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NWS expands severe weather warnings

Published 1:31pm Saturday, March 30, 2013

ST. PAUL — Residents of Sumner County, Kansas, received a dire warning last year as a tornado barreled through toward Wichita: Get underground or into a shelter — or else.

“Mass devastation is highly likely, making the area unrecognizable to survivors,” the National Weather Service cautioned last April.

In an effort to get people to safety quickly, the National Weather Service said Friday that it will expand its retooled severe weather warning system in Kansas, Missouri and 12 more Midwestern states.

Starting Monday, it will provide media outlets and emergency services with more detail about the strength of a brewing tornado or thunderstorm, what it may hit and when. The system will also detail possible hazards and impacts of any potential tornado based on radar data, and more information on less severe but still “considerable” storms.

Mike Hudson, an NWS meteorologist in Kansas City, Mo., said alerts with words such as “catastrophic” and “destruction” will likely be rare — once a year in Kansas and twice a decade in northern states like Minnesota. The words will be reserved for “those types of tornadoes that ultimately take lives, so we want to ring the bell a little bit louder,” he said.