Internal Review of June 29 Derecho Recommends Changes to NWS Training, Warnings

Blacksburg, VA - In response to the June 29 Derecho, the National Weather Service released an assessment of how and when the public was warned, and what changes need to be looked at in warning for future storms.

The derecho left 13 dead from the damaging winds, including a Boones Mill firefighter locally. There were also 34 deaths in the week following the derecho from the intense heat and lack of air conditioning because of no power.

Locally at the NWS office in Blacksburg, Warning Coordination Meteorologist Phil Hysell said the storm kept their office so busy that there was a back-log of storm reports despite extra staffing.

"We received so many messages on our public answering machine, that I spent 5 hours on Saturday, the following day, going through each message and documenting the reports The reports were coming in at such a fast and furious rate, we could not immediately respond to some calls," Hysell said.

A complete assessment conducted by the National Weather Service outlined 13 recommendations to local NWS offices. The assessment pointed out that the derecho was historic in nature and that computer models used by forecasters simply did not show the event happening until 12 to 24 hours before the derecho formed.

The report found that while not predicted days in advance, the NWS performed well with near-term warnings issued once the derecho formed. Still, most of the public surveyed said there was not enough warning before the derecho.

Phil Hysell said it's important that people simply take warnings seriously.

"Many people were not aware warnings were in effect. It is so important to have a means to receive weather warnings," Hysell stressed.

A survey within the report that revealed most people not take any action when they hear or see a severe thunderstorm warning, because they assume the warning is a false alarm or for an "everyday" type of storm.

The assessment recommended that NWS offices look into using stronger wording in shorter statements to make warnings more effective. More use of social media for warnings and reports was also emphasized.

"Internally, we will carefully review the recommendations that apply to local NWS offices," Hysell said.

In all, the Derecho traveled for 700 miles and impacted ten states.

"It was clearly the biggest weather event of the year," said ABC 13 Chief Meteorologist Sean Sublette.

The complete assessment is available here.

-ABC 13 Meteorologist Jamey Singleton