Why Lancaster County misses some severe weather alerts

LANCASTER, S.C. — Severe weather warnings help people make life-changing decisions in a matter of seconds, but Lancaster County has had trouble receiving those warnings, leaving many residents with questions when dark clouds gather overhead.

Counties across the country use the software without any issues. Channel 9 learned that oddly shaped southeast counties like Lancaster in South Carolina have trouble receiving those warnings and have to look to surrounding counties and their own emergency management to stay in the loop.

“Our shape is like a pan,” said Director of Lancaster County Fire & Rescue and Emergency Management Darren Player.

Channel 9 Meteorologist Austin Chaney spoke with Player, who said the shape isn’t the only issue; it’s also where the warnings come from. Counties that surround Lancaster get their National Weather Service warnings from Greenville-Spartanburg, while Lancaster gets its alerts from Columbia.

“Columbia issues those warnings, and that causes people confusion,” Player said. “People always used to ask me, does the weather just jump Lancaster County, or does it come across? Well, it does come across.”

The last example of this warning confusion happened on April 6. The National Weather Service in Greenville-Spartanburg issued a warning for Mecklenburg, York, and Union counties, but the NWS in Columbia did not issue the same warning.

Lancaster County resident Christine Hoving says these inconsistencies cause people to hesitate when it comes to taking cover or emergency measures.

“You, yourself, would second-guess, do I really need to take cover or take emergency measures vs. if you had the warning you would automatically be preventative and go take shelter,” Hoving told Channel 9

Chaney spoke with two NWS warning coordination meteorologists, John Quagliariello from Columbia and Tricia Palmer from Greenville-Spartanburg.

When asked about April 6, Quagliariello says that the date could’ve been handled better, but he also explained the process Columbia went through.

“On April 6, forecasters in Columbia wanted to watch the evolution of the storm through York County before issuing a severe thunderstorm warning,” Quagliariello said.

Tricia Palmer says the NWS’ goal is to provide warnings in a seamless, quality way.

“Our goal is always for warnings to appear seamless when they cross weather service area boundary areas,” Palmer said.

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Austin Chaney

Austin Chaney, wsoctv.com

Austin Chaney is a meteorologist for Channel 9 in Charlotte.