Monday, April 29, 2019

Episode 470 (4-29-19): Getting the Weather Message

Click to listen to episode (4:31).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 4-26-19.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of April 29, 2019.

SOUND – ~ 6 sec - Thunder and heavy rain.

When a severe thunderstorm or some other kind of severe weather is forecast or is actually approaching, what kinds of messages can you expect from your favorite information sources?  Have a listen for about 45 seconds to several examples that were broadcast on April 19, 2019, on NOAA Weather Radio from the National Weather Service’s Blacksburg, Va., Forecast Office.

SOUND - ~47 sec
“The National Weather Service in Blacksburg has issued and urban and small stream flood advisory for….”
“And now a special weather statement. At 1:44 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, radar indicated strong thunderstorms located along a line from Piper’s Gap to Pleasant Hill….”
“A tornado watch remains in effect until 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time for north central and northwestern North Carolina and southwestern and west central Virginia….”
“A tornado warning remains in effect until 2:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time for north central Surry and south central Carroll counties. At 2:19 Eastern Daylight Time, a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located over Fancy Gap, moving northeast at 55 miles per hour.”

Those Weather Service messages alerted listeners to conditions that resulted in severe thunderstorms and at least 15 confirmed tornadoes in Virginia on April 19.  The Weather Service uses the four types of messages you heard on any given day to alert citizens nationwide about impending atmospheric hazards, from thunderstorms to tropical storms, from fire danger to frost, and from high winds to high waves.  Here are some details about these four types of messages, according to the Weather Service. An advisory highlights weather conditions that may cause significant inconvenience or threaten life or property if caution is not used.  A special weather statement alerts the public about ongoing or imminent weather hazards which require a heightened level of awareness or action.  A watch means that conditions are right for a hazardous weather event to occur, but the location or timing is uncertain.  And a warning is issued when a hazardous event is actually occurring, is imminent, or is very likely to occur, and people should take appropriate safety action immediately.  Information on appropriate actions for specific weather events is available from the Weather Service, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the American Red Cross, and other organizations.  Take some time now to get ready for the next severe-weather message.

Finally, here’s one other Weather Service message that the Blacksburg office broadcast on April 19.

SOUND - ~13 sec
“Skywarn is currently activated and operational at the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Va. Spotters are encouraged to submit reports of flooding, hail, wind damage, and tornadoes.”

Skywarn® spotters provide the Weather Service with valuable information about cloud conditions, flooding, hail, and other weather events.  If you’re interested in being a Skywarn® spotter, visit the program Web site at, where you can find the upcoming spotter training opportunities nearest you.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This week’s Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 106, 4-9-12.

Virginia Water Radio thanks Phil Hysell, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service Blacksburg, Va., Forecast Office, for his help with this episode.

The rain and thunder sounds were recorded by Virginia Water Radio at about 9 p.m. on April 20, 2015, in Blacksburg, Va.

The NOAA Weather Radio broadcast messages, from the National Weather Service’s Blacksburg, Va., Forecast Office, were recorded by Virginia Water Radio on April 19, 2019, at about 2 p.m.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at


National Weather Service/Storm Prediction Center map of preliminary storm reports (reports of tornadoes, high winds, and hail) on April 19, 2019, showing the high number of reports in Virginia and other parts of the southeastern United States.  Map accessed at, 4/26/19.

Tornado preliminary data and track map for tornadoes around Emporia, Va., and Pleasant Hill, N.C., on April 19, 2019.  Map from the National Weather Service/Wakefield, Va., Forecast Office, online at, accessed 4/26/19.

Damage in Charles City, Va., from a tornado on April 19, 2019.  Photo from the National Weather Service/Wakefield, Va., Forecast Office, online at, accessed 4/26/19.


The following definitions were taken from the National Weather Service, “Glossary,” online at, accessed on 4/25/19.

Advisory – “Highlights special weather conditions that are less serious than a warning.  They are for events that may cause significant inconvenience, and if caution is not exercised, it could lead to situations that may threaten life and/or property.”

Special Marine Warning – “Warning product issued for potentially hazardous weather conditions usually of short duration (up to 2 hours) producing sustained marine thunderstorm winds or associated gusts of 34 knots or greater; and/or hail 3/4 inch or more in diameter; and/or waterspouts affecting areas included in a Coastal Waters Forecast, a Nearshore Marine Forecast, or an Great Lakes Open Lakes Forecast that is not adequately covered by existing marine warnings.  Also used for short duration mesoscale events such as a strong cold front, gravity wave, squall line, etc., lasting less than 2 hours and producing winds or gusts of 34 knots or greater.”

Special Tropical Disturbance Statement – “This statement issued by the National Hurricane Center furnishes information on strong and formative non-depression systems.  This statement focuses on the major threat(s) of the disturbance, such as the potential for torrential rainfall on an island or inland area. The statement is coordinated with the appropriate forecast office(s).”

Severe Weather Potential Statement – “This statement is designed to alert the public and state/local agencies to the potential for severe weather up to 24 hours in advance. It is issued by the local National Weather Service office.”

Warning – “A warning is issued when a hazardous weather or hydrologic event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurring.  A warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property.”

Watch – “A watch is used when the risk of a hazardous weather or hydrologic event has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain.  It is intended to provide enough lead time so that those who need to set their plans in motion can do so.”


Used for Audio

John Boyer, At least 15 tornadoes hit Virginia on Friday. For Charles City, it was the first in 26 years, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/22/19.

Kevin Myatt, Weather Journal: Franklin County tornado reached historic strength, locally, Roanoke Times, 4/23/19.

National Weather Service, “Glossary,” online at,

National Weather Service, “Skywarn® Storm Spotter Program,” online at

National Weather Service, “Multi-purpose Weather Products Specification,” Instruction 10-517, October 9, 2017, available online (as a PDF) at

National Weather Service, “Weather Safety,” online at

National Weather Service/Wakefield Forecast Office, “April 19 [2019] Tornado Paths Virginia,” online at

NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] Weather Radio All Hazards, online at

Virginia Department of Emergency Management, “VDEM Offers Flooding Messaging for Communities Dealing with Heavy Rain,” 3/18/18 news release, online at

Sam Wall, Cleanup continues in Franklin County after Friday's 159-mph tornado, Roanoke Times, 4/20/19.

For More Information about Emergency Preparation

American Red Cross, “How to Prepare for Emergencies,” online at

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, online at

Virginia Department of Emergency Management, “Prepare and Recover,” online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Weather/Natural Disasters” subject category.


The episode—the audio, extra information, or sources—may help with the following Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs).

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decisions, hazard mitigation, cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Interrelationships in Earth/Space Systems Theme
4.6 – weather conditions, phenomena, and measurements.
5.6 – characteristics of the ocean environment (ecological, geological, and physical).

Grades K-6 Matter Theme
6.6 – Properties of air (including pressure, temperature, and humidity) and structure/dynamics of earth’s atmosphere, including weather topics.

Earth Science Course
ES.1 – current applications to reinforce science concepts.
ES.12 – weather and climate.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Virginia Studies Course
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.1 – skills for historical thinking, geographical analysis, economic decision-making, and responsible citizenship.
CE.6 – government at the national level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

Government Course
GOVT.1 – skills for historical thinking, geographical analysis, economic decision-making, and responsible citizenship.
GOVT.7 – national government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy process at local, state, and national levels.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.
Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.