How We Forecast Severe Weather

Tornadoes and damaging thunderstorms have always tracked across the Midwest and always will. But how we track them has changed immensely. We have come a long way since I came out of college back in the early 80's as a bushy haired rookie...

Just 2 decades ago, before the newest generation of Doppler radar, before state of the art computers, before satellite dishes brought information instantaneously, it was a slow process to get a warning to your TV. It involved the phone, the slow clickity-clack of a teletype machine, and manual typing to get those words of safety on the air. Not anymore...

The National Weather Service now uses some of the fastest computers on the planet and the most sophisticated Doppler radars to track intense storms. When severe weather threatens, the office near North Webster swells from 3 Meteorologists to 7.

And their track record has sky-rocketed in the last 30 years. Going from just 25% of tornadoes or damaging thunderstorms warned in time, to a phenomenal 86% now. And, once a warning is issued, then it is our turn to get the information out and we take this job very seriously because it can save lives.

Our Storm Team 16 Weather Lab has 8 separate computers each one with a different job to do. But there are 3 that go into high gear during severe weather. One is Live Super Doppler 16, another is 16 Doppler MAX, but the one you see continuously on the air is our 16 Alert system, which automatically puts important information on your TV screen…

A new warning comes to our alert system via satellite, and the instant it gets here, the map in the corner of your TV screen will show the county in yellow, for a severe thunderstorm warning, or red, for a tornado warning. And the information will immediately scroll across the bottom of your screen. It is on the air as fast as humanly, or computerly, possible. Also, if you have downloaded our Storm Team 16 Computer alert, it will do the same on your computer. Of course, if the weather gets really dangerous, we will come on the air ourselves with updates, or continuous weather coverage. That is where Live Super Doppler 16 and Doppler MAX come in. We are the only TV station in the area with our own radar located at the South Bend Regional Airport, and it still stands as the only truly live radar. This allows us to show you exactly where a storm is in real time. We then get detailed information with 16 Doppler MAX. We can go on the air and show you a storm in 3D, peering right into the heart of dangerous weather. We can track that storm and let you know what towns are in the path, and if need be, we can zoom right down to your neighborhood.

And together we get the word out to all of Michiana. Sometimes people do get upset with us when we interrupt their favorite program. All I can say is, we do this to save lives. Of course, there is still that 14% of severe weather where you will not get a warning. The weather is still unpredictable, despite the technology. Our goal, each and every time severe weather hits, is to help you and your family stay safe.


WNDU - Channel 16 54516 State Road 933 South Bend, IN 46637 Front Desk: 574-284-3000 Newsroom: 574-284-3016 Email: newscenter16@wndu.com
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