Responding to the warning; take it personal

In May of 1999 I was part of the NOAA assessment team of the Oklahoma City tornado. Devestation was like a bomb had exploded. Trees were reduced to stumps and houses were splinters of wood and concrete. Fatalities could have been in the hundreds. Warnings were heeded, but few had basements.


Our team had the chance to walk the path of destruction with emergency management officials and speak to residents who survived the EF5 twister. Some had taken last minute refuge in the hall closest as the house collapsed down on them.

I was struck by one young lady’s comment when she said she heard the siren, the sky was black and threatening. She was not tuned into a source for weather information, but was listening to a CD in her car. Only when she arrived home and heard two messages from her aunt on her phone recording did she seek more information. The meteorologist on the radio delivered a forceful warning. She survived. The house didn’t.

Few tornadoes will occur during prime time news coverage. Still fewer will be covered with live video from chasers or helicopters. Images are a game changer in inciting a response. As the say in Missiouri, “show me.”

NOAA Weather radio has been available for decades yet is hardly mentioned by journalists covering tornado survival stories. It seems the warning response is always dependent on whether the siren went off. That is an outoor warning system.

Here’s what a NOAA weather radio receiver looks like. It is integral to the warning process and information direct to you 24 hours a day. It needs to be in your house.


Range of the reception is limited and the frequency is defined for your location. This maps shows the coverage in central Minnesota into west central Wisconsin.


Statewide Weather Radio coverage can be found here. A complete story on NOAA Weather Radio is available here.

An automobile or a truck for that matter is not good shelter during a strong tornado. It should be abandoned for a sturdy shelter.


There is still time to attend local Skywarn spotter training. Check out the location nearest you. Regional spotter training schedule click here. Timely severe weather reports validate warnings and lend confidence to warning decisions.


A slug of Marchlike air arrives just in time for Easter. Ladies, hold on to your bonnet, if it’s still considered fashionable. Chilly air hangs around for the Twins Opener on Monday afternoon.



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