“Unsurvivable:” New NWS “Impact Based” tornado warnings debut today


“Complete destruction”


A few of the words NWS will begin inserting into tornado warnings today at several NWS offices.

4 to 9 “risk signals” – It took that many different warnings a tornado was approaching before some people took shelter in the deadly Joplin tornado last spring.

14 impact 2.PNG

Source: NWS

March 2012 – we basically rewrote the record books for March 2012 in much of the central USA

Mixed Monday – Mix of clouds, sun, and possible showers & T-Storm today in Minnesota.

“Impact Based” tornado warnings:

NWS is trotting out some new “apocalyptic” wording for tornado warnings starting today at several NWS sites in the central USA.

These new “impact based” warnings are designed to get your attention. Phrases like “catastrophic damage” or “complete destruction” or “unsurvivable” if not in shelter below ground” will appear if needed.

14 Impact 1.PNG

Source: NWS

The new warnings are largely a response to last year’s deadly Joplin tornado that killed 178 people.

11 jop track.PNG

Source: NWS

It turns out many people in the tornado’s path ignored several warnings before seeking shelter as the tornado hit.

The new warnings will feature this format:

1st line: Specific hazard- tornado/wind/hail etc.

2nd line: Tornado sighted by radar/spotter/law enforcement/public etc.

3rd line: “Potential Outcome!” Uprooted trees/extensive damage etc.

Tag line: “Significant” (major damage) or “Catastrophic”(like Joplin or Tuscaloosa tornadoes)

“Impact based” warnings will fly from 5 NWS offices in a test phase this year. NWS Wichita, Topeka, Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis will issue the dire warnings to see if public response can be improved through harshly worded tornado warnings.

What amazed many of us after last year’s Joplin tornado was how many people just waited for “visual confirmation” or other signs that a tornado was bearing down on them before taking cover…even after hearing sirens or several other warnings signals.

You would think “tornado on the ground” or “tornado warning” would be enough to get people to take cover!

March 2012: An unprecedented record breaker

You name the record; we probably broke it in March. Here are a few highlights.

+15.5 degrees at MSP Airport in March (warmest March on record)

-Warmest month ever vs. average at MSP Airport?

48.3 degrees monthly average (beats old record by +3.4 degrees!)

+1.7 degrees above average April temps!

Earliest 80 degree temp on record (March 17th)

Most 70 degree days on record for March (8 days!)

14 msp march 1.PNG

Source: NWS

Warmest March on record for MSP, Eau Claire, St. Cloud, & Duluth, International Falls

14 msp march 2.png

Source: NWS

2012 warmest year ever so far at Milwaukee & Madison

Warmest March on record at Chicago, Des Moines, Indy, Kansas City, Indy and New York.

Chicago had previously record a total of ten 80 degree days in all of March history, about 1 every 14 years…this month Chicago record 8 days at or above 80 degrees!

April off and running too!

It hit 90 at Luverne Sunday. According to my MPR colleague Dr. Mark Seeley, that’s a new record for the earliest 90 degree day on record in Minnesota!

Here’s Mark’s email Monday morning. (Thanks Mark!)

“Luverne, MN reported an afternoon high of 90 F yesterday, setting a new all-time state record for April 1st (old record was 85 F at Winona in 1986). This is also a state record for the earliest 90 degrees F temperature reading in the spring season (formerly April 6, 1991 at Madison, MN where it was 90 F)…….somewhat of a continuation of the remarkable warmth we saw in March, setting a new state record for the warmest month of March in history.


Mixed weather bag Monday:

Look for a little bit of everything Monday in Minnesota. A slow moving frontal system will bring clouds, some sun, and a few showers and or a T-Storm is possible today and tonight.

14 Mon.png

Source: NWS

SPC does not have a risk for severe weather over Minnesota today, but the atmosphere is cold enough that a few of the storms may contain hail and gusty winds.

The rest fo the week looks “cooler” with highs still above average…in the upper 50s and 60s.

Just to remind us of what “weather reality” is supposed to be this time of year…the average high this week at MSP Airport is about 52 degrees!


  • RalfW

    So I’m curious how much our departure from mean would have been if we were using the previous 30-year average dataset.

    Because, as I know has been discussed some places and probably here at Updraft, the entire ‘averages’ thing bakes in climate change — each warming decade gets added, and the older, colder data falls away and we don’t really notice that shift.

    So what was the March average in use say in the 1980s? How big would the March deviation be for that??

  • Jay Adams

    Can you have the climatologists evaluate this March occurence I’m still amazed at: To my knowledge in the 10-day period March 10-19, MSP set the record high 8 times and record low 5 or more times. Is this the greatest number of record extreme daily temperatures in a 10-day period? Is it greater than what records are held by a 10-day period at the height of 1936’s summer?