What Have We Learned From The Joplin Tornado?

As you might imagine Connecticut isn’t Joplin, but there are some problems we all share. We are overwarned!

On May 21st 159 people were killed as a tornado barreled through Joplin,Missouri. Considering warnings were issued and severe weather had been expected why did 159 people die? I just finished reading the Weather Service’s assessment.

Connecticut isn’t Joplin, but there are problems we share. We are overwarned!

Fully 76% of all tornado warnings produce no tornadoes! Three of every four are false alarms. I assume the percentage for Tornado Watches is even worse.

That statistic looks at the entire area warned. If you boiled it down to individuals–were you impacted by a tornado when warned–the number would be in the low single digits.

Finding #2b: The majority of surveyed Joplin residents did not immediately go to shelter upon hearing the initial warning, whether from local warning sirens, television, NWR, or other sources. Instead, most chose to further clarify and assess their risk by waiting for, actively seeking, and filtering additional information.

I know why they didn’t listen right away. We’ve spent the last few decades desensitizing you to warnings. Most warnings have no severe weather associated with them. Frustrating.

Part of the frustration lies in our inability to truly observe these monsters or even forecast them over short period with a high level of accuracy. The science just isn’t that good.

It hurts me that I can’t provide this level of service to you.

Another frustration is the sheer volume of watches, warnings and advisories issued by the Weather Service. There are entirely too many and too many individual types. It sometimes seems like an exercise in CYA politics. Small Craft Advisory I’m talking to you!

Maybe it’s time we removed advisories from the repertoire entirely?

If an area is experiencing severe weather there should be a single warning issued to cover it. Right now a major storm might throw a town under four or five separate alerts. Who does that serve?

I’m going to reread this report sometime over the next few days. There’s a lot to absorb–too much for a single look.

Part of my job is saving lives. I take that seriously.