Friday, April 10, 2015

The Weirdness of Being a Meteorologist

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning, meteorologists in Wichita told people there was a good chance of tornadoes in the metropolitan area Wednesday afternoon and evening. That forecast was exactly correct: Two tornadoes touched down in Sedgwick County in rural areas just west and northwest of the city. Either of those tornadoes could have killed someone.

Map of Wednesday evening's tornadoes
So, people are acclaiming the huge leap in science that forecast represented and how people were kept out of harm’s way by cancelling after class activities and evening college courses, right? Wrong!

People are griping – even though two tornadoes occurred in the metro area – because they changed their plans and Wichita didn’thave a Joplin or Greensburg-type tornado. Let that sink in for a minute.

I understand the threat of a tornado is intimidating and worrysome. This is how I characterized the threat around noon Wednesday:

Perhaps I am off base, but this seems pretty reasonable. And, let me say it again, the forecast was correct!  I imagine the people outside of Rochelle, Illinois, who are dealing with destroyed homes from yesterday evening's tornado would trade places in a heartbeat. 

So, to all of those who are upset by Wednesday's forecast: Take a breath and really think this through. Then, send an email of appreciation to your favorite meteorologist!


  1. At the moment 1 death 7 injured - the entire town was flattened though -

    Thanks for your work Mike - I was only a few miles from a twister that formed earlier in the day here in Peoria.

  2. Your message to "Be watchful, not worried" helped me frame the preparedness discussion that I had with my wife and kids yesterday. We're just south of Waukegan, IL, so though there was high wind (91 mph in Waukegan harbor) the tornado threats materialized about 70 miles to our southwest.

    They had begun to be very worried when the forecasts started coming out, but, as I told them, the "before" time is when you prepare and make a plan, for the possibility of the "now" when you have to act. And we were in a situation where the "now" did not occur "here."

    So take this as our note of thanks for your forecast and your good word to be watchful but not worried!


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