25 January 2012
Alabama Meteorologist Sets ABC News Straight On Warnings
Posted by Dan Satterfield
James Spann is the lead meteorologist for the ABC affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama and heard something that disturbed him greatly on the ABC national newscast Monday. The story was on the deadly tornado that struck the Birmingham metro area earlier that morning and Diane Sawyer’s script had the words “struck without warning”. I saw that broadcast myself and cringed, but James Spann did something about it.
He contacted ABC and informed them that the storms did indeed have warning and furthermore those warnings likely kept the death toll MUCH lower. ABC did another story on it today, and interviewed James as well. You can see it here. James also wrote this (reprinted with his permission) on his blog about the incident:
*There was no apology, or mention of the botched story yesterday when Diane Sawyer said the pre-dawn tornadoes Monday were a “surprise” with “no warning”. A little odd how you just go from that one day, to a story on how good the warning process was the next day. But, I am not a journalist and maybe that is just the way you do it. Seems strange. I would imagine Diane actually didn’t write that copy, but she will probably think twice about fact checking on lead story intros.
*We have learned we can make a difference. The storm on social media was noticed immediately at ABC News, and they responded. Word got out to the masses that the warnings were indeed good early Monday, and you can’t rely on outdoor warning sirens.
*A special thanks to everybody who communicated with ABC News through social media, email, or phone calls on our behalf. My frustration is with the situation yesterday is shared by ALL of those hard-working people involved in the warning process. The National Weather Service, the EM community (emergency managers), and broadcast meteorologists. I felt that these people were devalued and insulted yesterday.
I agree wholeheartedly with what he wrote. One of my closest friends James Paul Dice works for WBRC, the Fox station in Birmingham, and I worked for James Spann 3 years there, and count him as a good friend. These folks, and the meteorologists at the NWS in Birmingham (and those at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman who issued the watch) do indeed deserve better. ABC News did a very good story today and it was completely accurate.
Hopefully, some young producers and journalists out there will remember this in the future. I bet there is a news writer at ABC in New York that will, and kudos to James Spann for calling then out on it.
So happy to hear this! I was one of those that contacted ABC News to tell them we had GREAT coverage of the tornadoes the other night. I live in Guntersville and listen to the Huntsville stations, WAFF and WHNT. Both were awesome in their coverage and deserved an on the air apology from Diane.
I am proud that someone let them know that just because we live in the south does not mean that our meteorologists are not top notch. I am proud of the coverage that we have here.. I don’t get to see James Paul anymore, but even if James Spann hadn’t been on top of it I am sure James Paul definately was.
The pinpoint wairnng of this horrific storm and it’s 40 minute gateway for wairnng viewers of it’s arrival is what saved our lives. The image as shown is the Black Oak Ranch Estates community that is 5 miles southwest of Vilonia. Accurate pinpointing of this storm gave us time to seek shelter from it and survive. Out of 120 homes, 16 still stand. We lost 4 members of our community and it could have been many more. THANK YOU for the excellent coverage received from KTHV’s Chief Meteorologist Ed Buckner that saved our lives and the lives of my family! The devastation was pure hell for all of us.
I love seeing the power of social media put to good use. An acknowledgment of her mistake, whether she actually wrote it or not, would have certainly been nice though.
I live in South Dakota an I knew of the warnings as i follow medeorologists from every part of the United States an even Canada
We live in Biloxi, Ms. Sometimes I wonder if these people even know that Mississippi is between Louisiana and Alabama. They totally skip us most of the time.