NWS office calls chaser tornado reports false, social media feud ensues

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Jan 14, 2011
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Today, experienced chaser Dick McGowan reported two tornadoes in the Texas panhandle. The NWS Amarillo office publicly dismissed the reports as false, and did not issue warnings. A Twitter firestorm has ensued.

One of the tornadoes in question, near McLean before sunset tonight:
https://twitter.com/ConnorMcCrorey/status/675833889680588800

The NWS' reply:
https://twitter.com/NWSAmarillo/status/675829622903144448

Screen cap of the NWS chat entry:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1090612437639602&set=p.1090612437639602&type=3&theater

Some seemingly in-the-know social media posts suggest that the on-duty meteorologist was new to the AMA office and unfamiliar with the region's severe weather and/or the general knowledge of experienced chasers - however, this is unconfirmed info.

Having had this happen to me on multiple occasions (sacrificing video/photos to make reports only to have them ignored) I can understand the frustration. However, in this case, we may be looking at an NWS met inexperienced with Plains severe weather.

I think it's apparent this incident will be the subject of scrutiny, and hopefully changes, moving forward.
 
Jan 20, 2015
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Norman, Oklahoma
The guy that is in the NWS chat is fairly new to the Amarillo CWA, but what is surprising is that he is the WCM (Warning Coordination Meteorologist) for the office now (replaced the one that recently went to another office) meaning he isn't a newbie by any means in regards to being in the NWS.
 

calvinkaskey

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Feb 17, 2014
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I sent a video of an unreported funnel cloud or tornado to the NWS 5 minutes after a tornado warning expired and they said it wasn't one then the next year 4 people ended up dead not too far away in the same warning area without a warning. There is a reason to look into reports. If your local NWS disagrees with you they should send the info to the SPC in Norman. The video of that funnel/tornado was very bad I have to admit but then in N.C. a cop reported a tornado and no warning over NWS radio for 7 minutes. A warning did pop up on my phone but that again took at least 5 minutes. Apparently schools didn't know about it either since a school bus seemingly continued to drop kids off right where it hit a few minutes earlier.
 
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This was handled very poorly by both sides. The NWS met should not have responded to the report in that way. McGowan should have been a little more clear on his location and should not have went off afterwards like he did.
I'm not really sure what the proper response is when a representative of a government agency takes to social media to accuse you of lying. A more civil response would have likely gone unnoticed. I would think the Amarillo NWS office needs people like Dick McGowan more than Dick McGowan needs the Amarillo NWS office.
 
Nov 25, 2008
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Dallas,TX
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Since the NWS recent response was that they were afraid of spoofed or otherwise unreliable reports I hereby drag back in the dead horse and pass out a few sticks. This problem can be reduced by beefing up and standardizing spotter training.
Require testing afterward that results in a unique identifier being issued and added to a database of vetted spotters / chasers. This would improve the quality of the reports and the NWS would have a better idea of who is making the reports. Currently anyone with a little basic wx knowledge can breeze through the SN test. Anyone can go to a local spotter training session and sit through the class (no test) and call in.
Veteran chasers and spotters should be able to handle the new training and testing with little effort. Those who wish to make false or spoofed reports may not want to have to clear the new hurdles just to make bogus reports. I know this has been hashed out many times before but maybe it's time to take another look at this to try and improve the overall process.
 
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Dec 8, 2003
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Southeast CO
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What an interesting thread! I'm confused about what time this happened. The Twitter stuff says after 4PM, so I assume that's CST, but is that EST? Anyway, here is some data from the Mesoanalysis archives....

2210Z (410CST) radar:

151212_2210radar.PNG

2145Z visible... Check out that CF boundary, and the band of convection from Childress to Shamrock and then wrapped around from there back toward Groom, telling me there's some vorticity/helicity stuff going on!:

2145vis.PNG

23Z vis:

2300vis.PNG

22Z CAPE:

2200CAPE.PNG

My conclusion? I'll side with Connor and Dick. I've seen stranger things. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
 
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Sep 8, 2014
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Norman, OK
I'm not really sure what the proper response is when a representative of a government agency takes to social media to accuse you of lying. A more civil response would have likely gone unnoticed. I would think the Amarillo NWS office needs people like Dick McGowan more than Dick McGowan needs the Amarillo NWS office.
You do not respond in the way McGowan did. You do not call an organization "***holes" and throw a tantrum in the public eye. If you have a problem with someone, handle it in private. Acting professional in the public eye is absolutely necessary, especially when you have such a large following like McGowan.

Second, you do not threaten to "boycott" storm reporting. Whatever happened to this "saving lives" attitude? Chasers are there to report ground truth and, even though there was a disagreement yesterday on the report, that is still your purpose.

Yes, the NWS office should not have called McGowan a liar. But, he has to know how to handle himself.

Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
 

John Farley

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Apr 1, 2004
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FWIW, it appears that the NWS office has now added this tornado to their LSRs:

97
NWUS54 KAMA 131806
LSRAMA

PRELIMINARY LOCAL STORM REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AMARILLO TX
1204 PM CST SUN DEC 13 2015

.TIME... ...EVENT... ...CITY LOCATION... ...LAT.LON


.DATE... ....MAG.... ..COUNTY LOCATION..ST.. ...SOURCE.


..REMARKS..

0553 PM TORNADO 9 W KELLERVILLE 35.37N 100.66W
12/12/2015 GRAY TX STORM CHASER

BRIEF TORNADO TOUCHDOWN AS SHOWN IN STORM CHASER VIDEO.



EVENT NUMBER AMA1500844
 

Jeff Duda

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Anyone have radar / velocity scans from last night when the tornadoes were reported? There should have been technological indications, especially with the large tornado.
The radar data from yesterday is probably part of why NWS Amarillo was quick to discount the report. The storm that produced the tornado was never a supercell, probably produced its tornadoes below the 0.5 degree beam (especially given the analyzed LCL heights in the area compared to the radar beam height), and may have produced tornadoes between low-level scans. The storm was also not very impressive looking in reflectivity - it was pretty small and not very well organized looking.

When I saw the report on Facebook, it took me a minute to figure out what happened, but I figured it out. I would think any halfway qualified NWS meteorologist with some experience watching severe storms on radar should also be able to figure it out.

See for yourself. I believe there was a description of this storm as being LP-ish, and that the tornadoes were behind the rain. The first few scans below show a very weak anticyclonic rotation signature on the backside of the storm, behind the rain. If there's any hook at all, it's actually pointing the wrong way. The velocities in that "couplet" (if you can even call it one) are very weak, never exceeding 20 kts. The rotation signature also had basically no vertical correlation except at the 2329 UTC volume scan. The storm never looked any better than this and was dead within 30 minutes. I can see why there would've been doubt as to the legitimacy of the report. However, given the analyzed 30 kts of 0-1 km shear in the area and a small amount of 0-3 km CAPE, I think it's careless for any meteorologist to automatically conclude there could not have been a tornado.

KAMA_20121212_2327.png KAMA_20121212_2329.png KAMA_20121212_2331.png KAMA_20121212_2334.png KAMA_20121212_2336.png KAMA_20121212_2338.png
 

rdale

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Mar 1, 2004
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The geotagging system on SN is definitely not the best either which doesn't help matters if you're attempting to use that to estimate someone's position at the time of the report.
I think a lot of the questions could have been answered had he used SpotterNetwork to send in the report. It would have posted in their chatroom with a lat/long and the direction he saw the tornado, it would have popped up on their screens, and every GR user would have seen it plotted exactly to that intersection too.

As we've been preaching for years... If you aren't going to use voice to send in a report, that's fine, but include all the information that's necessary ESPECIALLY when you are the only one reporting the feature.
 
Jul 16, 2013
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Joplin, MO
As we've been preaching for years... If you aren't going to use voice to send in a report, that's fine, but include all the information that's necessary ESPECIALLY when you are the only one reporting the feature.
The most I will say regarding this, because quite frankly I think this is silly and being blown out of proportion, is I think Twitter is possibly the worst method one could use for reporting severe weather, especially tornadoes. To me, it has always been easiest to simply pick up the phone and call it straight into the NWS. I think had he done this, none of this would have ever happened.
 
Feb 21, 2012
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Wichita, KS
NWS Amarillo offered somewhat of an apology on their Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/NWSAmarillo/


In their post they said "We would like to extend an invitation to the storm chaser and spotter community to help us find a way that we can filter these reports, and how to better handle storm reports that we may receive in the future in a timely manner. –NWS Amarillo Management".

It seems like some good may come out of this event by highlighting a need for developing an effective system to determine the legitimacy of reports. It also started a discussion about the trust between NWS mets and chasers. Hopefully they can develop a system in which NWS employees can quickly determine the legitimacy of a report when it's received, maybe based off of a list of reputable spotters/chasers. This could be the subject of another thread, however, but it seems like this website would be a great place to discuss that.

Someone like Dick's report should never be considered fake or false, but in the defense of the NWS met, we can't expect them to know who every chaser is. The few NWS mets I know are somewhat uninterested with the who's who and treat every report the same. This is why getting a list of reputable (based on report quality, not the size of social media following) is an easy way to sift through the garbage reports. I think there's this thing called SKYWARN that does something like that, lol.
 
FAKE? FAKE? FAKE? FAKE?...... It's much to easy for NWS AMA to shift the blame on someone else instead of admitting to the outside world that oops we got it wrong this time. I personally know some of the talents of these chasers in question and would support their credibility any day.
 
Dec 8, 2003
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Southeast CO
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The velocities in that "couplet" (if you can even call it one) are very weak, never exceeding 20 kts. The rotation signature also had basically no vertical correlation except at the 2329 UTC volume scan.
That's great looking data, and would be somewhat convincing, but 2329Z?? On Connor's Twitter post, it says 4:25PM, and on the actual vidcap of the alleged tornado there is a timestamp of 21:21:57. That would suggest the Twitter time is in EST, which is okay with me. I am very perplexed.
 

Jeff Duda

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That's great looking data, and would be somewhat convincing, but 2329Z?? On Connor's Twitter post, it says 4:25PM, and on the actual vidcap of the alleged tornado there is a timestamp of 21:21:57. That would suggest the Twitter time is in EST, which is okay with me. I am very perplexed.
There's no way this occurred at 4:25 PM CST. For one, the storm didn't exist at that time. For another, there would've been much more light available, and probably therefore a higher quality image.
 
Feb 1, 2012
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Rolling Meadows, IL
Poorly handled situation all around. This is a great example of the downside of social media because one miscommunication balloons into a total mess when it could have been handled immediately with a short phone call.

Also, tweeting while angry is like texting an ex when you're drunk, nothing good comes from it.
 
Apr 26, 2014
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Emporia Kansas
Hey Taylor Wright Recall the, storm i was chasing south of Emporia Ks along with Jesse and Brandon remember the rotation on that storm? and yet the NWS in Topeka Or Wichita Ks issued a Tornado Warning on this storm. I did see a brief spin up.

But i did not see a Tornado on the ground but i would have thought they would have issued a warning based on radar. That being said i was wondering why that never happened. Also the velocities on that storm was crazy.
 
Nov 4, 2008
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Norman, OK
texasstormchasers.com
Previous posters have commented on the social media feud so I'll forgo that. What pissed me off was a chaser posted NWSChat logs directly onto social media. It was slightly amusing though that the individual who posted the chat log did so in a public forum almost assuring his quick removal from the program. Storm chasers are a part of the Integrated Warning Team along with broadcast media, emergency management, local spotter groups, and certain VOST elements. Leaking confidential chat logs puts a strain on the trust required for a IWT. As someone who has spent years building up trust with Texas NWS offices as part of my VOST duties I believe the 'leaking' of chat logs was probably the most damaging aspect of this conflict. I hope Dick and the Amarillo office can sit down together and make this a learning experience. I know both Amarillo and Dick have made amends on social media.
 
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