Buffalo, NY -- When severe weather hits Storm Team 2 keeps you updated on all the latest warnings and storm reports. Warnings for tornadoes, severe storms, and flooding save lives and every minute is precious when issuing the warnings and getting them out to the public. You usually see meteorologists on TV when severe weather hits, but you rarely see the backbone of the process, the meteorologists at the National Weather Service (NWS) issuing those warnings.
Dozens of meteorologists at the NWS office in Buffalo near the airport closely watch various weather data for hours and pull the trigger on warnings during severe weather events. "Very quickly draw a polygon, almost like a rectangle, around the storm and move that down stream... where we expect that storm to go," NWS Meteorologist David Zaff said.
The pressure is on to get the warnings out as quickly as possible with plenty of time for the public to take cover. On average the lead time given for severe storms has increased from just minutes a couple decades ago to nearly 20 minutes today. "If you actually get a warning on your cell phone or you see it on TV, usually it's going to be a 15 minute time period from when you can take action or take cover and protect whatever it is you might want to protect from the outside from getting damaged," Zaff said.
Another huge pressure when issuing warnings it to make sure it's warranted which Zaff says nearly 90 percent of all severe storms do have warnings issued. "We try and do the best we can," Zaff said. "We will call around look for some type of verification usually through the police network or the 911 center and see if anyone has reported tree damage or large hail."
It's this kind of damage from severe storms that makes the quick and efficient warnings by the weather service meteorlogists extremely necessary to keep the public out of harms way.