National Weather Service Communication Woes

Being a TV meteorologist in a small state covered by 3 National Weather Service offices can be challenging. Products issued at different times, inconsistent forecasts, and odd configurations of headlines are just some of the issues. An annoying mish mash of freezing rain advisories, winter weather advisories, and winter storm watches can make maps extremely confusing during the winter.

More often than not we choose not to show the NWS watches/warnings/advisories since they make little sense to a viewer. We focus solely on impacts and timing. Have you ever heard someone say “I didn’t leave the house tonight because there’s a winter storm warning for Middlesex County?” Probably not. Have you heard someone say, “I decided to stay in because the storm is supposed to get really bad after 10 p.m.?” Probably.

Over the last several days we’ve dealt with a heat advisory conundrum that is a symptom of a broader problem. Here’s the configuration of heat advisories this morning issued by 2 separate NWS offices. This is the way it was for about 4 hours.

WVIT Warnings CT


This “hole” would imply the excessive heat and humidity would be sandwiched around New Haven County. Southington gets a dangerous heat/humidity combo while Cheshire to the south doesn’t. Stratford – you’re getting high heat while Derby is not.

The 12 p.m. observed heat index across the state shows the folly of such an odd map with seemingly inadequate National Weather Service coordination between offices. The highest heat index values were OUTSIDE of the advisory area.



Shortly after noon the heat advisory was expanded along parts of southern Connecticut. Ironically, however, the immediate shoreline was excluded even though the highest heat index in the state is at the Groton-New London Airport (with a hideous 87/78 temperature/dew point spread).

WVIT Warnings CT1


While better coordination with media and between offices is always ideal think this speaks to a larger point. Getting bogged down in headlines, specific advisory/watch configurations, and semantics is foolish. At the end of the day people care about impacts. Communicating impacts well is more valuable than quibbling over a degree or two verifying an advisory. The media and the National Weather Service can both do a better job at that and it’s something that we all need to work on!


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