Do we need stronger tornado warning language?

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We are a storm chasing nation. Between The Weather Channel and Discovery Channel, a lot of people want to “Be Like Reed”. (Reed Timmer, well-known storm chaser.) When tornado warnings are issued, the first thing many people do is grab the camera and run outside. Forget about going to a place of safety. Getting video is the primary task.

The media helps this process along, of course, by featuring tornado video on the air whenever a severe weather outbreak occurs. So the question becomes: have we become jaded when it comes to severe weather warnings, especially tornado warnings. Well, not all us.

Here is Wisconsin we do not live in Tornado Alley, and severe weather warnings are not an everyday occurrence like they are in states like Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Missouri. It is safe to say that for most Wisconsinites, a tornado warning posted for their county would get their attention.

Apparently tornado warnings are not always taken seriously in other parts of the country, specifically in Tornado Alley. Warnings are so numerous in spring and early summer that residents tend to take them for granted. That is the reasoning behind new, stepped-up wording that local National Weather Service offices will attach to some of their tornado warnings.

“Impact-based warnings” will have additional, ominous wording attached to tornado warnings, e.g. “mass devastation is highly likely, making the area unrecognizable to survivors.” Another example: “Complete destruction of entire neighborhoods is likely.”

Wow, those strong words certainly set the tone, don’t they? Even the most complacent people will stand up and take notice of tornado warnings with those words attached to them. I highly doubt we would see that wording ever used here in Wisconsin. But other states get many more tornadoes and the residents hear many more tornado warnings than we do.

Remember that your best defense against severe weather is a NOAA Weather Radio. It is a necessary piece of equipment I think should be present in every home, business, and school. Don’t rely on outdoor sirens to hear severe weather warnings. They are designed to be heard if you are outside and happen to be close enough to a siren.