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NWS in the Pacific NW

Billy Griffin

Okay, so enough with the acromyns. Now that I have your attention, I'd like to start a rather interesting debate/discussion of the wide variation in issuance of weather advisories from NWS office to office.

So, I'm driving home from the office yesterday (around 4:45pm), and keep in mind, this is Seattle, WA we're talking about, and suddenly I encounter a deluge of small hail! :eek: I'm not talking just a brief moment, but rather 5-10 minutes of penny to nickel size hail! Indeed there were some reports of damage at local car lots, etc. etc.

So, I call up the local NWS office here in Seattle and advise them of what has just happened. Traffic is at a stand still (worse than usual mind you.)
Their response was about as excited as if I would have called in to tell them that my mother had phoned me the night before! :confused: Then, as I'm talking with them, explaining to them that I just moved here from Oklahoma, the guy starts going on and on about how I needed to attend a weather spotter's class here locally, that their reporting criteria was "different." What the...........? Then as I'm talking to him, listening to this guy, a woman comes on the radio with a live report of someone on their car phone east of Tacoma, reporting what looks to be a funnel cloud !!! Sure enough, another, and another person calls in. The traffic 'copter is now checking this out, and finally I see it off in the distance. Sure looked like a full-fledged funnel cloud to me!

Sure, we can debate the science of whether it was a cold air funnel, true rotation, etc. - it was rather dark, and I could not observe rotation... wasn't close enough for that. What I did see was a funnel that was about 1/3 the way to the ground, and extremely dark cloud base, and the hail had just passed right when I saw this thing.

So I called the NWS office back, advising them of what I had seen and that KMPS radio had listeners calling in the same reports and that their traffic "chopper" had observed this same thing. The same guy (forecaster) advised me that he would contact KMPS, but they normally didn't issue warnings for tornadoes or severe thunderstorms up here - said it would "scare people too much." I'm quoting him on this now.
I couldn't believe my ears !!!

I have lived here since August, and I can recall 4 times now this year, where I have honestly observed either a wall cloud, funnel cloud, hail in excess of 3/4 inch, extreme flooding and wind damage, and narely a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado Warning was thought of being issued. I even recall one instance where, in the local AFD, the forecaster mentioned that a strong mesocyclone had been observed on radar for over half an hour, yet no warning was ever issued.

Granted, I am not a Meteorologist by college education. I do not claim to be a professional meteorologist. But I do believe I know a little bit about chasing and severe weather observations, and in talking with my neighbor yesterday, he says, "Oh yeah, we see funnels all the time over the valley here, but no one calls them in because the weather reporting around here sucks!" Those were his EXACT words!

So, the debate has been introduced. I wonder if there are far more instances of severe weather than are reported in this part of the country, and why do the local NWS offices just brush them off as if they're not worth reporting?

Yes, I remember where I'm at... that this IS NOT Oklahoma, not the Midwest, and that tornadoes and severe storms are indeed rare. But my counter to that is they indeed do occur up here!

Why would there be such a big difference in the "reporting criteria," as the forecaster I spoke with explained? And what "criteria" is he asking for? By definition, isn't a thunderstorm classified as severe by the same standards across the country?

I'm sure others have witnessed the same situation. Maybe not to that extreme, maybe so. But nevertheless, it was very disappointing the way the forecaster just brushed it off. I could tell he was very young (shouldn't matter one bit), but again, all he said was I should take a local spotter's class here and keep in mind this is not Oklahoma.

Thought I'd share this experience with everyone, and get your thoughts. I wish I had some photos of the event, but it's impossible to capture photos stuck in I-5 traffic.

Thanks everyone,
Pretty active PSCZ going on right now, in fact. Penny to Nickel size hail was reported at the University of Washington campus in the past hour. Interesting little setup with have going on the past couple of days.