Take necessary action when severe weather warnings are issued

Take necessary action when severe weather warnings are issued

When severe weather threatens, there are a few words you’ll hear our weather team use – watch and warn.

A watch is issued when a system comes together that could produce severe thunderstorms or tornadoes. It basically means “to watch out” and pay close attention to the changing weather.

If you hear a warning for your site, it’s time to take action immediately.


What you need to know

  • Warnings are issued by National Weather Service forecast offices across the country
  • The largest tornado outbreak in North Carolina occurred on April 16, 2011
  • Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Raleigh were forced to shelter in place during the outbreak on April 16.
  • A small interior room in the basement of a sturdy building usually provides the best shelter during a tornado

Alerts such as a tornado warning or severe thunderstorm warning are issued by the National Weather Service when this type of severe weather is observed or radar indicates it is imminent.

Issuing warnings is just one of the responsibilities meteorologists have at National Weather Service forecast offices across the country. They also update daily and hourly forecasts along with providing flight forecasts.

We recently visited the National Weather Service office in Raleigh and spoke with Jill Hartfield, one of their lead meteorologists.

Hartfield has been forecasting weather in the region for just over three decades. It issued several severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings at that time, but says April 16, 2011 is the date that stands out the most.

As the tornadoes struck that day, “there were very strong indications that they were going to be long-term, high-intensity tornadoes,” Hartfield said. “It was a tough day because people were worried about their families, too.”

Thirty tornadoes were reported that day across North Carolina. It remains the largest tornado outbreak in the state since weather records have been kept.

While tracking storms and issuing life-saving warnings, it became clear to meteorologists working that day that one of the tornadoes would come dangerously close to their office on the third floor of a building on North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus. They contacted the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Virginia, which issued warnings for central North Carolina.

Hartfield and other Raleigh forecasters took cover at the bottom of the stairs while a few miles away a deadly tornado tore through part of Raleigh. Once the danger passed, they returned to issuing warnings in the area.

Just as Harftheld and her colleagues had a plan, we should all have a plan to act quickly once the warning is issued. “Know where to go if there’s a storm coming,” Harftheld said. “You’d rather take it seriously, you might get a little upset than risk your life.”

A small interior room in the basement of a sturdy building usually provides the best protection during a tornado or severe thunderstorm.

It’s also important to have multiple ways to receive weather alerts. Check your Spectrum News app settings to make sure these alerts are turned on.

Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms can occur any time of the year in North Carolina but occur most frequently from March through May.

(Tags for translation)VOD

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