Safety National Program Understand Tornado Alerts


Recently here in the Midwest we had some bad weather.  Tornado watches and warnings were issued.  Our cellular phones did get NOAA Tornado watch and warnings and sirens did go off.
We had a tornado touch down briefly in the area where my son lives.  The brief touch down  / winds / trees did damage many homes including my son's house.  Power to the area went out and was restoried withing 12 hours which is a good thing.

From the National Weather Service
What is the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning issued by the National Weather Service?

    Tornado Watch: Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.

    Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.
NWS SKYWARN Storm Spotter Program > skywarn
In most years, thunderstorms, tornadoes and lightning caused hundreds of injuries and deaths and billions in property and crop damages.  To obtain critical weather information, the National Weather Service (NWS) established SKYWARN® with partner organizations. SKYWARN® is a volunteer program with between 350,000 and 400,000 trained severe weather spotters. These volunteers help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service.
Although SKYWARN® spotters provide essential information for all types of weather hazards, the main responsibility of a SKYWARN® spotter is to identify and describe severe local storms. In an average year, the the United States experiences more than 10,000 severe thunderstorms, 5,000 floods and more than 1,000 tornadoes.
Since the program started in the 1970s, the information provided by SKYWARN® spotters, coupled with Doppler radar technology, improved satellite and other data, has enabled NWS to issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods. SKYWARN® storm spotters are citizens who form the nation's first line of defense against severe weather. There can be no finer reward than to know that their efforts have given communities the precious gift of time--seconds and minutes that can help save lives.
Who is eligible and how do I get started?
NWS encourages anyone with an interest in public service to join the SKYWARN® program. Volunteers include police and fire personnel, dispatchers, EMS workers, public utility workers and other concerned private citizens. Individuals affiliated with hospitals, schools, churches and nursing homes or who have a responsibility for protecting others are also encouraged to become a spotter. Ready to learn more? Find a class in your area. Training is free and typically lasts about 2 hours. You'll learn:
  • Basics of thunderstorm development
  • Fundamentals of storm structure
  • Identifying potential severe weather features
  • Information to report
  • How to report information
  • Basic severe weather safety
Need help with your Spotter Number or other local information such as a missing class schedule? Looking for our online program?
If you're looking for a class or information about the local NWS program, check find a class in your area for local information.  If you need a little more help finding your spotter number or a class schedule, contact your local Warning Coordination Meteorologist.  He or she can help you get, find or replace your spotter information and let you know about upcoming classes.Classes are typically held in an office's relatively slow season.  Classes are NOT typically offered all year.  Schedules vary from office to office.  You also can also take our online spotter program.  Some local offices also ask that you take a local class to learn about weather unique to your area.
® is a registered trademark of NOAA's National Weather Service.  Please read the rules for the usage of the SKYWARN® name and logo.


Tornado warnings are meant to save lives.
Why do some people roll their eyes?
Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY Published 8:05 a.m. ET May 30, 2019 | Updated 8:59 a.m. ET May 30, 2019
As forecasters across the country try to warn the public about perilous weather events, their message sometimes gets blown away by another powerful force: human nature.

Complaints and complacency have been the reactions engendered at times by a mounting number of tornado warnings as a large swath of the U.S. is battered by one twister after another.

Tuesday represented the 12th consecutive day that at least eight tornadoes were reported to the National Weather Service, covering the usual Southwest and Midwest hotspots but stretching as far east as New York and New Jersey, which are not used to that kind of onslaught.

A rash of tornadoes cut a path of destruction from eastern Indiana through central Ohio on Monday, leaving thousands without power and doing much of their damage in the towns around Dayton, Ohio.
But as the Cincinnati Enquirer reported, many area residents were more concerned with developments in "The Bachelorette" reality show and lashed out via social media when Dayton TV station Fox 45 cut away to a weather update. Meteorologist Jamie Simpson said on air their reaction was “pathetic.’’

This is not an isolated incident.

At the same time Tiger Woods was making his thrilling charge to victory on the final day of last month’s Masters golf tournament, dangerous storms pounded parts of the Southeast, and the CBS affiliate in Atlanta interrupted the broadcast for a weather update. Meteorologist Ella Dorsey said she received death threats as a result.
“We see this time and time again with male and female forecasters,’’ said Victor Gensini, an assistant professor in the Department of Geographic and Atmospheric Sciences at Northern Illinois University.
“When they break into programming, they’re getting chastised for doing that, yet they’re trying to save the lives of people a couple of counties away from them. These warnings are extremely important and help save lives. I’m sure there would have been more fatalities had people not been issuing the warnings.’’
Gensini emphasized that tornado warnings are different from forecasts and are only issued when the phenomenon has been spotted by a storm chaser or detected by Doppler radar.
The way the system works, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, delivers outlooks for severe weather up to eight days in advance. That information is taken in by the 122 National Weather Service offices throughout the country – including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam – and forecasters at the individual locations combine it with satellite images and radar readings before determining when and where to issue weather warnings.
Those alerts are distributed to broadcast meteorologists and the public, which may receive them via their cellphones. That’s not the case for the majority, though.

“Even in the modern era of cellphones, most people still receive their weather warnings through broadcast media, especially local broadcasters,’’ said Kim Klockow-McClain, research scientist with the University of Oklahoma's Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies

“But the disadvantage of broadcast media is that it is widespread over a large area of distribution, so you can have a part of it that’s affected and a large part of it that’s not directly impacted.’’

That further complicates the tricky decision of whether to send out warnings.

The weather service's main goal is to provide residents enough lead time to react to a major event, and, on average, it gets word out about 13 minutes before a tornado hits the ground. However, not all twisters are the same, and some can be much harder to identify than others.
Inevitably, the NWS has to balance the importance of alerting the public with the possibility it might issue some false alarms, which could lead some people to tune out. The validity of that notion, known as “warning fatigue,’’ has been debated by social scientists, but it’s enough of a concern that the NWS has addressed it and made concerted efforts to avoid false alarms, cutting down on them by 31% from 2011 to 2014.

On the other hand, waiting until there’s absolute confirmation of a tornado would likely result in warning residents who are at risk too late, if at all.

“If I were in the National Weather Service running an office, my goal would be, ‘Hey, I don’t want to miss any of these things, because any tornado is an important tornado,’’’ Gensini said. “So what if we have a few false alarms and people get upset? They need to realize this is part of the science. I’d rather have a perfect probability of detecting them in that scenario.’’

More tornadoes have been detected in the last month – with about 500 eyewitness reports, according to the Storm Prediction Center – than in almost any May stretch in the last 20 years.

The folks in the Northeast, unaccustomed to the drill of running to the storm shelter upon learning of an approaching twister, may still be shell-shocked at the sight of funnel clouds.

Klockow-McClain said signs indicate people in areas not prone to tornadoes are less likely to respond to warnings.

“In the social sciences, we call this different disaster subcultures. There are places where people have differently adapted to the kind of hazards they face,’’ she said. “Research is showing that people in areas where these things happen less are a little bit less likely to receive the information and act upon it.


Senior Member
Today with so many 'in your face' advertising mediums where we aren't even allowed to operate a mobile device or watch a movie without blahs blahs blahs, people have learned to tune out.

A hurricane warning to me would just be a contest to see how soon I could delete the phishing attack before I read more than three words.

Just a sign of the times. Money quests have ruined technology again.

Sent using Tapatalk


Senior Member
Are those your personal photos of the tornado? I've wanted to see one all of my life until I bought a house. Life is so much simpler when you don't own anything.


These are personal photos taken in Dyer, Indiana by local residents of the tornado that touched down briefly.
Personally have never seen a tornado touch down.  I do have some pictures of funnel clouds. 


The second piece of the OP was an encouragement to volunteer to join the NWS Skywarn program. 
It's just a two hour class where you have a local TV meteorologist talking about weather and weather watching (and tornado watching).
The program is free and you get an official weather spotter certificate.
NOAA issues a tornado warning when they receive a visual from an official NOAA weather spotter (or local police). 


Senior Member
pete_c said:
The second piece of the OP was an encouragement to volunteer to join the NWS Skywarn program. 
It's just a two hour class where you have a local TV meteorologist talking about weather and weather watching (and tornado watching).
The program is free and you get an official weather spotter certificate.
NOAA issues a tornado warning when they receive a visual from an official NOAA weather spotter (or local police). 
I visited the Skywarn spotter web site and all classes are closed to registration, it must be a small class or very popular 
I have often thought that I would get a home weather station at some point but haven't yet. It's still an idle interest.


Here locally there is a Fire Station adjacent to a High School and the classes were in the High School auditorium.  Large and about 2/3 full at the time.
It was part of a life and saftey event where the town had set up life and saftey stuff from the Fire Department and police department.
Here have a Davis Weather station and purchased a weather radio with alarm switches which are connected to the OmniPro 2 panel.
With the weather radio you just have to set it for your local area otherwise it will get emergency broadcasts from all over the place within radio range.
The NOAA cell phone alerts are now standard in this state.  It is more that just a text message but rather a large tornado warning message that occupied the entire display of my phone (6.X diagonal screen).  I have never seen this before.  Concurrent to this are the NOAA radio alerts sent to all registered home phones and the sirens that went off.
Over the last 50 years or so there have been many tornados here in the midwest (near Chicago).  Typically year after year none though have been in the same area.  A few years back we got a micro burst and the weather station recorded 75MPH local winds (in our court).  The wind bent and snapped one our trees in half which was the oldest and around 40 feet tall.  The CCTV recorded the neighbors patio furniture going up some 50-75 feet in the air and one planter on the deck (that was very large) picked up and dumped along with the grill being yanked from the deck brackets and the natural gas line being ripped off of the grill.  At my son's house it was roof materials and tree branches and decks and fences that damaged the homes punching holes in the roof and siding of many or most of the houses.  I did see some structural damage on two corners of my son's house where the roof moved up about 8-12".  That said they are getting a tear off and repair of any underlying structural damage.  The area was declared an disaster area which helped much with the insurance claims.   Son and his family moved to the basement at the beginning of the storms (power went out) and slept down there until the power was turned back on in their home.