Technology gives residents storm warnings

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Residents in Moore, Okla., had 16 minutes Monday to find safety or get out of the way of a disastrous tornado.

Meteorologists say that's a vast improvement versus nearly two decades ago. Back then, an advance tornado alert would have been slim.

Pete Wolf, senior meteorologist for the National Weather Service, says doppler radar is one of the major technology advancements in tracking and identifying severe storms.

"With doppler radar, we can see inside the storms, we can see where the storms are spinning and if it's about to produce a tornado," Wolf said. "And with that technology, we can provide warnings 15 to 20 minutes before it develops."

Wolf says the National Weather Service can also forecast those conditions before they happen. It monitors satellites and sends up weather balloons to analyze the atmosphere for all the ingredients for the perfect storm.

"We look for days, for favorable conditions, strong wind sheer, a stable air mass, boundaries that will produce storms like a cold front," Wolf said. "All come together in a certain location."

He said it's technology residents pay a tax to keep advancing. The average cost per person is $3 a day.

It's a system that now has the power to keep residents in the know 10 to 20 minutes before a storm can strike.

"There's tremendous value for the taxpayer in having this type of technology and the information we can generate from it," Wolf said. "It is up to a level now that has never been done and hopefully will go further with new technology soon."