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Severe weather chat transcript, April 3, 2013

Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Norman, chatted with readers Wednesday about severe weather and preparation.
Oklahoman Modified: April 3, 2013 at 12:03 pm •  Published: April 3, 2013

Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Norman, chatted with readers Wednesday about severe weather and preparation. Here's a look at the entire chat transcript:

NewsOK 9:29 a.m. Good morning. We'll get started at 10 a.m., but you can start submitting your weather questions now.

Rick Smith from the National Weather Service in Norman will be joining us this morning to talk about severe weather this year and previous records we've set.
Rick Smith 9:45 a.m. Good morning! Looking forward to chatting about severe weather today. We'll get started at 10am.
NewsOK 9:58 a.m. Keep the questions coming. We're going to get started soon.
NewsOK 10:00 a.m. OK, let's get started.

To start, we'd like to thank Rick Smith for chatting with us today.
Rick Smith 10:02 a.m. Glad to be here! Hope everyone is enjoying the rain!
NewsOK 10:02 a.m. Although we think of May as the primary tornado month, hasn't there been a lot of tornadoes in April the last two years?
Rick Smith 10:04 a.m. Yes the last two Aprils have been very busy for tornadoes. in 2012 we had 53 tornadoes, the most tornadoes ever in April. And in 2011 we had 50. That's almost our annual total.
Rod 10:04 a.m. What is the severe weather outlook for this tornado season?
Rick Smith 10:06 a.m. That's always a tough question, and honestly it's impossible to say. If we stay in the pattern we've been in over recent weeks, we'll have storm systems moving close by and any one of those could produce severe weather. Next week looks like it could get a little busy starting on Monday. But the bottom line is we don't know ho many tornadoes we'll have, but I can guarantee we'll have them. Everyone just needs to prepare for one tornado.
Guest 10:07 a.m. I'm curious as to the projected CAPE values for this next round of storms and the area of concentration for the most severe.
Rick Smith 10:08 a.m. It's too early to say how much instability we'll have with this next system (CAPE measures instability in the atmosphere). The models we use to look out into the future don't agree on how things will pan out.
S.Powers 10:09 a.m. What is the proper protocal when giving information about storms that are located across the line in Texas. I live on the Texas line but wondered about giving information to the right authorities? Say in Wheeler County Tx., if the storm is going to move into Oklahoma should the information be given to the NWS in Norman or Amarill?
Rick Smith 10:10 a.m. If you need to report severe weather from Wheeler Co TX, you would contact the NWS Amarillo office. They would share that information with us and it would be very useful for us if the storm were about to cross into our counties.
Brittany Simson 10:10 a.m. I was wondering how they determine the torcon? Also what does the torcon look like for monday?
Rick Smith 10:11 a.m. TORCON is something done by the Weather Channel in Atlanta, and to be honest I'm not sure how they come up with that number.
Mary Helton_Willingham 10:11 a.m. Are the solar flares causing the change in the AO, making this cool weather staying longer? Or are we back to a basic normal, without all the drastic changes in weather?
Rick Smith 10:13 a.m. I don't know that we can attribute the cool weather to solar flares. And I think the drastic changes in the weather are really kinda normal for this part of the country.
brandon 10:14 a.m. I love severe weather.. I have chased storms with friends but would like to get more envolved in it what do I need to do?
Rick Smith 10:16 a.m. A LOT of people want to go out and chase storms around here. We at the NWS don't encourage people to do that since it is much more difficult and dangerous than it looks on TV! The storms can kill you if you don't know what you're doing. I'd encourage you to try and get involved as a storm spotter in your local community, take a spotter training course, and learn all you can about severe weather.
Alison 10:16 a.m. Good morning, Rick! Is there a website listing spotter classes? I'm in Wagoner and could travel a short distance to attend. Thanks!
Rick Smith 10:18 a.m. Unfortunately there are no more live storm spotter training classes this season. We usually try and wrap those up before we get too far into April. We do have some online training material that you can use to get you started at this web site -
brandon 10:19 a.m. do the long range models show for an active spring?
Rick Smith 10:20 a.m. Our models don't look out past 10-14 days, but it does look like next week could be active .
Brian 10:20 a.m. What is the tornado outlook for Monday's system?
Rick Smith 10:22 a.m. Too soon to tell. As we get deeper into April and May, there is usually some tornado potential with most of the storm systems that move through the area. So stay tuned and be alert whenever we have thunderstorms in the forecast this time of year.
Brian 10:22 a.m. Thank you for the information.
Jonathan Eric Smith 10:22 a.m. According to Mesonet's 24 hour rainfall accumulation, the Norman area has about 1.7 inches. How much more rainfall is needed locally to ensure we are drought free?
Rick Smith 10:26 a.m. We've seen some really good rains over the past two days, and this is exactly what we need more of in the coming weeks. April-June are the wettest months typically, so if we don't get good rain at this time of year, it doesn't look good for summer. But even with the good rain we've seen, we're far from being out of the drought. We need rainfall events like this to happen several more times between now and summer to help the soil moisture and more importantly to replenish the ponds, lakes and reservoirs. The drought is not over!
Rick Smith 10:28 a.m. OKC got 1.40 inches of rain yesterday, which I believe was a record for April 2nd. Southern parts of the OKC metro got even more -
Ned 10:28 a.m. Please tell me this is the last day of cold weather
Tiffany Gibson 10:29 a.m. Haha. I know I'm definitely ready for warmer weather.
Rick Smith 10:30 a.m. Depends on what you mean by cold, but things are looking up after today. We're seeing some indications to may get again next week behind the next big storm system, but that's too far away to worry about right now. Here's the 7 day NWS forecast for OKC -
Guest 10:30 a.m. It looks like another powerful cold front is on its way for next week possibly bringing winter-like temperatures back. Do years where winter seems to linger like this one usually have more or less tornadoes?
Rick Smith 10:31 a.m. I don't think we've really looked at that question specifically, but I don't think there's any connection.
Don Cooper 10:32 a.m. Of the forecasting models used today, which would you say is the most accurate? or looking at forecast model agreement is the way to go
Rick Smith 10:35 a.m. We use several different models to help us make our forecasts, ranging from an hour from now to two weeks from now. There's not one model that does better than the others in all situations, and we do tend to use what we call model consensus (how much do the different models agree) and also what we call ensembling, where we run the same model numerous times with slight changes in certain parameters each time we run it. This has been a great tool and in a lot of cases helps us produce forecast. But this Oklahoma and the atmosphere has a way of keeping us humble!
Rick Smith 10:35 a.m. * produce better forecasts
Melody 10:36 a.m. Is there a website you recommend that has do/don'ts for building and locating storm shelthers?
Rick Smith 10:37 a.m. I'm not aware of a site that talks about that specifically, but I would check out the National Storm Shelter Association site -
S.Powers 10:37 a.m. Last nights Advanced Storm Spotter Class was one of the very BEST classes I have taken!!! In the future, will you be offering more of this type of seminars? I paticularly loved the radar part of it....lots of great information in how to look a storm on the radar!!!!
Rick Smith 10:38 a.m. FEMA also has a lot of information about safe rooms -
Rick Smith 10:39 a.m. Glad you enjoyed the training! We had over 1000 people from 35 states and 3 countries with us. We do plan to offer more of this type of training, both in the live interactive webinar format we used last night, and by providing training videos on our new YouTube channel -
Lori 10:40 a.m. I thought the Twitter/Facebook tornado drill in March was a great idea. How successful was it?
Rick Smith 10:43 a.m. That was a fun experiment and really demonstrated the power of social media when it comes to sharing severe weather information. On Twitter, the tornado drill message reached a potential audience of 56,000 people in less than 5 minutes because of people retweeting it. Facebook reached an even larger audience. Social media should NEVER be your only way to get a tornado warning, but it's a valuable way to get the info out to a larger audience. We really want people to follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page as we go into spring, and help us get the word out!
Tiffany Gibson 10:45 a.m. Here's a link to the NWS Norman Twitter account:

Ken 10:45 a.m. Hi Rick, over the last couple of years it appears there is a trend towards including the OKC metro in watches and warnings when the data available might be marginal. It this intentional just to play it safe rather than just present the data as it is?
Rick Smith 10:46 a.m. We're also planning to do some special weather training in the next couple of weeks specifically geared to our Facebook and Twitter fans/followers, explaining the do's and don'ts of using social media in severe weather.
Rick Smith 10:50 a.m. Interesting observation, Ken. I honestly haven't noticed that and can tell you we haven't made any systematic changes to the way we do watches and warnings. For outlooks and watches, we may tend to either include all of the metro or keep it all out to avoid any confusion when part of OKC is in a tornado watch, and part of it isn't for example. For warnings, we are very mindful of population density, outdoor events, public gatherings, etc, and we incorporate all of that in addition to radar abd everything else when we decide to issue a warning.
Rick Smith 10:50 a.m. Great questions! The time is flying by!
Tiffany Gibson 10:53 a.m. We've got 10 minutes left, so let's talk about safety precautions.

What should people keep in mind if there is a risk of severe weather during the night?

How can people receive information about a severe storm?
Rick Smith 10:53 a.m. You can always go over to our Facebook page and ask us a question, or tweet us @NWSNorman. We may not be able respond immediately, but we will get you an answer!
Rick Smith 10:55 a.m. We had a dramatic example of what happens when a tornado hits a community late at night last April in Woodward, when an EF3 tornado hit around 1220am, killing six people. It is critical that all of us have at least THREE different ways to get a tornado warning, and one of those should be a NOAA Weather Radio! The battery back-up and loud warning alarm will help ensure you get a warning even while you're sleeping or if the power is out. You should NOT rely solely on a smartphone app, a television or a warning siren to wake you up!
Tiffany Gibson 10:57 a.m. How can people prepare for severe weather before it hits?
Rick Smith 10:57 a.m. There are more ways than ever to get a tornado warning, but just don't put all your eggs in one basket. Use a smartphone app, a weather radio, TV, for example. The warning from the app may be delayed several minutes or longer if the cell phone network is jammed.
Rick Smith 11:01 a.m. The best way to prepare is to think about it before it happens. If we end up having severe weather Monday afternoon, you do not want to be scrambling around looking for a flashlight, gathering supplies to take to shelter, or figuring out where you're going to go. Do that TODAY when you can take your time and think it thru. You'll be able react more quickly and with a lot less stress if you plan now. And also just pay attention to the weather.In OK there's no excuse for anyone to say it struck without warning. we are blessed with the best meteorologists in the broadcast and government when it comes to severe weather forecasting. Take advantage of the info we're providing!
S.Powers 11:01 a.m. Go to the FEMA site and there is valuable information in how to prepare a storm kit to keep in your cellar and have a plan on how to get together with your loved ones should you be seperated during the storm
Rick Smith 11:02 a.m. The FEMA site does have a lot of great information!
Tiffany Gibson 11:02 a.m. Great information provided today.

Thanks everyone for your questions today. We're going to wrap this chat up, but stay with for severe storm updates.

Thanks again Rick for chatting with us!
Rick Smith 11:03 a.m. You should also check out our severe weather safety page. It's a great resource when you're planning for storms -
Rick Smith 11:03 a.m. Thanks for having me Tiffany! Always a lot of fun!


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