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Midwest, Plains Brace For "Life Threatening" Storms

Paige Brettingen |
April 14, 2012 | 3:41 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

A storm makes its way through Kansas (Courtesy of Creative Commons)
A storm makes its way through Kansas (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

As baseball-sized hail plummets on Nebraska and tornadoes descend on Kansas and Oklahoma, the National Weather Service has begun issuing grave warnings that the storms could be "life threatening." 

Though no injuries have been reported yet, according to the Associated Press, the overnight storms are the real danger for the areas between Minnesota and Texas.

According to CNN meteorologist Sean Morris, "high risk" areas could possibly endure EF3 to EF5 tornadoes, packing winds of 136 mph or stronger; and CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen reported that the Interstate 35 corridor -- from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Wichita, Kansas -- is among the most threatened areas.

Detroit News reported:

  • Director Russ Schneider said it was just the second time in U.S. history that the center issued a high-risk warning more than 24 hours in advance. The first was in April 2006, when nearly 100 tornadoes tore across the southeastern U.S., killing a dozen people and damaging more than 1,000 homes in Tennessee.
  • It's possible to issue earlier warnings because improvements in storm modeling and technology are letting forecasters predict storms earlier and with greater confidence, said Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service. In the past, people often have had only minutes of warning when a siren went off.
  • "We're quite sure (Saturday) will be a very busy and dangerous day in terms of large tornadoes in parts of the central and southern plains," Vaccaro said. "The ingredients are coming together."

The new advanced warning system is being used in hope that Midwesterners will get to their basements sooner, instead of watching the storms "roll in" as many do.

According to The L.A. Times:

  • On Sept. 20, the National Weather Service released its final report on the public reaction to the Joplin tornado. It illustrated the extent to which Missourians had ignored the warnings for a storm that would kill at least 158 people and erase 30% of the city as effortlessly as you might wipe out a sand castle by dragging a finger through it.
  • "The majority of surveyed Joplin residents did not immediately go to shelter upon hearing the initial warning, whether from local warning sirens, television, NWR [NOAA weather radio], or other sources," the report said. Many residents said they weren't worried because Joplin had never been hit before.

While the National Weather Service has said it doesn't intend to give out strong warnings if it doesn't have to, it will begin using words like "mass devastation," "unsurvivable" and "catastrophic" in warnings in an effort to get more people to take the storms seriously.



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