Stations Expand Scope Of Tornado Warnings

In covering tornados over the past week, broadcasters supplemented their more traditional on-air, real-time forecasting and weather radar images with warnings on social media sites, station websites and even robotic telephone calls. Doug Heady, chief meteorologist at KOAM Pittsburg, Kan., says: “I really don’t consider us nowadays to be TV meteorologists; we are kind of multimedia meteorologists.”

TV stations in the path of this week’s deadly tornados in the plains and the South used a variety of media — not just their broadcast signal — to warn the public of the impending danger.

Social media like Facebook and Twitter, station websites and even robotic telephone calls to registered viewers supplemented the traditional on-air, real-time forecasting and reporting.

Story continues after the ad

KATV radar
Doug Heady, chief meteorologist at KOAM, which serves Pittsburg, Kan., and Joplin, Mo., says social media and the Web are transforming his role and that of his peers.

“I really don’t consider us nowadays to be TV meteorologists; we are kind of multimedia meteorologists,” he says.

The severe weather system developed in rural central Nebraska on Sunday afternoon. At about 5:30 p.m., a tornado struck Quapaw, Okla., a small town in the northeast corner of the state. The system moved north into Kansas where one tornado struck Baxter Springs and another touched down northwest of Joplin.

The same system then spawned a massive tornado that struck central Arkansas, including the towns of Vilonia and Mayflower, north of Little Rock. By Monday morning, the system had moved into northern Louisiana, Alabama and North Carolina. Preliminary estimates say the system was responsible for nearly 80 tornados in all.

Brand Connections

Ned Perme, chief meteorologist at KATV Little Rock, Ark., agrees that the role of television meteorologists is evolving as new media alternatives supplement station’s on-air storm coverage. “It’s a different world than it was years ago,” he says. “There are too many distractions — cable TV, satellite TV. People are not paying attention [to stations' coverage] as they did before.”

KATV offers a weather app and Weather Call 7, a robocall service that automatically phones more than 45,000 people in the area who have subscribed when they are in the direct path of a storm, he says.

Perme also took a more rudimentary approach. He asked viewers to call or text friends and family in Vilonia and Mayflower as the tornado approached, he says. His 29-year-old daughter, who was watching Perme on TV, took his advice to text a friend in Vilonia, who was not watching television and was unaware of the imminent danger, says Perme. That friend took shelter with her family, and when she emerged once the tornado had passed her grandparent’s home in Vilonia was gone.

KOAM offers an iOS and Android app that is linked into its WSI radar. “It’s pretty live,” says Heady, referring to the slight delay between the WSI radar scan and when it’s actually delivered to users of the app. “I’ve looked at it and compared it (to real-time radar sweeps). It maybe lags a minute and a half,” he says.

For closer to real-time radar data to smartphones, tablets and computers, Heady relies on social media. “I am huge on social media. I have 30,000 people on my Facebook site."

“We tag teamed our on-air coverage of the storm,” Heady says. “I had my weekend guy, when he was not talking on air, push every single warning that was coming out and push out radar images to both our Facebook and Twitter sites."

Those social media warnings and radar posts are especially important to people who have lost power and can’t tune in with their televisions, he adds.

Keith Monahan, chief meteorologist at KARK Little Rock, says Sunday’s tornado, which cut a path between Mayflower and Vilonia, illustrates how important simulcasting the station’s weather coverage online can be to viewers caught without electricity.

“The power did go out very early for folks who were watching our coverage [in the Mayflower-Vilonia storm path],” he says. “We have one employee up in Vilonia who said the power went out about 12 minutes before the weather hit because it took out a distribution line in the southern part of the country. But they were able to watch the streaming coverage because cell phone towers were still working at that point.”

Monahan points out that the station’s streaming coverage can also be important for people on the road.  Some travelers on I-40 in Arkansas drove directly into the tornado, which to them looked like a wall of rain, says Monahan. “If drivers are not familiar with the area ... they don’t know what county they are in,” he says.

Mike Smith, senior vice president at AccuWeather, says the public was better informed about the recent  tornados than the killer tornado that struck Joplin three years ago. Smith chronicled the errors made by the National Weather Service during that emergency in his book, When the Sirens Were Silent.

This time around, the National Weather Service “did a very find job” of updating warnings of Sunday’s tornados, says Smith. “At about 2:45 p.m., the National Weather Service updated its ‘Severe Weather Outlook’ from a moderate risk to a high risk warning for Arkansas. And then a few minutes later they put out a rare ‘Particularly Dangerous Situation’ tornado watch,” he says.


Comments (6) -

Insider Nickname posted over 2 years ago
Of course JD Shaw and FormerGM will point to this as weather hype instead of savings lives.
B D posted over 2 years ago
Well of course..as we all know, mankind as we know it today would cease to exist without the Tv Weatherman to save us.
Insider Nickname posted over 2 years ago
Thanks for proving my point, while ignoring how deaths from these disasters have been minimized to a handful from hundreds (if not thousands) from several generations ago.
newsoldie Nickname posted over 2 years ago
BD, you should not be so cynical, where lives could be at stake. One day, yours could be one of them. The only way to accurately predict where a tornado will land and how much damage it will do, is to have a direct pipeline to God. If you don't have one, I wouldn't be so judgmental. We use what we've got. It ain't perfect, but it's better than what we had.. and it's a heck of a lot better than nothing.
Digitizer Nickname posted over 2 years ago
Though severe weather social media posts are helpful to many, on-air meteorologists must be careful not to imply to viewers that just following them on social platforms will keep them safe. In this age of Facebook throttling up to 95% of a brand's page posts and a user's Twitter feed being overwhelmed with tweets, they very well would never see a life saving weather alert. Provide and point viewers to products (texting, robocalls, websites, mobile apps) that will always get the weather alerts to them immediately.
BdcstObserver Nickname posted over 2 years ago
KOAM's done an absolutely great job with their web site in general. They're a good model for how a small market station can make a consistent positive impact on the community, and there's never a more critical time than in tornado season, there is the middle of tornado alley. Hats off to their web manager-news director-metrologists-and GM.
Marketshare Blog Playout Blog




Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 26, 2016
  • 1.
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • 4.
  • 5.
  • 6.
Source: Nielsen


  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

    The second reboot of the 1980s John Candy movie Uncle Buck, bumped by ABC from midseason, has the same tired jokes you'll find on any second-rate sitcom. Too bad, because Mike Epps is appealing and ABC would be wise to keep him around for future shows, but there’s just not enough to this show to suggest it will last past summer. It also airs against NBC’s America’s Got Talent, summer’s No. 1 program on broadcast, which may make it even harder to find an audience.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

This advertisement will close automatically in  second(s). You will see this ad no more than once a day. Skip ad