National Weather Service relies on viewer pictures

By Kevin Jeanes - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – It's hard to believe that it's been nearly a week since the Richmond area was hammered by powerful storms. Who could forget the flash flooding, people stranded in cars and 60,000 without power?

Pictures flooded into send it to 12 on our website and one in particular caught the eye of the national weather service, showing how your pictures can be of help to local forecasters.

When severe weather hits, our main tool is First Warning Doppler radar.  But nothing helps meteorologists more than reports from actual people like NBC12 viewer John Kennedy, he's got a famous name, and now he's got a famous picture, too.

"I guess being this close, I guess it was kind of exhilarating," he said.

Just before the heavy rain hit, John snapped a picture of what he thought was a funnel cloud

"It looked like a funnel cloud.  I wasn't sure exactly what it was but I just wanted to take a picture because it looked cool," he said.

Then, John's friend uploaded it to Send it to 12 and NBC12 used it on the air the next morning. It was taken near Hull Street and Chippenham Parkway.

The National Weather Service saw it on the air, and called us, wanting to know more. It turns out, this was just a scud cloud -- a cloud that's often mistaken for a funnel cloud.

But if you do see a tornado, you should call the police right away. They'll relay the report to the weather service, a report that may help protect your neighbors

"If we have a warning that's already been issued we can issue a statement that kind of beefs up the wording and say there's a tornado on the ground," said Tony Siebers of the National Weather Service.

Many of our twisters don't last long and they can be tough to see on radar.  That's why eyewitness accounts are so important.  So next time storms hit, stay safe, but keep that camera ready.

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