Meteorologists around the nation work to collaborate every single day. This communication is an essential part to our daily workflow, especially when there’s severe weather inbound.
The National Weather Service largely runs our main communication channels between broadcast meteorologists, emergency management, law enforcement and trained storm spotters. We use an NWS-run tool called Weather Chat Live each day so that we can share weather information. The problem is, last month, the NWS went dark for a day.
It’s not uncommon for weather chat to go down. Local meteorologists at St. Louis' National Weather Service say it’s an outdated system that has capacity limitations that just are not up for the task sometimes. Usually, when chat goes down, it’s just for one office. On March 30, 2021, the entire NWS chat system failed. Luckily, here in mid-Missouri, we had a calm weather day, but things could’ve ended much worse if the weather had been bad.
NWS Chat is where trained storms spotters can tell the local NWS offices what they’re seeing from storms. This helps meteorologists at the office know what kind of warnings to issue. Without eyes on the ground, we have to rely completely on radar. The next issue with this chat failure is that us broadcast meteorologists get no warning ahead of time whether we need to break into television programming because the NWS is planning on issuing a warning on a particular storm system.
Without this communication, every aspect of keeping you safe, including emergency management, local meteorologists, and law enforcement is left to do their best at guessing what is about to happen. Will the local NWS office issue a warning? Have any spotters seen damage from a storm or even a tornado on the ground? We have no way of knowing without having a way of communication with the NWS.
Some local offices have realized this problem and turned to other methods of communication which are approved by the national office. In an ABC 17 News investigation, Zola Crowder will take a deeper look at the problem plaguing emergency workers and what those alternate communication methods are tonight at 10 on KMIZ.