NWS and KTA talk severe weather alert changes: ‘Our goal is to eliminate confusion’

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Some changes might be on the way soon for how the Kansas Turnpike Authority handles severe weather alerts.

A few weeks ago KSN reported that the KTA sent out tweets alerting drivers of a tornado warning near Lawrence on I-70. However, the National Weather Service did not put out a tornado warning for that location, causing some confusion between organizations.

Now, both entities are saying consistency is what they are striving for.

“We’re working very closely with the Turnpike and so are our partners to ensure that we are sending out that consistent message,” explained Chance Hayes, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, NWS.

A consistent message for all Kansas residents, including those driving on the Kansas Turnpike during severe weather.

A storm can blow up at any time in tornado alley and Hayes wants a clear message to be sent out to all of those who could potentially be affected by a severe storm.

“We’re bringing in all of our weather partners, the media, emergency managers, private companies are also in some of the chat rooms. So, that we’re all working together to ensure that a similar message is being broadcast out to the citizens of Kansas,” said Hayes.

A meeting between NWS representatives from Wichita and Topeka and KTA officials was held to discuss that recent event that caused some confusion in the Topeka and Lawrence area.

According to NWS officials, KTA has been disseminating weather warnings for the Turnpike from Accuweather, a private forecasting company, even when the National Weather Service had not issued these warnings. The meeting was set up to discuss these concerns.

KTA released this statement to KSN: “Our goal remains that we want to provide customers with accurate weather information as it pertains to their drive on the Kansas Turnpike so they can make the best travel decisions.”

However, a final plan of action is not set in place.

“We know that one of the things that people look for is consistent messaging across multiple platforms,” stated Dave Freeman, KSN’s Chief Meteorologist.

Freeman agrees with both entities, saying all weather services owe it to the public to be clear and on the same page.

“The bottom line is, are we effectively serving the people at home. I think that if we’re playing as a team the answer to that is going to be, yes,” explained Freeman.

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