Archived Story

Are tornado warnings failing to warn?

Published 9:25am Wednesday, May 16, 2012

By Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio News

WADENA — National Weather Service experts use cutting-edge technology to detect tornadoes quickly and keep you safe. But they can’t get in your head — and that’s the problem.

The basic tornado danger system — warnings are broadcast, sirens sound and people take shelter — stumbles over some frustrating psychology: Most people don’t run for shelter at the first sign of danger but search, instead, for information to confirm it.

Experts say the weather service has often ignored behavioral research on delivering a “take cover” message that sinks in quickly. Officials say they’re working to make warnings more timely and effective. Human nature, though, is hard to change.

 

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