Probably the most compelling day of the National Weather Association Conference was the public Town Hall meeting which put those affected by the April 27th tornadoes in the same room with first responders, National Weather Service meteorologists and TV broadcasters.
A cross-section of those living in the path of the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado which killed 238 Alabamians (52 of those in Tuscaloosa) were invited to take part in this special Town Hall to answer questions and offer insight about how they responded to the high risk of weather dangers that unfolded that day.
Using a unique direct-response electronic device, the respondents were asked several questions including “how seriously did you take the tornado warnings that were issued” to “what was your number one source of getting word of the warnings”. The responses showed within seconds on large screens at the Wynfrey Hotel meeting room for all of us to see.
For instance, the respondents said that NOAA weather radio and local TV was their number one source for learning of the severe weather threat and to monitor for warnings.
A few others went on to comment that they trust “the sound of the voice of their local TV weather person” in severe weather situations. Further, the “tone of urgency” in their voice compels people to take further action.
Another question posed to the panel “can there be too much time between the issuance of a warning and the actual storm?” 56% said “No”.
As a member and sealholder of the National Weather Association, I will receive a copy of the entire questionnaire and results of tonight’s Town Hall in the coming weeks. In fact, I think it might be good to hold a version of this meeting in Southern Kentucky. It would be interesting to see if responses to the questions would be answered differently in our area.
I’ll grant you this, tonight’s Town Hall was both enlightening and educational. It was also humbling to hear from some of the actual victims of the tornadoes describe how they watched TV, heard the warnings, lost power and then sought shelter as best they could.
It certainly gives me a whole new perspective on how we cover the weather and I look forward to bringing some of what I’ve learned back home to you.
I’ve got another full day tomorrow including a presentation that I will give to my fellow meteorologists who use WeatherCentral products as we do at WBKO. I will be showing other stations how to use live webcam images with Mesonet data. Apparently, WBKO is one of the few stations in the country that does this on a regular basis!