NOAA's Storms Prediction Center to make changes to severe weathe - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

NOAA's Storms Prediction Center to make changes to severe weather outlooks

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The Storms Prediction Center in Oklahoma is changing a category of their severe weather outlooks from "slight risk" to "enhanced risk."  

Emergency managers say the public is tuning out the word "slight," and getting caught off guard by deadly tornados that can still occur on those days.

The Storms Prediction Center in Oklahoma, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, prepares severe weather outlooks for the entire country several days in advance. Their categories include slight, moderate, and high risks for severe weather.

By definition, the slight risk category implies a 15 to 30 percent chance of damaging winds and severe hail, as well as a 5 to 10 percent chance of a tornado within a 25-mile radius. That's an area of almost 2,000 square miles, roughly the size of Hamden, Hampshire and Franklin counties combined.

While those odds do seem slight, the Storms Prediction Center believes the phrase "enhanced risk" would still make the public better aware of a credible threat for a tornado.

Those areas on the upper end of that criteria will receive the "enhanced risk" label. Areas less than enhanced will receive a new "marginal" label. The moderate and high categories will keep those names and criteria

On June 1, 2011, the Springfield tornado forever changed some of the local landscape. In the two days prior to that storm, Western Massachusetts was indeed placed under that slight risk category for the line of thunderstorms expected to move through.

The Storms Prediction Center is also responsible for issuing the more familiar tornado and severe thunderstorm watch boxes in the United States.

NOAA is expected to make a final decision on the Storms Prediction Center's proposed changes in April.

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