National Weather Service updating severe weather alerts

JACKSON, Ky. (WYMT) - Officials with the National Weather Service are updating how they will warn people about the next big storm. The National Weather Service is moving to an "impact based" warning system.

The new warnings will work just like the old system, and you will still see the familiar "tornado watch" and "tornado warning" messages, but now meteorologists will be able tag on additional information to give people a better idea of the storm heading their way.

Meteorologists say they could have used the system last year.

"When you have a large, catastrophic tornado that's moving towards people like we had on March 2, being able to use the impact based warning will just provide another level of alert for people," said Shawn Harley, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Jackson.

Meteorologists say the idea behind the new warning system as much information as possible for when tornadoes threaten. The new warnings will include words like "considerable" and "catastrophic" to describe expected damage.

"If you hear the word 'catastrophic' over the word 'tornado warning', you're going to think 'oh, this could be a really bad situation. I better pay attention and see what's going on'," said WYMT morning forecaster Brandon Robinson.

Tornados like the ones that hit March 2 are extremely rare, but forecasters say the mountains do frequently receive smaller tornadoes and plenty of severe thunderstorms.

"People need to take all thunderstorm warnings seriously, all tornado warnings seriously," said Harley. "Severe thunderstorms can produce as much or more damage than a small tornado, which is typically what we see."

Meteorologists say the new warnings will provide people with that extra bit of information, so they will know to get to safety when severe weather strikes.

The National Weather Service tested the new system in the plains region last summer. Weather stations from Kentucky to Colorado will begin using the new system April 1.

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