The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 15, 2013

Technology, cutting-edge communications stand ready to better weather the storm

(Continued)

Also available today are code red warning systems the public can sign up for that serve a "reverse 911" function with warning messages delivered to subscribers' cellphones and land lines. Emergency Management operations also have their own websites (Waseca County's is waseca.mn.us) that deliver up-to-date information during crunch times.

This year, Dinneen said, the county is heavily encouraging people to buy weather radios — $25-$30 investments that give listeners real-time weather information.

That real-time warning function points to what may be the only Achilles' heel of state-of-the-art radar warning systems: Their 6- to 10-minute lag times.

As vital and important as tracking technology has become, Dinneen said there's still no substitute for boots-on-the-ground storm spotters.

"Trained eyes are the best. Technology, it's all great, but in essence it's there to support the spotters."

Dinneen said that network of spotters, interspersed countywide at strategic intervals, provide instant information in the event of tornadic activity that can well up in moments.

But where weather is concerned, even those best-laid plans can sometimes go for naught.

"Mother Nature will throw you a curve ball occasionally," Dinneen said, citing the March 19, 2012, tornado in the Lake Elysian area that was the second-earliest recorded tornado in state history.

"We had no indication of severe weather, no indication that this was going to go tornadic," he said.

"Sometimes, you have no shot."

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