Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Outdoor Warning Siren Policy Update

Not much blogging lately and I'm sorry.  Here's my excuse and I hope you understand.  Shortly after the last round of severe weather, about two weeks ago, I came down with a bad case of strep throat.  While antibiotics got rid of it, I had a tremendous amount of fatigue following the worst of it.

My youngest son, Preston, will be entering Pre-K in August.  It's so hard to believe.  Because of my work schedule and my wife's, I have what's called "Daddy Daycare" a couple days a week.  All that comes to an end in August when both boys are in school 5 days a week.  I'll miss Daddy Daycare, but I won't, If you know what I mean.  Anyway, I have been trying to spend as much time as possible with Preston as these days alone with him are numbered.  A meteorologist I know and really respect once said, "You can always make more money, but you can never make more time". 

Wednesday morning I had the opportunity to attend the "Greater Arkansas Integrated Warning Team" meeting.  The goal of this group is to provide consistent messaging of hazardous weather information to you.  It involves all the local media, the National Weather Service, AHTD, ADEM, EMs, and a few other groups.

One of the topics was about outdoor tornado sirens and you probably know where I stand on that issue.  It presents problems that really need to be addressed.  Many are and want to, but it's a very costly system to fix.  As I always say, NEVER rely on outdoor sirens for your warnings.  They are not intended to warn you indoors.  If you ever hear the sirens, the best thing to do is turn on TV and find out what's going on, but you should ALWAYS have either a NOAA weather radio or WeatherCall 7 to receive warnings.

Almost 10 years ago, I sent out a mass email to all the EM's around the state asking for their tornado siren policy.  The National Weather Service recently asked as well and since it's much more up to date, I want to share their results with you.  Thanks to those meteorologists at the NWS office in North Little Rock for their work and allowing me to publish it here.

If your community is not listed here, ask your local leaders.

Here's what was asked.  "If your jurisdiction has Outdoor Warning Sirens (OWS), please list your criteria for activating those sirens.  Please select the option that best reflects your local OWS capabilities below.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

2 Chances For Severe Storms

These next two rounds of severe weather look less intense than the one we dealt with Monday evening.  However, we must take this seriously and watch how this unfolds.

This video goes over....

  • Why severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings should both be taken very seriously
  • The exact timing of the next 2 rounds of storms
  • Locations most likely to be affected
  • Specific threats

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Renewed Perspective

Since I moved back to Little Rock nearly 11 years ago, most of my time in tornado situations have been spent in downtown at the TV station.  It's difficult to hear Mother Nature's fury working inside those thick concrete walls of the historic KATV building.  Once a storm does get into downtown, the muted sounds of thunder can be heard throughout the building with the occasional flickering of computer monitors due to close lightning strikes.  When storms are in other portions of the state, we stare at a radar screen with shades of green, yellow, and red presenting hook echoes.  In cases like the April 27th, 2014 Mayflower/Vilonia tornado, we have to remind ourselves sometimes it's a living hell for those affected while we sit in a quiet studio.

On Monday, May 9th, we had the risk for a couple tornadoes and Barry and Ned were on duty at the station.  If the situation started to get cranked up, I would hurry into the station and help out.  That's usually the case when multiple warnings are issued.  Otherwise, I was going to stay home since it's my "off day" and be on stand-by.  As many of you know, I enjoy communicating on social media so I contributed to the coverage in that way.

By 10:30, my kids were in bed and I was still staring at two computer screens tracking the storms and sending out the occasional Tweet.  I saw a little rotation in central Saline county on my radar display.  I perked up in my chair and logged into the National Weather Service chat room.  It's a tool the media uses to keep in touch with meteorologists at the office who issue the warnings.  They were watching that area of rotation too and ready to issue a tornado warning if it became stronger.  

As we all know, it did.  Within 1 minute of the warning coming out, the sirens sounded in west Little Rock and my wife asked if we needed to wake up the kids and get to a safe place.  I told her to wait a second and let me determine the exact track.  It didn't matter, the blare of the sirens woke them up.  (BTW, never rely on sirens for your warnings).  I quickly noticed that if the rotation did hold together, it would track very close to my neighborhood.  By this time, all I heard were sirens and 2 little boys crying at the top of their lungs with terror.  I acted calmly and told her to get the boys in the hallway and play it safe.

Fortunately, the tornado warning was cancelled early and I was able to tell the kids all was ok and the tornado danger had passed.  My 6 year old walked up to me and was still shaking like I had never seen before.  I tried to tell him it was all ok and that we were safe.

Those 10-15 minutes of terror I saw on my kids faces was a needed reminder of what many of you must deal with.  Kids are terrified, and even as adults, we get worried too.  Sometimes we need reminding when sitting in a calm TV studio tracking a tornado several counties away of what you are facing.  I won't forget.

Thanks for reading.