Monday, January 23, 2012

Alabama Tornadoes "Struck Without Warning..." - 'Mainstream Media' Proves Yet Again That They're A Chicken Nugget Shy of a Happy Meal...

...and I apologize to all of you Happy Meal lover's out there for disrespecting your brand...

Anyway, I need to get this off of my chest before I try to get some sleep tonight.  Some in the mainstream media, led by Diane Sawyer at ABC "World News Tonight" allege that the tornadoes which struck the South overnight "came without warning while people slept..."

I beg your indulgence through the brief commercial at the beginning of this video.  You'll see my point right off the top when Ms. Sawyer begins to speak:

Message to Diane:  Nothing could be further from the truth!!!

I would suggest that the team at ABC do some research before stating that folks were not warned of the tornado threat overnight.  This threat had been advertised for 24 hours or more in advance, beginning with forecasts issued by the SPC in Norman, OK on Saturday.

Local media and social media outlets (including this very blog) warned people throughout the day Sunday to be prepared for a nighttime severe weather event - including the possibility of tornadoes - overnight and early Monday morning.  We encouraged folks to turn on a NOAA Weather Radio with a battery back-up, or have some alternate means of receiving warnings during the overnight hours.  The clip below is from a post on this blog at 2:30 in the afternoon on Sunday, over 13 hours before the tornado(es) struck the area:

The first Tornado Watch for the Birmingham area was issued at 11pm CST on Sunday evening - nearly 5 hours before the tornado(es) struck.  

As the event drew nearer, National Weather Service Tornado warnings were issued hours before the parent thunderstorms actually affected the Birmingham area.  In fact, warnings were issued as soon as the storms began to exhibit the potential for tornado production along the Mississippi/Alabama border, first at 2:09 am CST:

The first warning that specifically included the Birmingham area was issued at 3:02 AM CST, more than one hour before the most significant damage took place on the Northeast side of town:

...and was followed by another warning at 3:32 AM CST:

To say that these tornadoes struck without warning is asinine, and does a disservice not only to the meteorological community who is out there to save lives, but more importantly to the citizens watching the "media" outlets that report such garbage.

Is it any wonder why 20-30% of average citizens in post-tornado surveys say that they have a lack of confidence in weather information and storm warnings?  With the mainstream media out there pushing the notion that every event "came without warning" I guess we shouldn't be surprised.

I have been known to be critical of the National Weather Service for lackluster warning performance in certain situations in the past, but this is not one of them.  Folks were given plenty of warning in this case.  While I am deeply sorry for the tragic loss of 2 lives in this event, I think the fact that the death toll was so low during a significant nighttime tornado event speaks for itself.

It's no wonder why I stopped watching "network" news so long ago...and it's a practice that I intend to keep for the foreseeable future.

If you'd like to send a comment to ABC News, please go to this link.  Be sure to choose "World Snooze News Tonight with Diane Sawyer" in the drop down box...

Update at 3:40pm CST on 1/24/12:  If this report on "TV Newser" is true, ABC News intends to "clarify" its report on the Birmingham tornadoes this evening.  This is no doubt the result of the tens of thousands of concerned citizens that have been bombarding them with comments and feedback today.

By the way, do I believe ABC's statement (in the article that I linked above) that Diane Sawyer was referring to the fact that this occurred in the middle of the night when people were asleep?  Absolutely not.  That has nothing to do with whether or not advanced warning had been given.  Anyway, we shall see what happens.  I will post the clip as soon as it becomes available, along with any relevant thoughts...

Update at 6:45 PM CST:

Below is the segment from tonight's broadcast.  By no means was it even close to a retraction (I wouldn't even call it a "clarification" as they did earlier today because of the fact that they never mention that they gave completely false information on last night's segment):  

The real question that I have is this:  will they cry "no warning" the next time something like this happens?

They did point out something useful toward the end of the story, having to do with using a crash helmet when seeking shelter.  I have been working on an updated tornado safety post for this spring, which includes information on using helmets.  I am working to complete that post ASAP - I hope to have it out this weekend.  

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Anthill_Goddess said...

Amen! I do not take ANY of my weather-related information from national media. I trust local media (and not the ones on the TV, most of the time though I do check in with them!) to give me the *real* outlook on what's going on. A good majority of that comes from our local NWS in Johnston, IA. If THEY tell me (minutes before it's broadcast over the TV) I need to be seeking shelter, you bet your butt I'm dragging my family to the basement (sans the hubby who HATES being awoken in the middle of the night for "just a storm" though I always tell him and give him the option!) I'm SO tired of sensationalizing stories to get headlines! The two (so far) deaths were someone's daughter/sister/friend/relative and someone's father/grandfather/brother/friend, etc.! THERE WAS WARNING, and plenty of it!

(Sorry, this just peeves me as I have so many friends who think I'm the nutty one for following weather and the ins and outs of it all!)

Prayers continue for those caught in the path of these storms! And for you, Rob, who try to keep us ahead of them! Thank you for what you do. <3

Shamrock said...

NO WARNING?????? They can't be serious. Why would they even say that? Are they saying this because it's what viewers are telling them happened ? I don't get my weather from the television. I visit NWS and this blog a couple of times a day to get the skinny. If both sites are warning against even a slight risk of severe weather then I check in on both sites all throughout the day/night until the threat has passed. I also watch the radar during a severe event. I truly hope people aren't feeding the media garbage like that. The media should doublecheck it's information before flapping it's yap.

Shamrock said...

I forgot to mention the importance of a weather radio....I also forgot to mention that Rob is my fave weather man. He gives us the weather on a personal level. I know he cares about people and truly wants them to be safe and well informed.

ReedTimmerwannaB said...

I would encourage anyone that is angered by this like myself to take a moment and write a complaint to ABC. I did. It took me all of 3 minutes to do. It may go to some random email address that never gets checked, but it mad me feel better.

Rob White said...

ReedTimmerWannaB, thats a good point. I have added a link to the post where you can send a comment to ABC News.



Rob White said...

Shamrock and Anthill,

Thats the ironic thing. In all of the news accounts (from local media anyway) that I've read or video clips that I've watched, I've not heard one citizen in Birmingham say that they had "no warning" on Sunday night.

It's almost like the national news media automatically includes "it came without warning" in every severe weather related story. This isn't the first time I've seen this by any means, but it's perhaps the most asinine use to date.

Thank you as always for your kind words!


Elizabeth said...

Found this blog post via a retweet from James Spann, weather man extraordinaire for Birmingham. I happen to live in Birmingham and was well informed via Twitter, Facebook, TV, and radio about the impending storms on Sunday night. There was ample AMPLE warning about the possibility of severe weather and actual tornado warnings for Jefferson County were issued at least 30 minutes before the tornado.

It is an insult to the people of Alabama, as well as our amazing meteorologists, to hear that we had no warnings. We lived through April 27. We know what storms can do. Every single person I know is tuned in to the weather and well aware of when storms are due to strike. Maybe we weren't before, but after the massive outbreak of storms and their horrific damage, we all pay attention.

Thanks for helping bring this story to a larger audience. World News should be ashamed of itself for letting such a story air.

Rob White said...


Thank you for the comment. First of all, let me say that I'm glad to hear that you are okay. I hope your friends and family in the area are as well...

Your comments pretty well confirm what I had seen so far in reading news articles and watching video clips of folks in the area. No one felt like this struck without warning, which further substantiates my claim that there was no "fact checking" done, just the typical blanket condemnation.

I too am a "Spann fan". You are very fortunate to have him in your area!

Thanks again and please take care,


Barb and TC said...

My comment as sent to World News:

"The warning and dedication of James Spann and his team saved my life and the lives of many others through the years. To claim that neither he nor the NWS gave any warning to the events of Monday morning is plain insulting.

We rely on our news outlets to report on fact; not tug at our emotional heart strings.

Please either choose your words more carefully or don't read statements from the prompter that you don't know to be true."

ChickashaOK said...

I quit watching ABC Nat'l news about a month after Ms. Sawyer got the job of lead newscaster for exactly this reason: statements that are simply not true. Time and again, in their short teaser ads for the evening news, ABC and the local affiliate promise the "dramatic new" video or story.

HEAR ME!!!! If I want drama, I'll watch wrestling.
I just. want. the news.

The point of the story was at the very end! She talked about registering with FEMA.COM as the fix for the masses who had 'no warning'. (My momma used to tell me, 'Sure, I believe that. Now, tell me another one.)

Ron Paul is right. Big government finds a 'problem' (proven not to exist by this blog by Rob White) and spends federal debt to fix that 'problem.'

May God bless all those that suffered loss during these storms. Living on the Oklahoma end of tornado alley, I have seen many similar scenes. And God bless the people who did their jobs and saved lives. THEY should be the point of this story.

IT Guy said...

I live in Birmingham and can tell Diane and anyone else that needs to know that my wife told me at 6 PM Sunday night that tornados were expected. I pulled up the NWS web site and looked at the radar and saw storms in Arkansas at the time and said, not, it will be morning before they get here.

At 8 PM,my wife and son came in from a friend's house and said they were going to sleep in the "man cave" basement room... which I said was fine but not to bring the non-house-trained dogs into the carpeted room, but the dogs could stay in the tiled area next to that room. They opted to stay in the bedroom for a while.

I was in the "man cave" basement room at 10 PM and looked at the NWS radar again and saw storms were popping up in central MS in front of the main line I had seen that was just at the Arkansas/Mississippi border and I let them know that storms would be coming sooner than I thought (but right when they were originally predicted).

Needless to say, everything went north of Birmingham and we are South so we were fine but we did spend much of the night in the basement, based on reports that my wife had heard early in the day and confirmation through the NWS web site and of course, ABC 33/40 through the night.

We were well warned and we don't really even watch the news that much! I don't know where my wife first heard about it early in the afternoon, but she did. And then as per usual, she called her family to be sure they were aware.

If everyone would take to time, once they hear about the potential, to let their friends and family know, that would spread the news like wildfire -- even to those who don't monitor it all day.

Our company has an employee from the Clay/Trussville area that heard the sirens, got out of bed and went to the basement, only to have the roof collapse onto their bed when the storm got there. She is safe and sound because there was a warning!

Rob White said...

Several readers have commented and/or e-mailed me stating that they have clicked on the link that we provided and sent a comment directly to ABC News.

If the number of hits that we're seeing on the blog today has any correlation, I think ABC is getting hammered with our feedback. Question is - will they respond? (Don't hold your breath).

James Spann, the popular TV Meteorologist in Birmingham, has challenged Ms. Sawyer to a debate as to whether the storms struck "without warning". I don't think he's holding his breath waiting for a reply either...


Rob White said...

IT Guy,

Thanks for your comment. You are correct in that word of mouth (or spreading the word like wildfire) works wonders, especially in today's social media dominant/"always on" society.

Regardless of the source, I'm glad to hear that your wife got the word and alerted you and your family to keep an eye on the weather. That's truly what it's all about...

Ron said...

The issue of "without warning" depends on the person. Since this was a nighttime event, with a watchbox issued at 11pm CST, I could easily see where an individual who is not tied to the internet on their smart phone (me for one), and doesn't watch much TV, didn't get the word that tornadoes were a possibility overnight. Despite all of the watches, warnings, blogging, etc, there still is a responsibility required on the part of the citizen to stay informed. The NWS can't knock on everyone's door and wake them up. That said, "without warning" will always be a sexier news headline and get more attention.

Rob White said...


Thanks for the comment. I agree 100% that personal responsibility always plays a role in these situations. However, to say that the storms struck "without warning" as ABC News did is completely false.

By your own admission there were forecasts, watches and warnings in effect well before the storms struck. The question as to whether or not every person heard and acted on them is another matter. I would suggest that the fact that the death toll from a strong tornado occurring at night was so low (but certainly still tragic for those families) would suggest that most did know about the threat and took some type of precaution before turning in for the night (see comments from IT Guy and others).

Thanks again,


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