National Weather Service more prepared than ever for severe weather
There’s been a lot of changes in storm preparation announcements since the storms of April 27, 2011, wreaked havoc across the South. Today, the National Weather Service says new technology and better warnings can help save lives, but those upgrades won’t work if residents don’t pay attention.
NWS Birmingham Warning Coordination Meteorologist John De Block said preparations for storms on April 27, 2011, began about six days before the event.
“We began to see the signals for this event well in advance of April 27,” De Block said. “As time drew nearer, we had this feeling of impending doom. We were seeing signs that this event was going to be like nothing we had ever experienced before.”
That day, the largest tornado outbreak in U.S. history, spawned 360 tornadoes. In Tuscaloosa, 53 people died that day, and more than 250 lost their lives throughout the state.
“I don’t think any of us had any idea of how bad that was going to be,” De Block said. “It certainly lived up to everything that the computer models told us, and was probably worse than any of us thought it might be.”
But 11 years later, the NWS and meteorology as a whole have made great strides in keeping track of potentially perilous weather events.
“Meteorology really has changed since April 27, 2011,” De Block said. “Maybe our computer models have gotten a little bit better, but we’re still issuing the same warnings, we still have severe thunderstorm warnings.”
The NWS continues searching for better ways to connect with residents and ensure they stay safe during severe weather.
Nowadays, smartphones will send loud, impossible-to-miss alerts when severe weather is barrelling down on a location.
Weather radios are reasonably priced and readily available, and programming information abounds. In fact, you can view WVUA 23 Chief Meteorologist Richard Scott’s guide to programming an NOAA weather radio right here.
Social media is flooded with posts and warnings from NWS and local meteorologists during severe weather events.
De Block said events like April 27, 2011, come around every generation or so, but it’s not clockwork. Residents must be prepared and treat any severe weather warnings seriously.