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National Weather Service: Weather Service radar, warning systems fail during...

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Published Time: 02.04.2024 - 16:04:06 Modified Time: 02.04.2024 - 16:04:06

It was not the first instance of such a network failure — more isolated outages occur as often as once a month, Herzmann said — but was perhaps the most consequential in recent memory. Meteorologists around the Midwest were without key information that would normally be at their fingertips, and many severe-weather warnings went out to the public late, if at all. National Weather Service


The breakdown lasted more than four hours, Weather Service officials said, creating “intermittent” network disruptions at many of its 122 offices. Each is responsible for monitoring weather and warning the public dangerous conditions in its region.

During the outages, severe weather necessitated 50 tornado and thunderstorm warnings across states including Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky, said Daryl Herzmann, who runs the Iowa Environmental Mesonet and maintains a cache of data on Weather Service watches and warnings across the country.

It was not the first instance of such a network failure — more isolated outages occur as often as once a month, Herzmann said — but was perhaps the most consequential in recent memory. Meteorologists around the Midwest were without key information that would normally be at their fingertips, and many severe-weather warnings went out to the public late, if at all.

“There are little outages all the time,” Herzmann said. “Typically they don’t have this large of a blast radius, let’s say. This was a big one.”

At times, the issues led to duplicative and delayed warnings. For example, the Weather Service’s St. Louis office was unable to issue two tornado warnings early Tuesday, so the Kansas City office issued them instead; when the St. Louis office’s systems came back online, the warnings went out again, Herzmann said.

It also led to confusion for broadcast meteorologists who were seeking up-to-date information for their audiences as severe weather moved through.

Jacob Dickey, a meteorologist with WCIA in Illinois, said on X early Tuesday that he was receiving hand-drawn maps of tornado warning areas from the Weather Service’s St. Louis office, as it was unable to send out the warnings electronically.

Clear data issues happening with NWS right now.NWS St. Louis is hand drawing polygons for tornado warnings to share with media and radar products have been down since 12:25a. Sheesh.

Other major outages have occurred in recent years, including in 2021, when its websites crashed and data became inaccessible. Meanwhile, even when radar systems are operational, gaps in radar coverage leave millions of vulnerable to missed severe weather warnings.

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