Creating a full weathercast for use on-air, from current conditions to the seven day forecast, is not an easy task -- it's not a quick one, either. A good general rule of thumb is to allow one hour of preparation time for every minute we're given on the air. So, if Steve Templeton is told that he'll have three minutes for weather on News4 at 5PM, then he should plan on taking at least three hours to prepare his forecast and graphics.
Just exactly how we go about creating that forecast is a blog topic for another day. However, nearly every shred of data that we examine and analyze to create our forecasts is available to the general public anytime online. You just have to know where to go to find it.
During the severe weather season, we blaze a trail to the Storm Prediction Center's website frequently. The Storm Prediction Center (SPC), located in Norman, Oklahoma, is part of the National Weather Service. Forecasters there are responsible for issuing all severe thunderstorm and tornado watches across the 48 contiguous United States. Thunderstorm and tornado warnings are issued at the local level, in our case, the local National Weather Service Office in Weldon Spring, MO.
Long before a watch is ever issued, the SPC posts what's called a "convective outlook." These products highlight parts of the country where conditions seem favorable for the development of severe storms. They are issued for day 1 (today), day 2 (tomorrow), day 3 (day after tomorrow), and day 4-8. The threat is categorized as either slight, moderate, or high. To add a little perspective, the St. Louis region might be in a high risk area only once or twice each severe weather season. Each outlook is also broken down by type of severe weather as well (hail, wind, and tornado threat).
As we head into a weekend with a significant chance of severe weather, true weather enthusiasts should bookmark the SPC's website, explore the different forecast products, and follow along with last-minute changes to the severe weather outlook for our area. If you're on the go, don't forget to download the KMOV app, or the WeatherStL app, free in your phone's app store. That's a great way to keep up with the latest radar and forecast information, no matter where you are!