Social media is a tool meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Blacksburg did not use two years ago in the hours leading up to tornadoes in Pulaski County. It is now part of their daily routine.
"I think the real advantage of being active in social media is we're able to let folks know about the potential for severe weather, and a warning can only be successful if people have a means to receive the warning, know if they're in the warning, and know how to take action," said Phil Hysell, Warning Coordination Meteorologist. Hysell says the team in Blacksburg sends wireless messages to some cell phones and the weather station is equipped with "Dual Polarization" radar to help notify people in a tornado's path.
"The debris that is picked up can be detected by dual pole and if we are able to see that and tell people there is a tornado on the ground, there is a debris signature on radar, I think that's going to motivate more people to take shelter."
And while Hysell wants to get the message out, he says the team is also monitoring posts from Twitter followers and friends on Facebook to narrow in on storm damage.
"I think we'll see more damage images and videos coming our way and our situational awareness will increase as to whether it was straight line winds or tornadoes," he said.
They are working together with the community in cyberspace to make sure people take cover when disaster strikes.