J15.1 Challenges in Communicating Two Consecutive High Impact Weather Events

Wednesday, 26 January 2011: 1:30 PM
618-620 (Washington State Convention Center)
Michael B. Scotten, NOAA/NWS, Memphis, TN; and K. N. Scotten and W. R. Borghoff
Manuscript (416.5 kB)

Effectively communicating the threat from weather phenomena is very important for the National Weather Service (NWS) to fulfill its mission of protecting lives and property. Various methods can be used to accomplish this such as conference calls, webinars, media partnerships, and NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio. In addition to these services, the NWS products typically convey site-specific hazard information for specific time periods. As conditions or threats warrant, enhanced wording such as ‘Flash Flood Emergency' may be used to further heighten awareness and convey especially dangerous conditions.

On two consecutive weekends, 23-24 April and 30 April-2 May 2010, severe thunderstorms with tornadoes and flash flooding affected the Mid-South and Tennessee River Valley. There were several fatalities and numerous injuries reported during these high impact events. Of the two events, the NWS Huntsville, Alabama, County Warning Area (CWA) was most affected 23-24 April while the NWS Memphis, Tennessee, CWA was most affected 30 April-2 May.

This study examined the communication methods and wording of products from the NWS Memphis and Huntsville Weather Forecast Offices in advance of, and during, these events. The potential for high impact weather was discussed several days in advance using various methods including conference calls to emergency managers and the media, enhanced wording in products, special product issuances, telephone interviews with the media, and direct briefings to federal, state, and local agencies and the general public. Overall, customer feedback suggested that these two offices performed well during these events. Plans for future improvements will be discussed, based on some suggestions that were received.

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