Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Social Media Vs. Severe Storms

Here we go into our primary severe weather season.  It's cranking up and as thought, the worst of what mother nature has to throw at us will likely arrive during the 2nd half of spring.  However, we will likely get a few episodes of severe weather before that time.  The big "outbreaks" will likely wait until later in April and May.  Nevertheless, don't let your guard down.  We have a couple chances this week (Thursday and Friday).  Someone still must define the term "outbreak".  If someone doesn't, maybe I will.  Anyway, that's not the purpose of this post.

Social media (twitter and facebook) are fantastic resources during and after severe weather, but you must have your own personal filter.  I have noticed over the past couple years that there's a ton of misinformation flying around out there and sadly from people who should know better.  I will not name names, but I will give you an example

In the minutes following the Vilonia tornado in late April 2011, there was a tweet from a very well known storm chaser saying it was an EF5 tornado.  Many assumed he was chasing it and saw the damage personally.  However, that wasn't the case.  This chaser was at least 50 miles away and had no way of knowing what kind of damage Vilonia sustained.  The tornado ended up being rated an EF2 after National Weather Service meteorologists surveyed the damage the next day.  I'm not downplaying how bad the damage in Vilonia was, but the sensationalism wasn't needed.  Arkansas has not had an EF5 tornado since the 1920s and I hope that doesn't change.

I have also seen many instances where incorrect information before an episode of severe weather gets sent out on social media.  I'm all for freedom of speech, but this is similar to yelling "fire" in a crowded theater.  It's irresponsible to disseminate information and ignite panic!  My point, know who you're following.  If you're not familiar with the source, ask questions.  It's an issue of credibility and I would ask what kind of experience that individual has.  I'm willing to bet you would be shocked if you knew who's behind the tweet.  Research it!  It could be someone from out of state with absolutely no knowledge of Arkansas and meteorology.  My point is simple, get life saving information from known sources and as always, I hope it's us at Ch. 7.

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