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Slide1: 

April 5, 2006 Meeting on Tornadoes How the Public Gets and Reacts to Tornado Warnings and Forecasts Dr. Greg Forbes Severe Weather Expert The Weather Channel Atlanta, GA

Slide2: 

TWC and Severe Weather Owned by a privately owned communications company We partner with the National Weather Service; immediately crawl their warnings through our cable affiliates We show NWS Storm Prediction Center watches We make our own forecasts, but take NWS forecasts (outlooks) into consideration We try to emphasize life-threatening situations, to catch viewers’ attention and encourage safety precautions

DEALING WITH TORNADOES: 

DEALING WITH TORNADOES We can’t prevent them We try to save lives through forecasts, watches, and warnings

Slide4: 

April 2, 2006 At least 28 deaths

Despite Great Forecasts and Warnings …: 

Despite Great Forecasts and Warnings … Tornado Disasters Happen Other recent examples … November 6, 2005 – F2 tornado at 2AM kills 24 near Evansville, IN (mobile home park hit) March 11-13, 2006 – 74 tornadoes; 10 deaths

Causes of Tornado Deaths: 

Causes of Tornado Deaths It’s NOT due to poor forecasts It’s NOT due to lack of NWS warnings IT IS DUE TO: Homes - no match for strong and violent tornadoes People caught in mobile homes, vehicles People asleep (nighttime tornadoes) People unaware of danger

Deaths by Tornado Intensity 1950-2005: 

Deaths by Tornado Intensity 1950-2005 Tornado Intensity % Tornadoes % Deaths Weak (F0, F1) 79 5 Strong (F2, F3) 20 32 Violent (F4, F5) 1 64

Tornado Deaths by Circumstance: 

Tornado Deaths by Circumstance Mobile Home 41% Permanent Home 31 Vehicle 9 Business 4 School/Church 5 Outdoors 5 Others 4 In structures too weak for tornado or not in a place where it would be easy to get warning!

Solutions ?: 

Solutions ? Promote in-home safe rooms/shelters Promote mobile home park and community shelters Promote community warning systems Promote individual situational awareness and preparedness

Weather Information and the Public: 

Weather Information and the Public Today – 85 to 90% of weather information gets to the public from private commercial weather services (NRC Fair Skies Report) In particular, the media are partners with the National Weather Service in getting out severe weather warnings

During May 1999 Oklahoma City Tornadoes …: 

During May 1999 Oklahoma City Tornadoes … 76% of the population got severe weather information from Radio and Television During May 4, 2003 Tornadoes in KS, MO, TN … 89% knew of warnings Sirens 76% Television 70% Commercial Radio 23% Word of Mouth 10% (some had more than one source)

Slide12: 

How the Public Gets Tornado Warnings … NOAA Weather Radio Community Sirens, Alarms Emergency Broadcast System (radio) Radio Local television (announcer or crawl) The Weather Channel (announcer or crawl) Other cable television (announcer) Instant messaging service - telephone, cell phone - pagers, other hand-held devices - computers Phone call from friends/relatives who heard by some source (Additional sources shown in red)

Slide13: 

TV NEWS SOURCE EXPECTED TO WATCH MOST OFTEN DURING THE NEXT MAJOR HURRICANE OR SEVERE WEATHER EVENT (survey following Hurr. Wilma, Oct. 2005) Source: SmithGeiger LLC

Hurricanes Produce Tornadoes: 

Hurricanes Produce Tornadoes 2004 - record 338 tornadoes from hurricanes - Ivan (most on record), 123 - Frances (3rd most), 107 2005 - 220 tornadoes - Rita, 90 – largest outbreak of year - Katrina, 57 – 2nd largest outbreak of year

Tornadoes from Hurricanes and Tropical Storms Pose Problems: 

Tornadoes from Hurricanes and Tropical Storms Pose Problems Harder to detect - shallow, small circulations Hard to warn with long lead times - develop and dissipate quickly Hard to communicate warnings - move fast Possible solution – Improve radar technology, additional radar resources; as addressed in talk by Dr. Wurman

Slide16: 

The Tornado Warning and Communication Challenges Tornadoes affect tiny portions of counties - Hard to warn only those most in danger Tornadoes can develop and dissipate in minutes - Hard to get too long a lead time - Dangerous to project path too far without overwarning People aren’t constantly monitoring the weather or the media Even during a hurricane on TWC … 5%+ of people watching instantly Much higher percentage tunes in once a day (peak about 50 million viewers per day)

Slide17: 

The Solutions ? Increase situational awareness a day or more ahead of time - i.e., repeatedly communicate that a dangerous situation lies ahead - better chance that public will be alert for receiving watches and warnings Increase reliance on direct alert systems - Instant messaging services - NOAA tone-alert radio - GPS-based warnings

Slide18: 

High-Technology Ways to Get Tornado Warnings Pictures tell a thousand words: Graphical displays of projected tornado path on map Individual warnings (from known GPS position in cars, individual TV, etc.) Topic explored by a Nov. 2000 report: “Effective Disaster Warnings” Working Group on Natural Disaster Information Systems, Subcommittee on Natural Disaster Reduction National Science Technical Council

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