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National Weather Service to experiment with enhanced thunderstorm and tornado warning information


GREEN BAY, WI (WSAU) -  Severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings from the National Weather Service will have some new keywords added to the usual safety messages. It’s part of an experiment called Impact Based Warnings.

National Weather Service Morning Coordination Meteorologist Jeff Last from the Green Bay forecast center says the experiment will last until this fall.

He says there will additional information passed along during severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings. “It will allow our forecasters to add enhanced wording to significant tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings to ensure that when we see a very strong storm on radar, the public understands how serious the situation is and takes the proper actions to stay safe.”

Last says there are two key words to listen for from the National Weather Service for the impact based warnings. “One is CONSIDERABLE which would be used rarely, but when there’s a credible threat for tornado capable of producing quite a bit of damage. The other one is the one we hope that we never have to use, and that’s CATASTROPHIC. That would be for a once in a lifetime very large tornado.”

Social media is also going to allow people in the path of a storm to give information and pictures back to the National Weather Service, allowing them to see what radar and instruments can’t show them, but Last emphasises the social media will not be the primary means of notifying the public during a storm. “We’re going to be using the social media as a way to enhance our message once the warnings and watches are in effect, not necessarily as a way to disseminate those watches and warnings. The official way to get that really is to watch your favorite TV station, listen to your favorite radio station, or to have a NOAA weather radio.”

News Channel 7’s Chief Meteorologist Mike Bruenling says the National Weather Service’s new Impact Based Warning experiment really won’t affect their forecasting, but it will give them extra information. “It’s just a way to add more information, so that those that receive the information have a little bit better chance to decide what actions they should take. As far as us in the media here at Channel 7, it provides us with more information we can pass along to our viewers out there.”

At the end of the experiment, the information gathered will be evaluated by an outside group. That group will examine if the National Weather Service used the keywords in the right circumstances and if the public took the advice and followed guidelines.

The National Weather Service’s central region is doing this experiment, which includes Missouri where a deadly tornado killed over 100 people in Joplin.

If we have a mild storm season, Last says the Impact Based Warning experiment may be extended to next year.