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NWS Tests New Warning Process

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As Winter turns to Spring, our focus begins to shift from snow to severe weather. However, this year’s season will be handled a bit differently when it comes to warning the public.

"My fear is that people listen to the information, and then don't react. That's always been my fear and no matter what we put within the information; I don't care how good the warning actually is, if people don't listen to the warning, the warning does no good." says Sioux Falls National Weather Service’s Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Todd Heitkamp.

Following the tremendous loss of life seen as a result of tornadoes over the past few years, meteorologists all over the country have been working to improve the warning process in order to save more lives.

“What we’re trying to do is to give the public a better idea of the impact that that severe storm, whether that be wind, hail, or a tornado, will have upon themselves and the community,” says Heitkamp.  

Using new language in severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings, the National Weather Service hopes to improve their current system by narrowing down the hazards of each storm.

For example: The tornado damage threat may be referred to as, “considerable” or “catastrophic”, or this severe thunderstorm can put you in a “life threatning situation.”

This gives everyone a better understanding of what’s headed their way, so where would you get this information?

“Most of the general public isn’t necessarily going to see that, and that’s where the media, our partnership with KDLT comes into play: to make sure that they relay that information to the public so that they have a good understanding of what’s actually going to happen,” says Heitkamp.

That’s a team effort between us at KDLT and the National Weather Service, in hopes to better equip the public with the information they need to keep themselves safe.

"The main thing we want the public to do is that when they hear the warning being issued for their area; yeah, take in all that other information, but they need to react on that warning and get themselves and their family to a place of safety as soon as possible," says Heitkamp.

At the end of this year’s season, if the study goes well; the National Weather Service does plan to implement the project nationwide.
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