Researchers To Watch For Southern Storms

When you think tornado, you probably think of big storms that you can see for miles.  However, what we see in the Carolinas can be much different.

We’re more likely to see smaller storms that still pack a punch.  Tornado development in these storms is harder to detect…and any tornadoes that might from can be harder to see through trees and rain.

Scientists from across the country gathered in Huntsville, Alabama to come up with ways to help us better predict severe weather, and better warn you when that weather threatens.

The project is called VORTEX-Southeast.

It will study unique issues in tracking storms across our region.

One such issue is topography: the changes in elevation with our mountains and rolling hills.  It’s something there isn’t much of in the Plains where most tornado studies have been done, and something that VORTEX project manager Dr. Erik Rasmussen knows can be a significant issue in tracking storms.

“We’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of using our computer models to try to describe how the topography effects the environment the storms are moving through.  That’s a completely wide open book, and that’s something that’s obviously very easy to study here in the Southeast.”

Another part of VORTEX will look at how you get, and react to, severe weather warnings that are issued.

Dr. Laura Myers is the Executive Director for the Center for Advanced Public Safety at the University of Alabama, and how people behave when warnings are issued is in the heart of her area of expertise.

“One of the biggest issues is the overnight tornadoes.  When people go to bed at night, they need to be aware that tornadoes are a possibility…and how are they going to get the warnings during the night if they’re going to bed.

I think the biggest issue is for the public to be aware of how they can get the weather warning information.  There’s so many different ways they can get that information and they may not be aware.  Not relying on one source is a big factor as well.  A lot of people are going to think sirens are going to work for them, and with the overnight tornadoes, you’re not going to hear a siren overnight when your asleep.”

Dr. Rasmussen says that tying all of this together is the key in making sure people stay safe.

“What we would like to see is that we learn enough about the atmosphere and about how people respond to warnings that we can greatly improve the tornado warnings.  So that when that warning comes out and you hear about it, you can believe that you better take some action instead of saying “well I better run outside and see if I believe this or not.”

This means when severe weather strikes, we’re all better prepared.

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