James Spann's Second Anniversary Comments

*The false alarm ratio for tornado warnings issued by the National Weather Service in Birmingham has been cut in half since April 2011. This will reduce the “cry wolf” syndrome, and make people take warnings seriously. My friends at the NWS here have done an remarkable job in making this happen by going back to basic science.

Congratulations to the NWS in Birmingham. Well done. In Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather I state that false alarms is the biggest challenge in meteorology these days.

The information about the false alarm rate is from James Spann's wonderful essay on the two-year anniversary of the tornado outbreak (h/t Elaine Spencer) across the South. He also says,

It is my belief we are born to accomplish certain goals. To be at specific places at a moment in time. Whether your life lasts six hours, or ninety nine years. We all have a defining moment; all of our life experiences, lessons, and knowledge take us to that moment. If we are ready or not.
For me it sure seems like I was meant to be on the big green wall April 27, 2011. My friend Jason Simpson was meant to be in that studio with me. There is no manual or guide on covering 62 tornadoes in one day; you just have to do the best you can.

I certainly empathize with this James' thinking. I've often said that the Ruskin Heights tornado set the stage for my entire life (including meeting my future spouse and my career in meteorology).

Go read James' entire essay (dark green link above). Most meteorologists get started because of a storm or unusual event in childhood.

James laments the "large" death toll that day. There was nothing meteorologists could do about the fact that hundreds of thousands could not receive their warnings. Or, that people didn't have basements. Or, that a large percent of the population in his viewing area live in mobile homes.

As I have said many times: James and the other meteorologists that day saved many, many lives.


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