NWS to Issue Damage “Tags” with Tornado Warnings

By Max Resnik

April 2, 2012 Updated Apr 2, 2012 at 5:36 PM EDT

NORTH WEBSTER, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – The National Weather Service is testing a severe weather pilot program in two states that they will hope will better prepare the public during tornado outbreaks.

The program, which begins Monday, April 2 at five NWS centers in Kansans and Missouri, hopes to better define severe weather and tornado warnings so that the public can be better prepared for an incoming storm.

Under the new program, tags will be placed at the end of each warning to signal how much damage a severe storm might cause. The system will use two tags at the end of warnings: “Significant” and “Catastrophic.”

“Significant” is defined as having credible evidence that a tornado is capable of producing significant structural damage. “Catastrophic” is defined as a storm that is not only causing significant structural damage, but as one that is a threat to human life. “Catastrophic” is not expected to be used often and will only be used when a reliable source can confirm the potential violent action of a tornado.

Jeff Logsdon, Science and Operations manager at the National Weather Service office in North Webster, says the goal of the new program is to better alert people in the path of a storm as well as get them to take the warnings more seriously.

“We've also worked with social scientists in trying to get our warnings geared more towards getting a response from the public. And so that's the end goal is for the public is to take the warning seriously and take the appropriate action.”

Logsdon says the tags will not be thrown around to scare people into fleeing their homes. He says the process for issuing a tornado warning will remain the same. Warnings are based on observed rotation on radar and by trained weather spotters on the ground.

“Once we get visual, observed confirmation that the tornado is on the ground, I don't think there's as much of a risk of crying wolf. We have the confirmation and therefore we feel confident in conveying that those threats are real.”

In addition to predicting the potential storm damage with tags, the tornadoes themselves will receive tags that include “Radar Indicated” and “Observed.” “Radar Indicated” is defined by atmospheric conditions that could support a tornado, but one has not been confirmed. “Observed” is defined as a tornado that has been seen and confirmed by weather spotters.

The tag “Possible” will also be added to severe thunderstorm warnings when necessary.

Logsdon says that if the program is successful, it could be adopted by the rest of the country.

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