Want Better Tornado Warnings? Contact Your Senators NOW!

Joplin Tornado. Licensed from The Basehunters
Quick Summary
Monday, several senators introduced the "TORNADO Act." Its goal is to help solve the growing problems with the National Weather Service's tornado warning program. While there is a lot to like in the bill, the most important thing needed to save lives and property is a National Disaster Review Board.

The Senate committee with jurisdiction over the NWS is meeting Tuesday to consider amendments. If you want better tornado and other storm warnings, please contact your senators immediately (go to their websites) and tell them you want a National Disaster Review Board (NDRB) to be added to the TORNADO Act. An email is sufficient. Thank you! I'm highly confident that a NDRB will lead to the saving of additional lives and, literally, many billions of dollars. 

In 2010, Greenleaf Book Group published my book, Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather. It tells the amazing stories of how the highly effective tornado, hurricane and downburst/aviation warning programs and how they came to be. The book is full of praise for the NWS which, from 1994 (last of their Doppler radars installed) to 2010 did an amazing job improving tornado warnings. 

The book ends with the story of the powerful EF-5 Greensburg Tornado which was one of the most successful warnings in the history of the program. I anticipated the science would continue to advance and that warnings would improve in accuracy and quality.

Perhaps the biggest shock of my career occurred on May 22, 2011, when 161 souls were lost in the Joplin Tornado. When I looked into the situation, I was shocked by how many things went wrong. I documented them in When the Sirens Were Silent.

The National Weather Service's after-storm "service assessment" was, at best, poor quality work and, at worst, a coverup. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast. Criticism of the NWS was widespread as Sandy struck without a hurricane warning. The NWS appointed a "dream team" of experts from outside the agency with yours truly as co-chair. When the Weather Service realized that aspects of the report might be critical (we had barely begun our work), it fired all of us. Another likely coverup. Since then, the NWS has ceased conducting after-storm evaluations. 

Shortly after, I proposed a National Disaster Review Board. Modeled after the hugely successful National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the NDRB would keep statistics pertaining to storm forecast and warning accuracy and would investigate significant disasters in the same manner as the NTSB and make recommendations for improvements. Like the NTSB's, the Disaster Review Board's recommendations would be non-binding. 

The recommendations would not pertain to just the National Weather Service. For example, there has been a great deal of criticism directed at FEMA for its allegedly inadequate responses to Hurricane Laura. With a NDRB, we would know. And, if there were/are problems, there would be a solid set of recommendations from experts to improve future disaster responses. 

In addition to the tornado warning problems themselves, the NWS has frequent communications problems during storm periods. The major failure yesterday was during a period of relative calm.
Yesterday, March 15

After the recent fiasco with the NWS's tornado warnings during the Iowa tornadoes on March 5 and the problems with tornado warnings in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 10, five U.S. senators (including both from Iowa) have introduced the "TORNADO Act" designed to improve tornado warnings. There are several good things in the bill. However, it sets up an internal NWS office to evaluate the NWS's warning communications. Based on the experiences cited above, and many more, it is not a good idea for the NWS to evaluate itself. That is why we need an independent National Disaster Review Board. Note: the NDRB will be forbidden by law to get into climate change. There are already plenty of groups like the IPCC providing advice in that area. 

It is easy to contact your senators. For example, to contact Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, you would just need to go here and fill in the blanks. All of the other senators have similar contact techniques. Be sure and explain you want the TORNADO Act to be amended to include a National Disaster Review Board. At the top of the email form, please add:  ATTENTION: STAFFERS FOR NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MATTERS. It is important that you contact them by midday Friday as they are meeting Tuesday to review any possible amendments to the bill.


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