New system enhances severe weather information

by: Vicki Graf Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Spring is one of the busiest times for dangerous and destructive storms, and there is an advanced system being used in our area to help provide better warning before severe weather hits.
This new system was launched in March for only a few select regions in the United States, and parts of the area are included in the trial.
An experimental product known as the Impact Based Warning system was created in 2012 to help provide more detailed and valuable information when there are severe storms. 
In March, Ashe and Watauga counties were selected as the only counties in North Carolina for this trial system.
With the current system, the National Weather Service will issue a tornado warning. It will tell you the cities that are in its path and how long the warning is valid for.
With the new system, it gets into even better detail, telling people there could be flying debris if there is a tornado and it will confirm the source if a tornado is spotted on the ground.
Eyewitness News talked with Phil Hysell, who is the warning coordination meteorologist in Blacksburg, Va.
He said after the 2011 tornado season, meteorologists recognized there was a need for a better warning system during severe weather.
"It was decided that we needed to have a different bell ringer to our warnings. (A) one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for us,” Hysell said.
When warnings are issued, they will be more specific to help visualize the biggest impacts. Warnings will now include specific damage you could see from strong winds, hail or tornadoes.
"I think that wording will grab the attention more for those in the path of the storm, and as a result, they will take the appropriate action," Hysell said.
If the trial is found effective, it would eventually replace the old warning system.
People will still get severe weather warnings the same way they do now through weather radios, texts, email alerts and crawling at the bottom of the TV screen.
The warning times won't be any faster, but the best way to stay informed during severe weather is to stay with Channel 9, which invested in Charlotte's most powerful radar that allows meteorologists to track the storms and give viewers enough warning before a tornado approaches.
Severe Weather Center 9 also sends severe weather alerts right to mobile devices with the WSOC-TV weather app that also has an interactive radar to track storms.

For more information on severe weather, visit the NWS website.