon and evening. Yet, some felt that their area wasn’t properly warned for the approaching tornadoes.
What happened the other day has happened before. There are simply too many Tornado Warnings.
As a TV meteorologist, I’ve been part of it. We put our radar up and go from storm to storm to storm to storm. And now it’s up to chance - did you tune in while the meteorologist was talking about the storm heading toward your house? At some point, you’re going to have to break away from covering storm “A” to go to storm “B.” The other night, there were storms “C” and “D” and “E.”
And there are circumstances that cause one tornado to get priority over others. One is the tornado moving into a highly populated area. Another is the one causing the most destruction. If both of those happen to be the same storm, the other storms will likely get much less airtime.
The teachable moment for all of us is this: you need TWO methods of getting Tornado Warnings.
A primary and a back-up.
Television is a great primary method of getting severe weather warnings. I watched several stations in the southeast last week, and they all did an amazing job. But, you need a back-up plan.
What if you’re not near a TV? What if it’s the middle of the night and the TV is off? Or, what if your storm simply is the weakest and most rural of four tornado-producing storms.
My first suggestion for your back-up plan would be a NOAA All-Hazards radio. You can purchase these at electronics stores, discount centers or over the Internet.
Most have an alarm that will sound in the event of a severe weather watch/warning. It’s great for the middle of the night - the alarms on these radios WILL wake you up in the event of severe weather.
The second method is to get a warning app for your smart phone or sign up for a severe weather email alerts.
Both of these are the back-up plan. You won’t get the rapid-fire update information that you get from TV. Television provides sweep-by-sweep doppler radar updates and live video from the scene - neither an email nor a text message can do that. But, these back-up plans can get you moving toward the storm cellar and will give you and your family that extra protection in the event of a severe weather outbreak.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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