New weather technology improving how meteorologists track severe weather

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — With images like the ones seared into our memory banks from the April 27, 2011 tornadoes, we all want as much warning as possible when severe storms roar through Alabama.

The good news is weather technology has never been better.

“We have some great new tools that help us track storms when they’re bearing down on different communities,” says CBS42 chief meteorologist Gene Norman. “We can pinpoint threats in a way we’ve never been able to do before.”

Norman can use software to track hail, lightning, and can even look inside a storm to see if it’s a threat.

“We can show storms that are towing 50,000 to 60,000 feet, slice them open and show you which direction they’re moving, and we’re detecting dangerous rotation that can help people understand: here’s a safety threat. Take it seriously and get to safety,” Norman said.

Safety is a top priority at the National Weather Service (NWS). Meteorologists like Jim Stefkovich work around the clock to monitor weather conditions.

Since the April 27, 2011 tornadoes, the NWS has installed a new advanced radar that allows them to identify tornadoes sooner and more accurately.

The radar is so advanced that the experts at the NWS can actually see debris being lifted up by a tornado.

“We’re actually seeing debris being lofted up from tornadoes which has confirmation that tornadoes are pm the ground,” Stefkovich said. “Still has a lot to learn, doesn’t mean every tornado will be a confirmation. But, because of that, when we issue a warning, we have a lot more confidence that an actual tornado is on the ground.”

There’s visual proof that forecasting is more accurate than ever before, but there’s one thing meteorologists can’t control – human nature.

“We could issue the best warning in the world, but if somebody doesn’t receive that information or doesn’t act upon it, we sort of feel helpless,” Stefkovich said.

Norman says it’s best to have a multi-layered approach to being weather aware. He recommends using a weather radio, a weather app, and watching CBS42 for real-time updates.

Copyright 2014 WIAT-TV CBS42

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