National Weather Service uses your social posts to protect you from danger

Posted: Updated:
MOUNT HOLLY -

The age of social media has changed the world greatly – some say for the better, some say for the worse.

But there is no doubt that social media helps to connect all citizens of the world with one another, and this can sometimes help those who have a responsibility to protect us – like the National Weather Service.

Officials with the NWS in Mount Holly say that social media posts made by New Jersey residents during Monday’s powerful thunderstorm actually helped them in their effort to track the weather.

“We can use those to verify warnings in real-time,” says meteorologist Alex Staarmann.

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Staarmann and his co-workers at the NWS are the ones who decide whether or not to issue a watch or a warning. He says that one of the factors to help decide is videos posted online or sent to them from the public.

"There have been some cases where we were holding off on a warning because we're trying not to over-warn and then we may get a report of a tree down of the storm we didn't think was that strong or hail or whatever the case may be,” Staarmann says.

Staarmann says that this week the NWS Facebook and Twitter pages were flooded with photos and videos sent by New Jersey residents during Monday’s storm.

"With the reports and the pictures that we get, we can go back and look at radar and see the location of the report,” Staarmann says. “And as far as determining whether or not it may be tornadic versus straight-line winds, we can look at the velocity data on radar to see if there was any rotation in the area at that time."

Weather officials will still be sent out to survey the damage and make a final call on what happened. But they say that the pictures and videos help a lot.

But they do warn the public to only take a photo if it is safe to do so.

"We want people to be sheltering inside while the storm is approaching and during the storm,” Staarmann says. “Send us photos after the storm is passing.”

Staarmann says that it is important to include the location of the damage, including a street name if possible, along with the time that the storm came through.

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