Weather Service Testing New Tornado Warning System

The system is designed to reach people in a more concise way allowing them more time to respond to potentially deadly storms.

Henryville tornado

Photo: Dan Goldblatt/Indiana Public Media News

Henryville High School was badly damaged by tornadoes in March.

The National Weather Service began testing a more graphic tornado warning system with stronger language this week. Tests are being conducted in Kansas and Missouri, but Indianapolis-based Meteorologist Dan McCarthy says the warnings are designed to help residents in the entire tornado alley including Indiana.

McCarthy says the messages include language about the impact severe storms can have rather than mere information about their existence. He says the goal is to reach people in a more concise way and thus save lives.

“With all tornado warnings we‘d like to have people react right away, but in this world, we have sirens, we have broadcast information, we have other tornado warnings and systems that might be confusing to the public,” McCarthy says.

McCarthy says the system aims to re-sensitize people to watches and warnings and give them more time to take safety measures. Currently, tornado warnings come about 13 minutes prior to onset. McCarthy says they want to increase that warning time for people.

The tests will run until November, but McCarthy says they are especially important in the Midwest because tornado season runs from April through June.

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