Public can use Twitter to report severe weather


July 7, 2010 at 2:07 a.m.

John Metz

John Metz

When Bob Roszkowski is chasing storms, he looks for the most efficient way possible to relay information about life-threatening weather.

That's why the Laredo ham radio operator and storm spotter is taking part in a National Weather Service experiment that uses Twitter to report storms.

"What I like about using Twitter is, if it is available, it's a very handy tool to get a quick message and maybe even a picture back to the National Weather Service," he said.

Anyone with a computer or cell phone with access to the Internet and a Twitter account can also report severe weather to the weather service. But John Metz, a weather service warning coordination meteorologist, said only a handful of people have done that.

"I think that's partly because of the lack of visibility," he said. "As folks become more aware of its capabilities, then it will certainly become more useful."

The weather service office in Corpus Christi has a computer monitor that displays a map of Twitter storm reports for its forecast area. That area is roughly from Victoria to Laredo to Kingsville.

The Austin-San Antonio and Houston-Galveston weather offices that serve the north part of the Crossroads do not monitor Twitter.

Metz said Twitter has potential because people anywhere can report dangerous weather as they go about their normal business. They don't have to be trained spotters, he said.

"It's just like having eyes everywhere," Metz said. "If they see hazardous weather of any type, and even good weather, those types of reports can immediately be sent to the National Weather Service."

People with a Twitter account can report dangerous weather by creating an entry that starts with #wxreport and then note the hazards.

Reports from people with Global Positioning System enabled cell phones will automatically have their locations embedded in the message. Those without GPS enabled phones or who are using computers can enter an address or other location.

"I see a big potential for it," Roszkowski said. "However, it takes people to start using it to gain that potential."



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