New ratings for tornado warnings issued from National Weather Service


As we all keep up with technology, the National Weather Service is doing its part to help us here at News Center 16 to warn you of approaching storms.

The information describing approaching storms is changing. There is a test being done by the National Weather Service.

Every tornado warning will not be treated exactly the same anymore. When the sirens go off what do you do?

“At home I would check the TV and see kind of time limit they are giving me,” says Caroline Nye of Warsaw.

While the sirens mean danger, that doesn't necessarily mean that a tornado warning is in effect.

“That's the individual communities decision to set the siren off,” says Jeff Logsdon of the National Weather Service. “But it is a good indication that you need to be taking shelter.”

When your weather radio goes off, then you know there is an official warning and we'll be tracking storms with 16 Doppler Max to let you know what's coming your way. The National Weather Service is also tracking the storms and using some revised rules this year to decide whether to actually issue a tornado warning.”

“We kind of use a two out of three rule,” explains Jeff. “We want to have at least a favorable environment, a good signature on radar, or a confirmation from a spotter. If two of those three are in play that is a good basis on what to go off of before you are going to pull the trigger on a tornado warning.”

Also new this year is what's called impact based warnings for tornadoes. There will be additional information tagged to it every time. There will be basically four levels of tornado warnings now

Here's how the new "impact based" warnings will work. There will basically be 4 levels of tornado warnings.

The lowest level would be a "Doppler Radar indicated" warning. That means the rotation appears strong enough that a tornado could form at any time.

The next level up is when a tornado is actually spotted by trained spotters or law enforcement personnel. This means a tornado is now confirmed and moving through the warning area.

Once a tornado is confirmed and it appears to be a large, damaging tornado, there are two more levels of severity.

The first is a "considerable damage threat". This would let you know we are probably dealing with an EF-2 tornado or higher.

Finally, if a large tornado is headed toward a populated area, the National Weather Service would add a tag of "catastrophic damage threat".

“With the near historic number of tornados in 2011, there was a lot of post survey interviews with social scientists on how the public reacts to the warnings,” says Jeff.

“I will look at the radar myself to see what it looks like,” says Robert Gillespie of Wabash. “I think more information is better so I would rather something is a probability then not.”

“With new telecasting it seems like they can predict them a lot closer, direct the path a lot more, what town it's coming to,” says Tony Miller of Warsaw.

“It indicated that the public is usually looking for two indications of a tornado being in existence before taking action,” says Jeff. “We are hoping the ability to what we see on radar and adding confirmed reports, and what we are adding that to our warnings that will heighten awareness and motivate public to take action.”

So with this bullet formats it will make it easier for the public and media to just parse out that information. It is the feeling of the National Weather Service that this will save more lives.

“We hope this will prompt the public to be more proactive and take the necessary precautions to protect their life,” says Jeff. “The purpose of the impact based warning experiment is to heighten your awareness for life threatening situation but is not designed to de-emphasize any warnings. Every warning should be taken seriously, but it enables us to communicate a level of certainty and a level of threat and risk to you that exists in the type of tornadic storms.”

While the United States had a huge tornado year two years ago, last year was way down. And this year, we are at the lowest number ever so far. But that could change quickly, so we still need to be prepared.

It sounds like the new information will be very helpful because knowing is the most important thing.

When we're on the air with a tornado warning, we'll let you know the additional information, along with the details of where a tornado may be located on 16 Doppler Max.

We'll also be able to tell you how long you may have till it hits.


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