WBRC First Alert Severe Weather Policy
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why don't you simply crawl the information at the bottom or top of the screen?
We 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.
One of the stipulations of our broadcast license from the FCC is that television stations like WBRC exist to serve the public interest. This is widely understood to mean that broadcast news stations must preempt programming to cover ongoing tornado warnings within their markets or they risk losing their broadcast license.
Most of all – it is the right thing to do to preserve life. People in harm's way deserve every chance they can get to hear a tornado warning and seek shelter. People who have family and friends in harm's way deserve the chance to hear what's coming toward their loved ones.
Can you just broadcast to the areas affected by the storms?
WBRC is unable to split our feed and isolate the areas affected by bad weather. That's not possible when you're broadcasting an over-the-air signal to antennas across the area. The technology doesn’t exist.
Also, dangerous storms can move quickly and people in the line of fire need to hear what’s coming their way. People have family and friends in harm's way. People commute.
What about my show?
Most of our shows are available on fox.com within a day or two of airing. Sometimes, Fox will allow us to re-broadcast a show if it was pre-empted due to severe weather.
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. We now can 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 using 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 Fox 6 meteorologists of dangerous areas sometimes as early as 10-15 minutes before warnings are issued.