The National Weather Service on Monday plans to begin a new initiative in Kansas and Missouri designed to make people in Tornado Alley sit up and take notice when potentially devastating twisters are headed their way. Under the new system, tornado warnings will be accompanied by stark language like, "mass devastation is highly likely, making the area unrecognizable to survivors," according to the National Weather Service. Or even: "This storm is not survivable." "We call this 'impact-based warning," Dan Hawblitzel, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Pleasant Hill, Missouri, said on Sunday. "The idea is to better convey the impact that a storm is likely to have on a community." Current National Weather Service tornado warnings generally cover portions of counties and urge people in the storm's path to take action. "There is quite a lot of over-warning going on; it's kind of the car-alarm syndrome," said Col Galyean, a meteorologist with The Weather Channel. "People who live in areas where tornadoes happen frequently, like Joplin, Missouri, for example, are kind of becoming desensitized to the warnings." A tornado slammed into Joplin last May, killing 161 people in the southwestern Missouri city and causing extensive damage. The new warnings will be tested in the two states through November 30. After that, a panel of social scientists and meteorologists will examine the responses and determine whether the system should be used nationwide, Hawblitzel said.Thanks to new Doppler radar systems the forecaster can get a much better look into severe storms and even identify "debris balls" on the radar which are indicative of a damaging tornado on the ground.
Messages such as, "Complete destruction of entire neighborhoods is likely" may get more people posting on social networking sites and taking instant action, Hawblitzel said.
This has already been an active tornado year, and the season is really just beginning. Between now and June is when the busiest part of the season takes place and the most tornadoes are likely to occur. We'll see if these warnings do any good.