Severe Weather Season Can Bring Some Confusion

May 10, 2021

Even though we can get severe weather anytime during the year, we are now in the peak storm season, and there is still some confusion when it comes to updates from the National Weather Service.

There’s that saying that if you don’t like the weather in Texas, just wait, it will change.  And so far, 2021 has not disappointed.  In February, the City of Waco stayed below freezing for a record 205 hours.  That beat the record of 150 hours set back in 1983.

And just a week ago there were severe storms in the area.  

“That tornado warning still in effect for Hill County, so again if you are in Blum, uh, Covington over toward Itasca even northwest of Hillsboro and Whitney, you need to head…” 

That was Fox 44 Chief Meteorologist Mike LaPoint covering the recent storms that produced an E-F2 tornado that caused damage to several homes and business near Blum, just north of Waco in Hill County.  

The Fort Worth office of the National Weather Service is responsible for providing watches, warnings and forecasts for McLennan and 45 other counties in north and central Texas. 

According to meteorologist Sarah Barnes from the National Weather Service, the severe weather season usually lasts until early to mid-June. So, what is it like for the meteorologists when severe weather breaks out? 

“Some events we have storms confined to one single area, then other times we have storms going up everywhere, so then we do have to sectorize and hand off certain areas to certain people.  Like everybody has a task to do that day, or a role to play.” 

Meteorologist Troy Kimmel is a senior lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, and teaches severe and unusual weather.  He says so many people still don’t truly understand the difference in the weather statements issued by the National Weather Service. For instance a watch versus a warning….. 

“Hey, let’s watch this, let me keep an eye on this, and maybe I can, have to change my plans later on.” 

“Uh, you get a warning, it means there is a threat to life and or properties to some degree.” 

Sometimes the National Weather Service will issue a special weather advisory, and when it comes to severe weather it means the storm has not reached the severe criteria. 

“It means a sub severe thunderstorm, hey just watch out and be careful, it’s going on right now.  But, you just need to be cautious, more of a public inconvenience.” 

Barnes and Kimmel both say that the National Weather Service will be getting rid of weather advisories in the near future since it tends to confuse people. But, there will still be watches and warnings issued when conditions warrant.   

And while meteorologists are trying to keep people safe and away from danger, there are some people that just can’t keep away.  Take David Pauly for example, he’s a 40 year old security officer in Bastrop, and is also a member of Centex Storm Chasers.  It’s a group of people that go out and observe active storms. 

Pauly says that he checks the Storm Prediction Center website on a daily basis, to see the potential for severe weather, and believes that this has been a slow year so far. 

“Um, by this time a couple of years back, I can say I was chasing, probably ten times by now. And this year, I’ve chased once or twice.  And none of them for me down here, had any rotation, I was just chasing a hail storm just the other day.” 

And while Pauly is in it for the thrill, and to report what he sees to the National Weather Service, he says he still takes a lot of precautions. 

“Cause most storms will move northeast, and you don’t want to be caught in front of a tornado, in front of, you know, a major hail core, so that you can try to avoid damage.” 

You can always get the latest weather forecast, as well as severe weather predictions at weather dot gov slash fwd. 

With KWBU News, I’m Dustin Drew.