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May 31, 2013 Oklahoma City Traffic/Chaser Debacle

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blog-0899121001370118466.jpgI generally stay away from opinion posts in this blog, but the events that transpired yesterday deserve attention.

First, I think that it needs to be pointed out that chasers and spotters provide invaluable information to the National Weather Service in the form of ground truth. This is a concept that most of the general public (and even some meteorologists) on the East Coast do not fully understand. Without these folks burning their personal gas, warning lead times could be substantially different in some cases.

With that said, there are quite a few amateurs out there that know just enough to find a storm and get themselves (and potentially others) killed. These people do not have a handle on basic storm structure and thus do not know how to attack a storm a properly. There are also the experienced guys that know better, but still conduct storm intercepts in an unsafe manner to get their video on CNN. Both of these groups are ruining what used to be a prestigious hobby. Now the million dollar question is what do we do about this problem on the chaser side of the things? It is a tricky question, but I believe that it is going to come down to law enforcement cracking down on obvious storm chasers breaking minor laws (slightly speeding, etc). Is it right? No, but I really do think that this is what is going to end up happening.

Then you have the other side of spectrum that contributed to the traffic mess … broadcast meteorologists. Some of these broadcast meteorologists are completely incompetent and they simply have no business on television … much less in a high risk area such as Oklahoma. We are asking for a disaster when we have people, such as Mike Morgan at KFOR, that are telling people to attempt to drive away from a tornado after warnings are out. Keep in mind that this goes against pretty much every tornado/severe weather safety checklist. If you are going to leave, do so well before the storms fire (we are talking 10am). How these people are allowed to stay on the air with a NWA seal is beyond me. Put bluntly, they are an embarrassment to the profession. Broadcast meteorologists need to be held accountable for spewing such garbage, before a large number of people get killed because of inaccurate safety information.

If an air traffic controller goes against protocol and puts the public’s safety in jeopardy then they are reprimanded. This should be no different for broadcast meteorologists during severe weather. I would love to see the operational meteorological community as a whole step up and do what needs to be done … hold these incompetent meteorologists accountable.

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