Canary Corner: A Weather Blog
After seeing the tornado damage to the Hampton Inn in Fultondale in January, I thought to myself what did the management do to get people to a safe place? Did they have a plan? If they did have have a plan, how did they let customers know? I have worked in retail management for a large portion of my adult life and at no job did that company have a Plan of Action for when the store was placed under a tornado warning. This was our motivation and inspiration for the creation of ITAS For Business.
Components of ITAS For Business
Applicable to a variety of businesses, ITAS For Business is a comprehensive approach for dealing with tornadoes. First, we evaluate your business site and operations to develop a recommended Plan of Action of what to do when placed under a Tornado Warning. We then equip your business with multiple ways to receive warnings including Wireless Emergency Alerts, ITAS subscriptions, and a centralized weather radio. We have tornado simulations to ensure that your business understands and can perform the Plan of Action. Lastly, your business is given 24/7 radar surveillance. If a Tornado Warning is ever issued for your business, a meteorologist at The Guardian Canary will ensure that your business received the warning and will contact your business when the threat has passed. After installation, your business is presented with an Imminent Tornado Preparedness Certification (ITPC) that can be presented to your insurance company. Click here for more information.
Some of initial customers to utilize ITAS for Business include Shoe Station and Spring Hill Presbyterian Mother’s Day Out and Day School. For Shoe Station, all 21 locations and the Corporate Headquarters have been equipped with ITAS for Business. Each store was given a site specific, recommended Plan of Action for Tornado Warnings, including specific plans on how to handle large crowds during special events such as Black Friday and Vendor Day. With 65 students under the age of 5, a step-by-step Plan of Action was vital to ensuring that SHP Mother’s Day Out and Day School is prepared if a Tornado Warning is issued for them. Each teacher is equipped with multiple ways to receive warnings and is well-versed in the Plan of Action. Tornado simulations are done routinely to ensure the school’s preparedness.
As we continue to discuss our research project concerning 2014-2020 National Weather Service Offices’ Tornado Warning Accuracy, we now come to the blog entry that begins to look at any correlations between Tornado Warning Verification/False Alarms and Tornado Fatalities. I want to preface this entry by saying that The Guardian Canary is in no way implying that low Tornado Warning Verification Rates and high issuances of false alarms are the sole reasons for people perishing at the hands of tornadoes. There are a multitude of reasons, sequences of events, and human choices that lead to tornado fatalities. Sometimes, everything can be done correctly from warning issuance, to receiving the warning, to taking proper action, that still results in a person losing their life simply due to the strength and destructive nature of the tornado. But my fellow meteorologists, how long can we continue to tolerate such horrible accuracy in Tornado Warnings and think that this isn’t playing a role in the public’s psyche? We chose not to survey or poll people for our study. Polling people in this day and age seems to be quite flawed, so we chose to look at where tornado fatalities have occurred from 2014-2020, in what NWS Office’s County Warning Area (CWA) those deaths occurred, and what their Tornado Warning Verification Rates were and how many false alarms they issued during the given time period. The following table shows the 15 NWS Offices that had the most tornado fatalities occur in their CWA from 2014-2020, their Tornado Warning Verification Rate, their rank in the NWS in regards to Most False Alarms Issued, and the number of years in our study that contained at least one tornado fatality for their area. As a reminder, only NWS Offices that averaged issuing 10 Tornado Warnings per year from 2014-2020 are included in our lists. There are 72 NWS Offices that met that criteria. Also, the overall NWS Tornado Warning Verification Rate from 2014-2020 was 25.59%.
A Couple of Preliminary Notes
*10 NWS Offices that rank in the Top 15 of Tornado Fatalities also rank in the Top 15 of Most False Alarms Issued
*9 NWS Offices that rank in the Top 15 of Tornado Fatalities also have a Verification Rate below the overall NWS Average for the time period
*6 NWS Offices fall into both of the aforementioned groups, including all 3 NWS Offices in Louisiana
All 2014-2020 NWS Tornado Verification Statistics were compiled through the use of the Storm Prediction Center’s Severe Weather Event Summaries and Iowa State’s IEM COW (NWS Storm Based Verification) webpages. To view our other lists, check out our blog entry “The Good and The Bad”. We hope to present all of our findings at various conferences throughout 2021 and 2022.
In this blog entry, we will be taking a look at some of the best and worst National Weather Service Offices in regards to their tornado warning accuracy for 2014-2020. In this review, we are only including offices that averaged issuing 10 tornado warnings per year for the given timeframe. This resulted in a population of 72 offices. For reference, the average tornado warning verification rate for the entire National Weather Service for the timeframe was 25.59%. Yes. You read that correctly. NWS Tornado Warnings only verify 25.59% of the time. And remember, “verify” for this discussion means a tornado was observed or damage was determined to be from a tornado in the warned area during the time that it was in effect. Again all 2014-2020 NWS Tornado Verification Statistics were compiled through the use of the Storm Prediction Center’s Severe Weather Event Summaries and Iowa State’s IEM COW (NWS Storm Based Verification) webpages.
Top 15 NWS Offices in Tornado Warning Verification Rate from 2014-2020
Top 15 NWS Offices with the Least False Alarms from 2014-2020
Four offices appear in the Top 15 of verification rate and fewest false alarms: NWS Wichita, NWS Columbia, NWS Chicago, and NWS Lubbock. It should be noted, however, that none of these four offices averaged issuing more than 18 tornado warnings per year. It’s a bit more impressive to see an office like NWS Birmingham rank third in verification rate. They averaged issuing 42 tornado warnings per year.
Bottom 15 NWS Offices in Tornado Warning Verification Rate from 2014-2020
Bottom 15 NWS Offices with the Most False Alarms from 2014-2020
Five offices appear in the Bottom 15 of verification rate and most false alarms: NWS Mobile, NWS New Orleans, NWS Little Rock, NWS Lake Charles, and NWS Houston/Galveston. A large portion, but definitely not all, of these false alarms and extremely poor verification rates from offices close to the Gulf of Mexico can be attributed to tornado warnings issued during landfalling tropical systems. The problem is that there are still tornado warnings being pushed out to the public with no tornado occurring. Also, there are plenty of offices on these two “bottom” lists that are not issuing tropical tornado warnings. For example, NWS Blacksburg issued 104 tornado warnings from 2014-2020 and only 10 of those verified. 10.
In a future blog, we will discuss what possible correlations can be drawn between verification rates/false alarms and tornado related fatalities. Obviously, there are numerous factors that play a role in why someone perished in a tornado. We recognize that fact. But, we also cannot ignore issues that we as a weather community can mitigate to help reduce fatalities from our side.
Don’t forget, Spring Severe Weather Season is right around the corner. Be sure to have multiple ways to receive warnings, including our Imminent Tornado Alerting Service (ITAS). Click here to sign up today.
Here at The Guardian Canary, we have begun a research project that involves examining National Weather Service (NWS) Tornado Warnings and the verification of these warnings. Looking at the timeframe of 2014 to 2020, we are trying to see if any correlations exist between the amount of false alarms issued by a National Weather Service office and the number of tornado fatalities that occur in that same office’s territory. In the coming weeks, we will be releasing information on the data that we have gleamed from our research.
The main focus for today’s blog entry will be the Verification Rates for all NWS Tornado Warnings and the resultant false alarms for 2014-2020. For a tornado warning to be deemed verified, a tornado must have been observed or have produced damage for the area and time frame that the tornado warning was in effect. Local Storm Reports (LSRs) contain these tornado observations and damage reports, and they are produced by the same NWS office that issued the tornado warning. All information for this study comes from NWS Tornado Warnings and NWS Tornado LSRs. None of this information is created by The Guardian Canary. 2014-2020 NWS Tornado Verification Statistics were compiled through the use of the Storm Prediction Center’s Severe Weather Event Summaries and Iowa State’s IEM COW (NWS Storm Based Verification) webpages.
The NWS Overall Tornado Verification Rate over the timespan of 2014-2020 was just over 25%. That means 3 out of every 4 Tornado Warnings resulted in a false alarm for the selected years. 3 out of every 4 times that the weather industry and emergency management said “Hey, Look out! A tornado is headed your way!”, they were wrong. 3 out of every 4 times the strongest short-fused warning, outside of a Tsunami Warning and an Extreme Wind Warning, was issued, it was wrong. Perhaps we are being too harsh here. Perhaps others believe 25% is ok for this type of warning. But, how many times can they cry wolf before people stop taking action?
While 2020 was an improvement over 2019, the number of tornado warnings that were false alarms is staggering. 1589 times people were alerted by sirens, alerted on their phones, alerted by their weather radios, had their programming interrupted on television to be told there was a tornado coming and one did not materialize. 1589 times people were told to take life saving action for a tornado that wasn’t there. 1589 times people were essentially lied to about the weather. To think that this isn’t creating complacency in society is wrong and dangerous.
Upcoming Blog Entries
In the coming weeks, we will be discussing how all of this may be affecting the public and their responses. We’ll take a look at individual NWS Offices’ Performance, the good, the bad, and the ugly. In addition to services such as ITAS that are available through The Guardian Canary, we’ll discuss different options and ideas that could be implemented to reduce the number of false alarms. One thing that should be pointed out, this research and this blog are not designed to cast National Weather Service meteorologists in any negative light. NWS meteorologists are the best of the best and should be highly respected by our society. They warn on everything they deem a tornado based off of their training and experience. Their mission statement is to protect life and property. Ours, however, is not. We are only concerned with saving lives and feel that current practices may be hurting that effort during times of severe weather.
Today, The Guardian Canary launched its “ITAS for Broadcast” Campaign making ITAS available to television stations. With numerous options, television stations now have the ability to incorporate ITAS into their severe weather coverage and help supplement false alarm tornado warnings. Since ITAS sends text alerts to customers, television stations can give their viewers alerts with confidence whether they are watching tv or not. From simple promotion and profit sharing to total station customization, ITAS can be the right fit for any television station, big or small.
For this campaign, we enlisted the help of four senior broadcast meteorology students from the University of South Alabama in creating videos simulating a severe weather scenario where ITAS is incorporated. Special thanks to Jenna Petracci, Katie Frazier, Joshua Culbreth, and Alex Carter for their assistance with this project. These guys are going to make phenomenal broadcast meteorologists. See all of their videos on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsvFDxO2FjVyRvfmhsICQvw?view_as=subscriber)
For more information regarding ITAS for Broadcast, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 1-888-521-2811. Visit www.theguardiancanary.com/why-itas/ to learn more about how ITAS works.
With the overly active 2020 Tropical Season and numerous parts of the United States affected by hurricanes and tropical storms, I have been debating the question, “Should the National Weather Service issue Tornado Warnings during land falling tropical systems?” With the implementation of our Tropical Cyclone Initiated Tornado Index (TCITI) to aid ITAS (learn more at www.theguardiancanary.com/why-itas/), we have closely monitored the verification rates of the Tornado Warnings issued by each NWS Office. While the NWS’s performance during Hurricane Isaias wasn’t terrible, verification rates for Hanna, Laura, and Sally were dreadful (See chart below).
There are almost assuredly multiple factors that contribute to this extremely low verification. For example, during Laura, the NWS Lake Charles office was evacuated and the city took severe damage which would not be conducive to getting together survey teams to travel long distances to assess possible tornadic damage. With most states having mutual aid agreements with other states, recovery occurs much quicker than in previous decades, allowing damaged structures and trees to be removed before being assessed by the NWS. Perhaps, the damage cannot be properly assessed because of the sheer amount of damaged caused by the overall tropical cyclone winds. Maybe with the overwhelming amount of work incurred by a NWS Office before, during, and after a tropical event, the Meteorologist-In-Charge (MIC) and staff simply deem tornado verification not important.
Do The Tornado Warnings Issued Do Any Good?
But, what about the tornadoes that do verify? We know there have been hurricanes that have produced deadly, strong tornadoes over the past 70 years. From Beulah to Agnes to Ivan, even most recently with Isaias, these storms have spawned EF-2 or greater tornadoes that have produced injuries and fatalities. I guess the issue I have is most of the time, these areas that experience tropical tornadoes are already under Tropical Storm Warnings or Hurricane Warnings. Shouldn’t these people already be in a safe structure, hunkering down, expecting dangerous weather conditions? It’s redundant to tell people strong winds are coming and then here comes some more strong winds that can produce damage. Not to mention, these warnings probably exacerbate the public’s numbness to warnings with the numerous false alarms. I would love to see an in-depth study on the issue or to know of any conversations that have occurred at the NWS in regards to this matter. If you know of either, please email me at email@example.com.
As of 1PM on August 21st, the National Hurricane Center is issuing advisories on Tropical Storm Laura and Tropical Depression #14. With both systems forecast to exist in the Gulf of Mexico simultaneously, I wanted to discuss both cyclones separately and also address what might occur if they emerge into the Gulf together.
Tropical Storm Laura
Tropical Storm Laura is forecast to be just off the Northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday morning with minimal hurricane strength. Looking at the projected path, Laura faces a long road through the islands and if the center of circulation interacts too much with the mountainous regions of Hispaniola or the eastern Cuba, severe disruptions in organization will occur. This would lead to extreme weakening and would make it difficult for Laura to rapidly intensify once it reaches the Gulf. How it transverses the islands will determine its ultimate fate. Latest models are trending further west with Laura’s track (see below).
Tropical Depression 14 (Soon to be Tropical Storm Marco)
TD 14 is forecast to cross the Yucatan Peninsula and enter the Gulf by late Sunday. There may a brief window for the system to strengthen into a hurricane before it encounters some strong upper level shear. Models are pointing to a Louisiana or Texas landfall. At this point, TD 14 appears to be the weaker of the 2 systems when approaching a Gulf Coast landfall.
The Fujiwhara Effect and What MIGHT Happen
Here’s a definition of The Fujiwhara Effect from the NWS:
“When two hurricanes spinning in the same direction pass close enough to each other, they begin an intense dance around their common center. If one hurricane is a lot stronger than the other, the smaller one will orbit it and eventually come crashing into its vortex to be absorbed. Two storms closer in strength can gravitate towards each other until they reach a common point and merge, or merely spin each other around for a while before shooting off on their own paths. In rare occasions, the effect is additive when the hurricanes come together, resulting in one larger storm instead of two smaller ones.”
So, how is this going to affect these 2 systems? Please keep in mind that the rest of this paragraph is pure speculation. First, I think it is highly unlikely that 2 hurricanes exist simultaneously in the Gulf at the same time. Yes, there have been 2 tropical systems in the Gulf at the same time (2 times in recorded history), but not with both being hurricanes. Also, I don’t think one system will be significantly stronger than the other, nor do I think there will be enough time over water, for one system to “eat” the other and become some sort of “megastorm”. What might be possible is that they do begin rotating around one another while in the Northern Gulf causing them to rake over the same areas, causing an almost double landfall in the exact same area. Also, the area between the 2 storms at landfall may see an uptick in tropical tornadoes due to an enhanced area of shear and helecity. Just thoughts and conjecture, It will be interesting to see how it all pans out. Go ahead and sign up for our Imminent Tornado Alerting System (ITAS) to give yourself added way of receiving warnings.
Most of the upcoming week looks to be pretty uneventful with the exception of Wednesday where the Storm Prediction Center has already highlighted a 15% chance of severe weather across parts of the Southern Plains in Kansas and Oklahoma. As for the severe weather outlook for today through Tuesday, there are only a few spots that have a risk for general non-severe thunderstorms and a few pockets of Marginal Risk (Level 1 out of 5) throughout the country. For a breakdown of what each Risk Level means, visit the Storm Prediction Center’s page by clicking here.
Wednesday, May 13 Severe Weather Outlook
Looking at the Storm Prediction Center’s written discussion for this day, the timing looks to be in the evening with supercells forming. All modes of severe weather are possible including tornadoes. The picture below is a “sounding” from a weather computer model. It is a snapshot of the atmosphere at a particular point in time above a selected place. This one is for Wednesday evening in Central Oklahoma. It shows a large amount of instability in the atmosphere that will help in storm formation. Wind profiles suggest that there is a threat for damaging winds and a few tornadoes. Timing and severity of the storms will be fine tuned in the severe weather outlook as we get closer to Wednesday. Always have plenty of ways to get your warnings. Be sure to include our Imminent Tornado Alerting Service (ITAS). Click here to learn more.