National Weather Service Makes Change in Warning System

Doppler 12 StormVision
Doppler 12 StormVision

The National Weather Service is changing the way it issues severe weather warnings. Starting next fall the warnings will no longer blanket entire counties. They will instead focus on the specific area that's threatened.

The new system is already in use at the weather service's Birmingham office. The rest of the country will go online October First.

With the old system, an entire county was placed under a tornado or severe thunderstorm warning. But it's not always the entire county at risk.

Doppler 12 StormVision Meteorologist Rob Hatchell says tornados and most thunderstorms are relatively small.

"So if you warn the entire county, you're warning a lot of people who don't need to be warned," he said.

The new system allows the weather service to pinpoint specific parts of counties, using landmarks like communities, bodies of water, and highways.

"The point they're trying to get to is, 'hey let's just sound the sirens that are in the area that is under the threat of severe weather,'" said Hatchell.

But some county emergency management agencies are a bit leery about picking and choosing which sirens to sound. Montgomery EMA officials say they'll likely stick to their policy of notifying the entire county whenever a warning is issued.

"It's a great technology that we'll be able to use," said EMA Deputy Director Steve Jones. "But if there is the threat of severe weather, we would be remiss in notifying only part of the county."

You will still be able to see the areas most at risk of severe weather on WSFA 12 News, Montgomery's only television station with its own live radar.

"The new National Weather Service system is similar to what we can do with Doppler 12 StormVision," said Hatchell. "We can track where a storm is headed and tell you which cities it's going to affect at what time."

And it's up to television stations to relay National Weather Service warnings to its viewers. So ultimately, most people will not notice a change.

Reporter: Mark Bullock