Monday, July 13, 2015

Dangerous Misunderstanding

As some of you know, I am giving a presentation to a hospital industry meeting this afternoon in Chicago at 4:15. Kathleen is with me and asked a member of the hotel staff what the tornado warning procedure is. She received this reply,

There's nothing to worry about. The thunderstorms were this morning. It is supposed to be a beautiful evening.

That reply alarms me for two reasons:

Chicagoland, and all of Illinois, are very much in the tornado/severe thunderstorm outlook for late this afternoon and tonight.

The second reason it is so alarming is that is exactly the response given by a number of those caught unaware by tornadoes in the April, 2011, multi-day tornado outbreak that killed 355. A line of thunderstorms went through the morning of the 27th. People thought the dangerous storms forecast for the afternoon had simply arrived earlier and they were in the clear. Unfortunately, the forecast was right on the money but people were unprepared because of that deadly assumption.

We meteorologists believe we are clearly communicating the threats but, somehow, it get jumbled up in the translation. We have social scientists working with our science to help improve our messaging but it is obvious we have some work still to do.

Bottom line: Chicago, pay attention to the weather after about 3pm through midnight. 

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