It can seem like a waste of time to develop emergency plans for the most rare or unlikely situations, but when one such event actually happens that planning will have been worthwhile. Take for example the extremely rare tornado that swept through a portion of south Seattle during a recent storm.
An unseasonable September storm dumped record amounts of rain and temporarily knocked out power for thousands in the Pacific Northwest. The National Weather Service confirmed through damage surveyed and eyewitness accounts that an EF1 tornado with a maximum wind speed of 110 mph hit the industrial area of Frederickson.
The state of Washington has perhaps one or two tornados each year but they are typically small. The storm that spawned this particular tornado dropped more rain in a day or two than typically falls in the entire month.
This and many other recent cases of extreme weather are proving the need for emergency planners to have scenarios ready for ANY type of situation, no matter how far-fetched it may seem.
Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/winter-weight-storm-slaps-northwest-on-last-weekend-in-september-with-record-rainfall-winds/2013/09/30/5d98c122-29ea-11e3-b141-298f46539716_story.html
It is an unfortunate reality that when people are exposed to near constant tornado warnings, they begin to ignore them over time. If every warning is the same, and a majority of storms never materialize as predicted, then it becomes difficult for residents to decide on a course of action to protect themselves.
To combat this problem, five weather offices in Kansas and Missouri will be testing a new weather warning system that uses vivid language to describe the threat such as “mass devastation,” “catastrophic” and “unsurvivable.” These new warnings are designed to better communicate the dangers of an approaching storm.
The new test system will have two tiers of warnings for thunderstorms and three tiers for tornadoes, made possible through a new type of Doppler radar called dual polarization, which measures both horizontal and vertical properties of a storm and helps to gauge its destructive tendencies. Tests will continue through the fall while a research team in North Carolina will analyze the results and help the weather service decide whether to expand the new warnings to other parts of the country.
According to a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, a new warning could look like this: “THIS IS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO WITH COMPLETE DEVASTATION LIKELY. … SEEK SHELTER NOW! … MOBILE HOMES AND OUTBUILDINGS WILL OFFER NO SHELTER FROM THIS TORNADO — ABANDON THEM IMMEDIATELY.”
The new warnings will be issued to local radio and television stations, local emergency management personnel who activate sirens and dispatch emergency services, and the National Weather Service radio. The hope is that these strongly worded warnings will reach those who tend to wait for a tornado siren before seeking shelter.