Story on National Weather Service Problems on NBC

Story on National Weather Service Problems on NBC

Post by Paul W Schleck KD3 » Thu, 09 Apr 1992 14:00:59

Tonight, on Jane Pauley's pseudo-news magazine show (the exact title
escapes me title), there was a story on the National Weather Service, and how
budget cuts, cost overruns from Unisys on a doppler radar contract, and
general mismanagement has caused the NWS to put lives needlessly in
danger through inaccurate weather reporting.

I bring it up in this forum as many of us are involved in assisting the
NWS through the Skywarn program as volunteer storm/tornado spotters
(this is a *BIG THING* in Omaha, which is right in Tornado Alley).

Some of the story was crassly sensationalistic (an interview with a
widow who claimed that the NWS was responsible for her husband's death).
Other parts of it were embarrasingly true, such as NWS radar equipment
dating back the the 50's (they showed racks of TUBES inside some of the
consoles and mentioned that the last reliable supplier of TUBES, the
Soviet Union ... :-), has gotten out of the business recently).

My perspective on the story is as follows:

1.  Tornados and severe storms are chaotic phenomena that still cannot
be accurately predicted or even completely understood.

2.  Rather than hem and haw and expect government to do everything,
attempt to augment the NWS with greater weather-safety awareness and
trained volunteer weather spotters (there was *NO* mention of Skywarn or
amateur radio in the entire segment).

3.  The new radar systems will reach most areas of the country
(including Omaha) by 1994, which is fairly soon, although admittedly it
will do nothing about present-day storms.

4.  Although "problems" with the new system were briefly mentioned,
they were not gone into in any specific detail.

I was generally not impressed with the quality of this news show,
and some of the exaggerations and misinformation expressed in the
news story may unnecessarily frighten the general public. Also, like
most news stories, virtually no mention of constructive solutions to help
offset potential shortfalls in NWS was to be found.

Rather than rave about "Why doesn't the ARRL do something about....",

can be made aware of this news program and its possible significance
to amateur radio.

73, Paul W. Schleck, KD3FU


 
 
 

Story on National Weather Service Problems on NBC

Post by Mike Whal » Thu, 09 Apr 1992 23:07:53




 PWS> Tonight, on Jane Pauley's pseudo-news magazine show (the exact title
 PWS> escapes me title), there was a story on the National Weather
 PWS> Service, and how
 PWS> budget cuts, cost overruns from Unisys on a doppler radar contract,
 PWS> and
 PWS> general mismanagement has caused the NWS to put lives needlessly in
 PWS> danger through inaccurate weather reporting.

  I really would hate to see you guys get all up in arms about this. There
has been so much talk recently about how the media just creates problems
rather than helps it.

  I didn't see the story... but I feel that it should have been mentioned
that HAMs volunteer their time to bee severe weather spotters. But that
wasn't the story was it.

  The story, or how Ms. Pauley wanted it to seem, was the NWS was an evil
entity hell-bent on destroying human lives.. and we must do something to
stop it before it kills someone.

  Sensationalism.. gotta love it.

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Story on National Weather Service Problems on NBC

Post by Paul Flaher » Fri, 10 Apr 1992 03:19:56

I thought nothing could beat the tabloid journalism of the previous story
(on "gender bias" in schools), but the NWS story was so full of hype and
obvious technical miscon***erations as to be laughable at best.

The only techonology that comes close to solving the prediction problem is
doppler radar, which has been in the R&D stage since the early 80's.  
Unfortunately, trying to explain the R&D process for a new technology to
a news trog is generally a hopeless effort.  Pauley made it seem like the'd
been try to *install* an already working system for the past ten years
(thus making it seem less likely that it will in fact be working in 1994).

--
-=Paul Flaherty, N9FZX/5W1JX  |"Oochie Woochie Koochie Koo?"

 
 
 

Story on National Weather Service Problems on NBC

Post by Greg Chartra » Fri, 10 Apr 1992 04:41:51


Quote:Schleck KD3FU) writes:
> Some of the story was crassly sensationalistic (an interview with a
> Other parts of it were embarrasingly true, such as NWS radar equipment

In Omaha your NWS office personnel might take their jobs more serious. I lived in the Chicago area all my life execpt for the last 3 years. I have also been
involved in Skywarn and other programs. I am not at all amazed that the
individual held the NWS responsible. Their track record on predicting
severe in northern Illinois is deplorable. The forecasters generally don't give a damn anymore, partly due to the state of equipment, and mostly due to
poor management. Thats what happens when government management positions are politically driven.

At least for northern Illinois, I think the story was sad but true.

Greg

 
 
 

Story on National Weather Service Problems on NBC

Post by Thomas L. Carn » Sat, 11 Apr 1992 01:11:33



>Schleck KD3FU) writes:
>> Some of the story was crassly sensationalistic (an interview with a
>> Other parts of it were embarrasingly true, such as NWS radar equipment
>involved in Skywarn and other programs. I am not at all amazed that the
>individual held the NWS responsible. Their track record on predicting
>severe in northern Illinois is deplorable. The forecasters generally don't give a damn anymore, partly due to the state of equipment, and mostly due to
>poor management. Thats what happens when government management positions are politically driven.
>At least for northern Illinois, I think the story was sad but true.

I'll agree with Greg's comments 110% and then some.  The NWS went to great
lengths to cover their butts with that***-and-bull story they put out
when the tornados hit the Joliet-Plainfield area just a few years ago.
They said 20 minutes wasn't long enough to warn anybody when the damn
button for the tornado whistles are right there.  I've lived in northern
Illinois two thirds of my life and people don't take the weather watches
and warnings seriously because their track record is so bad.  

Tom  WB9RXJ

 
 
 

Story on National Weather Service Problems on NBC

Post by Robert Da » Sat, 11 Apr 1992 04:38:12


Quote:

>>At least for northern Illinois, I think the story was sad but true.
>I'll agree with Greg's comments 110% and then some.  The NWS went to great
>lengths to cover their butts with that***-and-bull story they put out
>when the tornados hit the Joliet-Plainfield area just a few years ago.
>They said 20 minutes wasn't long enough to warn anybody when the
>button for the tornado whistles are right there.  I've lived in northern

 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Quote:>Illinois two thirds of my life and people don't take the weather watches
>and warnings seriously because their track record is so bad.  

>Tom  WB9RXJ

Dead wrong.  The National Weather Service has absolutely nothing to do
with the tornado siren system.  That is covered by county and local
Civil Defense / Emergency Management agencies.  The NWS can disseminate all
of the Tornado Warnings that they want, but if CD doesn't want to sound the
sirens then they won't be heard.  What's rarely brought up is the fact that
FAA personnel and local police agencies knew about the tornado but
neglected to warn places in the path of the storm.  If the town hit first
were to call a city down the road and said "We've got a tornado coming
your way," I doubt that ESDA would say "Thanks, but since the NWS didn't issue
a warning, we're not going to sound the sirens."  On the show the other
night the lady interviewed from Plainfield state the she saw swirling clouds,
hail and debris flying around.  If that were me I'd take cover!  Do
people need the weather service to tell them that a severe thunderstorm
is dangerous?  A severe thunderstorm watch and warning were in effect ath
that time, and the context of EVERY severe thunderstorm warning contains
the line "SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS CAN AND OFTEN DO PRODUCT TORNADOS WITH
LITTLE OR NO WARNING."  Where were local amateur radio operators and
civil defense spotters when this took place?

And by the way, local weather service offices do not issue watches, they're
issued from the Severe Storms Forecast Center in Kansas City, MO.

Rob
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