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The Art of Storm Surveying: Leveraging New Datasets to Document the 12 June 2013 Tornadoes

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Thursday, 6 November 2014
Capitol Ballroom AB (Madison Concourse Hotel)
Kevin Skow, NOAA/NWS, Des Moines, IA
Manuscript (429.2 kB)

Handout (5.5 MB)

Over the last five years, the National Weather Service's (NWS) process of surveying tornadoes has rapidly evolved thanks to several recent technological advancements. The ability for the public to instantly share photos and videos of tornadoes via social media and other web sites has helped the NWS catalog tornadoes that may have otherwise gone undocumented. Meanwhile, the newly implemented Damage Assessment Toolkit allows ground survey teams to immediately upload their data to a centralized GIS server while performing the survey. Meteorologists back at the WFO can work with the data in near-real time and release a detailed summary to the public much faster than was possible before. Finally, the NWS now has the ability to request high-resolution satellite imagery of the affected areas right after the event. This imagery, typically available within a week of the event, helps connect any gaps in the ground survey.

This presentation focuses on how each source of information was critical to the success of the storm survey following the 12 June 2013 tornadoes. Whether it was the findings of the ground survey team, photos/videos shared online, satellite imagery, or radar data, each played a crucial part in mapping out these tracks. The Des Moines NWS office was one of the first WFOs to utilize the new Emergency Satellite Support program instituted by Central Region to quickly acquire the needed satellite data. Additionally, in what is believed to be a first within the NWS, the ground survey team photographed the damage from the air using a privately owned quadcopter piloted from the ground. The presentation also highlights how the survey results changed in the days, weeks, and even months following the event as new data were uncovered.