In December of 2018, a tsunami killed over 2,000 people along the beaches of Sulawesi, an island in Indonesia. The tsunami was triggered by an earthquake that occurred off the island’s shore. Sulawesi’s seismic and tidal detection systems registered the earthquake, but significantly understated the size of the tsunami that would follow. The tsunami was expected to be under 2 feet, but ultimately was nearly 20 feet high. The below video depicts the destruction the tsunami caused.
Beachgoers had no sirens to warn them. Instead, text messages were sent out, yet the earthquake disrupted the power lines necessary to distribute the messages. The results of the flawed system were disastrous. Where were the weather warnings when the population needed them?
Where’s the Tornado?
Tornadoes can be devastating. One of the worst tornadoes in recent memory spread across the town of Moore Oklahoma on May 20, 2013. Two dozen people were killed.
The Moore tornado prompts that people pay attention to warning sirens, but what happens when there are too many false alarms? What happens when these systems break and governments, both local and federal, don’t fund repairs or enhancements? Nashville had to deal with this very problem. In 2017, storm warning was issued for a small area in Antioch, Tennessee. However, 93 storm sirens placed across the county are tied together, which means sirens located 25 miles away from the storm went off as well. People who were in no danger heard the warnings, which, over time, causes them grow desensitized. These technical failures can result in tragedy if they are not rapidly fixed.
Making the Right Investments
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a government agency that is largely responsible for recording weather conditions and patterns. The data the agency accumulate are instrumental in helping to predict storms and catastrophic weather events. Unfortunately, funding to the NOAA has been and continues to be cut, which increases the likelihood of members of the US population to be caught off guard by an approaching storm.
Weather data also are becoming privatized. Accuweather, a private company managed by Barry Myers, is making efforts to prevent the public from accessing data published by the NOAA. He instead seeks to have people pay for the data through Accuweather, which would effectively mean that only paying customers will receive weather warnings.
Continued investment needs to be made in the NOAA. Too many lives are at stake to cut funding to such a critical government agency. By privatizing weather forecasts, those who cannot afford to pay will be more vulnerable than the rest of the population.
Taking Action Ourselves to Account for Flawed Weather Warnings
The NOAA publishes its weather forecasts and reports on its Storm Prediction Center website. The agency is active on social media and frequently tweets alerts and warnings. I suggest you follow the agency on Twitter to stay apprised of the latest developments. We can stay ahead of efforts to suppress this information by proactively seeking it out. Furthermore, we write to our elected representatives to urge them to make the continued access to weather information a top priority. We can also choose to vote against those who receive funding from Accuweather. The US is still a democratic nation, so it’s important we exercise our right to vote about critical issues like this one.
Would you recommend any other actions? Leave a comment below or contact me directly.