AUSTIN (KXAN) – The National Weather Service is working to make alerts issued ahead of hazardous weather less confusing.
Right now the National Weather Service issues Watches, Warnings and Advisories. Watches are issued to prepare you for bad weather. Warnings mean life or property are in danger and you must act immediately. Advisories are meant to have you act, but for less serious hazards.
KXAN spoke with Eli Jacks, chief of the Forecast Services Division for the National Weather Service.
“The word advisory, because it’s really quite non-specific and it just sounds like advice, not only is it misunderstood as to what it’s supposed to mean which is an imminent hazard that’s less serious than a warning, but it’s also confused with Watch,” said Jacks.
The problem is, if you think an Advisory is a Watch, then you don’t take action to avoid hazardous weather.
Here in Central Texas our most common Advisories are for strong wind, intense heat or minor flooding — all hazards that should not be underestimated.
“If we want people to be prepared for something that’s imminent, even if it’s a less serious hazard, we don’t want them to think that we mean that it may happen, we want them to understand that it’s something that is happening,” Jacks said.
The National Weather Service announced earlier this month that in three years it will no longer issue Advisories. Watches and Warnings will remain.
Instead of the weather Advisory, you’ll see a message describing what the imminent hazard is and the potential impacts. For instance, a sample message might read: “Caution, light snow could make your morning commute slippery.”
“There is still that area that we need to be able to convey that yes there’s something happening, you’re going to have to take extra time, you’re going to have to take over preparatory actions to avoid something that you wouldn’t want,” said Jacks.
They will be taking input from the public as well as broadcast meteorologists to figure out which exact “plain language” to use when these advisories disappear in 2024.
The National Weather Service has already been working to improve the understanding of its alert products.
For instance, it reduced the different kinds of flood Advisories from five down to just one this year. Next up those advisories will disappear altogether.