New tornado warnings to get people to take heed

New tornado warnings to get people to take heed

NewsChannel 10

Amarillo, Texas - It's a sound people in the Panhandle know all too well, the alert of severe weather moving into the area.

But even with the sirens sounding off and the warnings ringing out, many people don't take cover like they should.

Instead they wait until the storm is literally bearing down on them, which was the case in Joplin, Missouri, where an EF-5 tornado killed more than 150 people.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Sarah Johnson says, "Even though the warning was issued several minutes in advance, people in Joplin were waiting for multiple confirmations of a threat, before they took action."

The "cry wolf" phenomenon is being blamed for the lax reactions.

Three out of every four times The National Weather Service issues a tornado warning, no tornado actually touches down, and it's causing some people to stop taking them seriously.

Johnson explains, "Because of the nature of the Panhandle, where we have so many wide open spaces, unless somebody actually sees a tornado or we find a damage path, we don't know if there has actually been a tornado."

But that doesn't mean you should take the warnings lightly. Which is why The National Weather Service is turning to a scare tactic of sorts to get people to take heed.

Descriptive tags are being added to warnings, that will better convey the severity of a storm's expected impact.

Phrases like, "this is a very dangerous storm," or "damage threat catastrophic," will be used to more effectively communicate the hazards of an approaching storm, in the hopes that people will understand the risks they're about to face, and take action before it's too late.

Johnson says, "Time is something you don't always have a lot of when we're talking about tornadoes, so the sooner you take cover, the better your chances are going to be."

The new system is being tested in Kansas and Missouri starting Monday, but could be expanded nationwide in the near future.