Wichita — For years, tornado warnings have been widespread enough to send people to their basements who were never in any danger.
But the National Weather Service is rolling out new technology this year that will allow the agency to issue warnings specifically tailored to precise areas. For example, forecasters will be able to issue a severe thunderstorm warning for those in one area of a storm and a tornado warning for those in another.
Officials say they want to avoid the false alarms that can potentially rob tornado warnings of their importance.
"It will place the real emphasis on storms that really deserve the attention," said Dave Freeman, chief meteorologist for KSN-TV in Wichita, who plans to use the new technology. "When we use the word 'warning,' we should be talking about something that requires people to do something."
The changes come as the National Weather Service has refined its criteria for severe thunderstorm warnings, requiring quarter-sized hail before a warning is issued. Before, hail the size of a penny could trigger such a warning.
Last year, a record 122 tornadoes touched down in Kansas, although no one was killed in the storms.