On 9/14 during the tornado outbreak in Johnston County near Clayton, I saw a tornado touch down briefly across the street from the Food Lion on Hwy 70 on the SE side of Clayton. I called 911 to report. Did I do the right thing or should I have called National Weather, a news channel (like WRAL) or another agency?
Posted November 7, 2007 9:46 a.m. EST
MIKE MOSS SAYS: David, There is not a completely cut and dry answer to that, but there is a reasonable response that involves a judgement call on the part of the person who witnesses severe weather and would like to report it.
That is, if you see a weather phenomenon that is clearly a potential threat to yourself and/or other people, and a tornado touchdown certainly falls in that category, it is appropriate to dial 911 because it is a number everyone knows and it will be important for emergency services to be aware of the event - they are also tied in with NWS and feed that info back to the forecast office. If you would like to then pass the info on to a news organization like ours that would certainly be appropriate as well.
While this is a good protocol for something like a tornado or a damage-producing microburst or macroburst, for baseball sized hail and high winds, or serious flooding that threatens life and property, that would not be the case for reporting a lesser severe event like nickel sized hail or reporting the passage of a non-severe but electrically active storm with lots of lightning, for example.
For reporting those kinds of events, or for follow-up reports regarding the more serious situations above, the Raleigh NWS suggests that you can call their listed number at (919) 515-8209 or send an e-mail report to email@example.com. Likewise, we encourage you to send an e-mail report to firstname.lastname@example.org to inform our weather team if you'd like.
The NWS also maintains an unlisted number for priority use by community spotters who have been through a severe weather training program. If you are interested in participating, you can find a schedule of training sessions at http://www.erh.noaa.gov/rah/skywarn/.