The WBRC First Alert Weather team is committed to your safety during severe weather. Providing public safety information is the most important mission of our television station. The life of one viewer is a higher priority than any of the entertainment programming we provide.
We follow some guidelines for interrupting programming. If there is a National Weather Service issued tornado warning for any one of the 24 counties we serve, we will provide continuous coverage until the warning expires or we no longer see a significant threat to lives or property.
During less impactful severe weather events, such as thunderstorm warnings, we will use our crawl and map system to provide weather updates. However, we all know some thunderstorms can produce winds as strong as weak tornadoes. During these events, we may elect to interrupt programming and provide updated tracking and analysis. We may also choose to interrupt programming when strong to severe storms are moving into highly populated areas during peak travel times or during major outdoor events.
We may declare a WBRC First Alert Weather Day when any of the following weather hazards appear likely:
• Strong to severe storms, which could include damaging hail, dangerous lightning and destructive tornadoes
• Snow, winter precipitation
• Heavy rains which could cause flooding conditions
• Extreme heat
• Extreme cold
• High fire danger
In short, if threatening conditions are possible in the WBRC viewing area, we will declare a WBRC First Alert Weather Day to give you the most warning possible - even before a watch or warning is issued by the National Weather Service. This gives you time to plan and ensure you are adequately prepared.
We'll make sure you know it's a First Alert Weather Day on-air, online and on mobile:
• You'll see our profile pictures on Facebook and Twitter change to a special, red First Alert Weather Day icon.
• You'll see a WBRC First Alert Weather Day story on WBRC.com, which will also be sent as an alert on your WBRC First Alert Weather Mobile App. We'll also link you to this story on social media.
• During the broadcast day, you will notice a red WBRC First Alert Weather Day icon on your television screen.
• Our newscasts will open with a special announcement stating a WBRC First Alert Weather Day has been declared, and you will see additional special graphics throughout our newscasts and weather segments.
• We'll also alert you on mobile and on social media if there have been changes to storm timelines, storm strength, and other factors which affect the details of the First Alert Weather Day.
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions:
Why don't you simply crawl the information at the bottom or top of the screen?
We simply cannot provide the street by street and neighborhood tracking through a crawl system. Plus, severe weather may be impacting multiple counties and storms often gain strength and weaken during a weather event. It would be too confusing for the viewer to scroll pages of text across the screen.
I have seen the wording strong storm indicated by your crawl and map system. What does this mean?
A strong storm is a storm that is not technically severe by National Weather Service standards, but still may cause minimal property damage. Typically, strong storms produce winds between 30 and 50 mph.
Why are there so many tornado warnings with often few reports of damage?
Doppler radar technology has improved exponentially in the last decade. We now have the ability to detect a circulation within a thunderstorm. While this has increased the warning lead time and has helped save literally thousands of lives, it does come with a drawback. Radar does an excellent job of detecting what is happening in the air, but not on the ground. As late as the 1980s, tornadoes were often already on the ground doing damage before a warning was issued.
What is VIPIR?
VIPIR is an acronym for Volumetric Imaging and Processing of Integrated Radar. VIPIR is our primary storm tracking and analysis tool. The system is still the gold standard for severe weather detection. The original system was developed in the late 90s by Baron Services in Huntsville. VIPIR gives a huge advantage on the early detection of storms through the use of Baron's patented algorithms. In simple terms, radar data from multiple locations is ingested into supercomputers and analyzed. The most significant storms and their threats are highlighted on the VIPIR system so we can show you at home. VIPIR can alert our meteorologists of dangerous areas sometimes as early as 10-15 minutes before warnings are issued.