The SPC, or the Storm Prediction Center, is a federal government agency, a part of NOAA and NCEP, all essentially under the same umbrella. The SPC has the charge for eyeing severe weather all across the nation, 365 days per year. When conditions warrant, issue assessments, discussions, mesoscale discussions, and when needed, the infamous SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH and the TORNADO WATCH. Those two watches in particular are never issued solely by the local National Weather Service offices. They are issued by SPC in Norman, Oklahoma. The actual warnings, based on a combination of radar indication, SKYWARN Storm Spotters, law enforcement, and media reports, are issued by local National Weather Service offices.
Now that I’ve given you a better look at how SPC works, let’s talk about what did not work yesterday. Or Monday. Or Thursday, March 24. Why these three days in particular? On these three days, my area of the Southeast US, particularly the National Weather Service local office in Greer, SC, had multiple tornado touchdowns, storm damage, and funnel clouds to investigate. On every single one of those three days this year, SPC only had our area (and many areas across the Southeast) at a MARGINAL risk. Well, Rich, it’s marginal, they said something, so what’s the big deal?
As of right now, we’ve had the 3rd highest amount of tornado warnings since 1986, to this date. The vast majority of them came on these three dates above, all of which were MARGINAL or 1 out of 5. Marginal is the lowest risk which is “we may have a few isolated severe storms”, not tornado outbreaks with a half dozen to over a dozen warnings issued and verifiable damage on the ground. A SLIGHT risk is 2 out of 5. ENHANCED is 3 out of 5. MODERATE is 4 out of 5, and the very rarely used HIGH RISK, is 5 out of 5. On one day this year, we were under ENHANCED RISK, 3 out of 5, and no tornadoes that day. But three days at 1 out of 5 produced dozens of tornadoes and severe weather reports.
What gives? And why are you being critical of your own Meteorologists here Rich?
Especially since the dozens of experts have WAY MORE EXPERIENCE than independent old me, a single Meteorologist with a Bachelor of Science degree in hand and 25 years of experience, I’m much more practical and scrappy. When I see big discrepancies like this, I ask WHY? My hope is by rattling the cage a little bit, I can get SPC to do the same. Because if they are patting themselves on the back “good job” for the coverage over the Southeast, it’s not well deserved in my opinion. At least this year.
So what’s the bottom line here? As much as weather forecasting accuracy has improved year over year in the 25 years I’ve been in this business, there is still a long way to go. I’ve quickly learned living here in South Carolina what storm patterns to worry about and which to not worry about. Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall. It still all comes down to the track of storms, jet stream energy above, and instability. Put all three in the right spot, you’ve got trouble. They were in the right spot for SC twice this week but SPC didn’t see it that way. My hope is they ask WHY, give more thought to the factors involved, and confidently make the accurate and right calls in the future. Because we need them. They are the official voice of the NWS and part of the overall team of Meteorologists looking out for you every day.
SPC, I hope and pray that you finish 2022 a lot better than you started it here. Every day is a new day. Let’s learn from this, improve, and go out there and get it next time!