Tornado warnings: failed dissemination mechanism

The mailing lists are abuzz with indignant meteorologists.  This is about the tornado that struck the Georgia Dome where the University of Georgia was playing Mississippi State. Announcers on sports radios state that people in the stadium had no warning.  They're probably using the words "no warning" in a generic context. But to a meteorologist, a "warning" is a technical term.  And there was a tornado warning issued for the event about 10 minutes before the tornado struck the Dome.  And even earlier, there were warnings for severe weather and for hail.  Hence all the indignation.

Nevertheless, it appears that the warning never made it to the hordes of basketball fans in the stadium. The folks at Georgia Dome seem to not have made the announcement.  It was fortunate that the game went to overtime, otherwise basketball fans would have been in the parking lot when the tornado stuck. In other words, the problem is not that a warning was not issued but that the dissemination mechanism failed.

We need to have warning applications that will automatically send weather warnings to mobile phones.  A while ago, a colleague and I did a proof of concept using a web service and Android's cell-phone-tower triangulation capability. Somehow, though, I don't have much hope that it will see the light of day any time soon.   Dissemination is a private sector responsibility and government agencies like the National Weather Service are afraid to tread there for fear of being slapped down by Congress. And since few people are willing to pay for weather information, the private sector seems uninterested in the mass market.  Besides there seem to be liability issues that are far above my pay grade to sort out.

The sad thing is that we're probably one disaster away from resolving this.  Close calls like the Georgia Dome incident are not going to do it.

Disclaimer: My opinions, not my employer's.

No comments:

Post a Comment