Wednesday, April 26, 2017

26 Years Ago Today...

...was the devastating Wichita-Andover tornado. For those who wish to learn more about that storm, I participated on a radio show for B98FM and it is here.

Serious Flooding Risk

More than a foot of rain is forecast over the next five days in western Arkansas. The gold color that extents to southwest Illinois is 7" or more. Serious flooding likely will develop.

The AccuWeather App

Meteorologists recommend having at least two ways of receiving storm warnings. One excellent way is the free AccuWeather app.
Yesterday, as we were driving back from Dallas (blue circular symbol) on I-35, we received an NWS special weather statement due to the strong thunderstorm nearby. It arrives with a sound to let you know a message was received. The message on top of the screen (the radar image is not part of the app, I just happened to be looking at the storm) is what the messages look like.

The AccuWeather app should be part of your severe weather toolbox. 

Dangerous Tornado Day Ahead

This is a dangerous tornado day in parts of the South.
The significant risk is the 5% area (brown). The hatched area is where violent tornadoes are forecast. I urge people in these areas to keep an eye on the weather at the very first sign of the approach of thunderstorms.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tornado Risk Later Today and Wednesday

We have a small risk (5%, brown) along the I-44 corridor from Joplin to Oklahoma City.

There is also a risk of very large hail (hatched area, 2" diameter or large). There is a risk of 1" hail all the way to Kansas City and Columbia, MO.


There is a large area where tornadoes, damaging thunderstorm-generated winds and very large hail may occur.

I am on the road today. Any updates will be on my twitter account:  @usweatherexpert. 

A Comment About the Amazon Reviews For "When the Sirens Were Silent"

Because there has been so much interest pertaining to the second of my two books the past few days, I want to -- for the first time -- discuss the several negative, over the top 'reviews' posted at Amazon. All of these came from National Weather Service (NWS) employees and groupies (amazingly, the NWS has groupies).

While they usually go a good job when tornadoes threaten, in this case the NWS's and local emergency management's operational errors on May 22, 2011, caused the Joplin tornado to produce the only triple digit death toll from a single tornado since the federal civilian tornado warning program began in the late 1950's. 

Rather than calmly discussing the points made in my book, there is a lot of mudslinging and over the top nonsense. Here is an example from one of the one-star reviews:

...[him] claiming that the NWS was issuing faulty forecasts of where the tornado was heading. Th[at] may well have been done...

Even this one-star reviewer has to concede the NWS warnings were faulty. The rest of the reviews are along this line. The point is that unless we fix the issues I reveal in Sirens it could well happen again.

Here's another that is especially amusing:

Mike further tells us that the NWS incorrectly warned for baseball-sized hail, but Mike didn't see a single large hailstone in any of the videos he watched. So those videos make the warning incorrect? He has to be joking, right?

He's not.

How do we know there was no large hail? Because the National Weather Service's own log of 409 hail reports that day does not have a single hail report -- of any size -- in Joplin or from any location in Jasper or Newton counties of Missouri, the counties in which Joplin resides.
Map of tornado (red), hail (green) and damaging thunderstorm wind (blue) reports from May 22, 2011.
When you add the NWS's own log of no hail in the area (not just Joplin), no video of any hail and no hail mentioned in any of the interviews I conducted, I believe it is safe to conclude the NWS warning of very large hail was incorrect. The rest of these silly reviews, which stand out from the objective reviews, are along the same lines.

So, if you'll allow me, here are three reviews from highly regarded meteorologists that were not and are not now affiliated with either the NWS or AccuWeather (the company for which I work):

Jason Samenow, Meteorologist and Weather Editor for The Washington Post
The book, a quick read, is a stirring call to action to improve tornado warning communication in this country.

Smith provides a gripping countdown of the events leading up to the tornado, critiquing the series of decisions and actions from forecasters and emergency management and describing their consequences. His commentary is insightful and written plainly enough for the layperson to understand.
Smith’s latest contribution is an important one.
Roger Pielke, Sr. - University of Colorado and former state climatologist for Colorado
This is a must-read book for anyone interested in weather, but, even more importantly, to anyone living in tornado regions.
Amy Freeze - Meteorologist for WABC TV, New York City
Smith offers an account of the storm timing and the warning failure and what can be done to prevent such a tragedy again. I read the book on the anniversary of the Joplin tornado – which the book uses as it’s main focus. It’s a minute by minute countdown of the events leading up to the tornado. In the book, Smith critiques the series of decisions and actions from National Weather Service forecasters and emergency management. The book is an overdue call to action.

They, and the many other 5-Star reviewers of Sirens seem to find a great of value in the book. Since we priced the ebook version at only $2.99, read it for yourself. See if you believe I made the case the people of Joplin were ill-served that terrible day. Then, let's make sure this never happens again!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Less Accurate Tornado Warnings

There was a troubling article in the Washington Post Thursday documenting the trend toward less accurate tornado warnings from the National Weather Service as compared with just ten years ago. 
You can find the article here. Jason Samenow wrote a great article on a complex subject.

However, there is one comment I wish to make and that is to advance another hypothesis as to the startling decline in NWS tornado warning accuracy: retirements. Most of my contemporaries from college and elsewhere who spent their careers in the National Weather Service retired several years ago. As a friend of mine says, "you can't teach experience." So, I believe the NWS may have an "experience gap" in addition to one or more of reasons offered in the article.

At AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, we do not have the decline in tornado warning accuracy that is affecting the National Weather Service. If you wish to have excellent quality tornado warnings and warnings of other storms for your business or enterprise, please call us. The contact information can be found at the orange link.

P.S. To Harold who commented below. May I respectfully suggest you read the article again? A lead time of six minutes recently as compared with 13-15 minutes before is a less useful warning. A 20 point decline in issuing a tornado warning before one appears (POD=probability of detection) against a 5 point improvement in false alarm rate (FAR) is a less accurate warning however you define it.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Yes, I Have Another Book. It Is About the Joplin Tornado

Several times during WeatherCon (see below), I was asked about my "Joplin book." That book is
When the Sirens Were Silent which is the story of why more than 100 or so of the 161 people who died in the Joplin Tornado died unnecessarily due to serious flaws with the warnings that day. The book in paperback sold out within months of its release but we didn't believe there was sufficient interest to justify a second printing.

So, we published it for Kindle , Nook and the free Kindle Cloud Reader at a bargain price ($2.99!) because we really want people to read it so this type of disaster will never occur again.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Thank You WBAP and WeatherCon Participants

Mindy and I had a great time today talking about storm warnings for Dallas' WBAP Radio's WeatherCon. Lots and lots of great questions and interest about weather and, especially, about my book Warnings

Thanks to everyone who came out today. Hope you get through the rest of storm season unscathed.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Tornado Risk Later Today

Here we go again. Southern Oklahoma and north central Texas (including the Metroplex) this afternoon and evening.
You may recall that, for tornadoes, 5% (brown) is the threshold of a significant threat.

In addition there is the threat of very large hail.
For hail 1" in diameter, 15% (yellow) is the significant threat. The hatched area is where hail larger than 2" is forecast. Again, this includes the Metroplex.

Note: I am on my way to Dallas today (see below) so I may or may not be able to update due to travel  considerations.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

See You in Dallas Saturday

The folks at WBAP have been kind enough to invite me to speak at their 2017 "WeatherCon" this Saturday at 11am. The event is being held at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field. It opens at 10am and continues until 3:30. A Google map is here.

While I give talks all over the nation on various topics, I will be presenting my favorite talk Saturday. It is The Phantom Crashes which is the terrific story of how Dr. Ted Fujita discovered and conquered the downburst, once the #1 cause of commercial airliner disasters. This is the talk that the late astronaut Gene Cernan called "the best he'd ever seen."

Mindy and I will be there selling copies of Warnings (autographs are free!) and we would love to
have you come by the table talk with us.

See you Saturday!!

Another Risk of Tornadoes

Detroit and the surrounding area should keep an eye on the weather
The caution extends to our friends in the Windsor, ONT area as well. The 5% (brown) area is a significant tornado risk, so please keep up on today's weather.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Is There Anything It Can Do?

Last week, it was ruining Easter. This week,
Of course, Climate Central is very much part of Big Climate.

Severe Weather Risk Fading

Happy to report the weather, in terms of tornado and severe thunderstorm threat, is slowly calming across the Midwest and Plains.

That's all for tonight.

Tornado Watch Issued

As expected, a tornado watch has been issued for parts of Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri.
This watch includes Omaha, Lincoln, Council Bluffs and Tarkio until 10pm.

I'll try to update again this evening.