Local News

Early Severe Weather Warning Is Key To Saving Lives

Posted February 13, 2000

— Deadly storms are hinting once again that Tornado Alley is moving south. Early severe weather warnings can save lives.

The tornadoes struck shortly after midnight Sunday as a line of thunderstorms rumbled through the Southeast, scarring property from Arkansas to Georgia.

It is important to understand what to do if a tornado comes.

"You have to know what you are going to do, where you are going to go, and you have to do it quickly," says Chris Thompson, WRAL Meteorologist.

Last year, 36 tornadoes struck North Carolina. Only two people were hurt, but it could have been worse. Meteorologists credit the Doppler radar with saving lives. They say it is one of the best advances in weather tracking.

"We are getting more time from first forecasts to where severe weather is spotted," Thompson says.

Thanks to the high-tech radar, theNational Weather Servicecan now issue warnings 10 to 20 minutes before severe weather hits, instead of five.

"We can look at the atmosphere under the radar umbrella, which is basically the middle part of the state, in about 100 different ways," says Steve Harned, NWS Meteorologist.

However, Harned says the National Weather Service does not rely solely on one piece of technology.

Skywarn has been around for 25 years. The storm spotters are often the eyes and ears of meteorologists.

"The quicker we can get data to the weather service, the quicker they can get information back to us," says Thomas Babb, Skywarn Emergency Coordinator. "The quicker we can get the information to the people on the air to save lives and get people to take cover."

The National Weather Service also has an advanced version of the NOAA weather radio; someone can program the radio so the alarm will go off only in the person's home county.

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