Andrew J Chiuppi III
National Weather Service
On April 10th, 2016, a combination of freshly plowed fields and strong gradient winds lead to an extremely rare and deadly dust storm across the Mississippi River Delta. The National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Memphis, TN employs situational awareness displays (SADs) at each workstation to keep the office informed with live up-to-date information regarding news and weather around the region. These displays were the only source of information that prompted the first ever dust storm warning for the Mid-South. Not a single surface observation was able to actually verify the event, however numerous videos and pictures tweeted out across the web gave us the credible evidence needed to issue the warning. Without the presence and specific configuration of social media on a SAD, the event may have otherwise gone undetected for at least an hour before NWS Memphis received a phone call from local emergency management with a report of dust.
Social media on SADs has become a vital part of our warning and verification process. This particular event demonstrates how invaluable it has become to our mission and how social media can have a direct impact on alerting offices to ongoing and developing events. SADs coupled with a well-developed social media program directly lead to NWS Memphis issuing a potentially life-saving warning on this unexpected and low probability high impact event.