What makes a "Warning Forecaster" Happy

Doug Speheger - NWS   12/02/99
Norman Forecast Office

  This is pretty top of the line as far as busy-ness and severe weather, by December standards. In May we are used to days like this, where there is fairly widespread severe weather and tornadoes-April, May, and even June, this is pretty par for the course, but we haven't had any event like this since probably early June here. So it is pretty active, a little more than we were expecting today!

   It's very much a team effort. I sort of became designated as one of the initial warning forecasters... (the microwave beeps!) I did not get to eat before now, so I'm just fixing my late snack! I got designated as one of the primary warning forecasters... (Dave Floyd and I were both acting as warning forecasters), and then I ended up adopting the storms which developed tornadic circulation, so I was sort of captain of that ball game for a while. But it really is a team effort, because I was using one of the other forecasters who was looking at the radar on a different piece of equipment and getting a different view of it, and getting reports from the amateur radio operators and television and everything. And there is a lot of data to put together, to assimilate when making decisions, if this storm is worth a tornado warning and so forth. So things really worked together well tonight and I think we were able to give good warnings ahead of the tornadoes that they had there in Logan and Noble counties.

   We're pretty proactive here at our office to try to determine what storms are doing, what kinds of weather they are producing at the ground, because radar only gives part of the equation. You can see a lot of things with the radar but it won't actually tell you what is actually happening at the ground, so we have a good network of spotters... But lots of times storms fall in places where spotters are not deployed or where people are not looking at it.

   Joey works the phones, interacting with the public. So we have a few names of just public folks in a few books out there so that if the storm is in the vicinity and we don't have any organized spotter effort there we will call the public and find out what size hail they have been getting, if they have been getting strong winds associated with it. That really helps us in the operations to get a feel for what the storm is producing and then we use that down the line to say, "we see this on the radar and that produced nickel sized hail so this one is probably producing nickel sized hail as well. So it gives us good verification of what the radar is seeing.

   It's a pretty good feeling. There is a lot of busy-ness to it, as you could see. And sometimes just trying to gather and put together all the data you are getting in both from radar and from spotters and the highway patrol and people in the field.... Sometimes you don't have the initial impact that these are affecting people... but in the back of your mind that is part of the game too.

   And when things calm down a little bit and you see that you got warnings out and were able to give some advance warning of a tornado that developed like today then that gives you a good sense of satisfaction. That you played a key role in the process and were hopefully able to help someone. Hopefully someone was able to heed the warnings and were able to take shelter from what developed. That was especially pronounced back in May 3rd, when we had the very large and violent tornadoes that moved across the state, it was very busy and very active here. But it is great to know that, you know, the process works. That was an incredibly destructive tornado and it is still miraculous that only 20 or so people were killed--which is still unfortunate, but having been up into the damage area up in Oklahoma City after that, it's just beyond belief to me that there were not hundreds of people killed. So at some point it's good to be part of the process, especially when it works as well as it did tonight or on May 3rd.

Non-Flash Journal Index What makes a "Warning Forecaster" Happy    1