Friday, August 30, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened When I Used Google Last Night

A pretty decent tornado swiped through rural Northern Minnesota last night. It's not a big story unless you're distraught about trees being toppled and other sundry damage in a rural area.  By twister standards in this part of the world, it looked pretty impressive on doppler radar, with a hook signature showing up to the west of Hill City on radar last night (shown below where the brighter reds and greens intermingle to the west of Hill City).

I did a quick search on google of Hill City -- partly because I couldn't remember how small the town is (it has fewer than 700 people) but I stumbled across a warning prompt on Google when I typed in the location.  Arguably the first time I had ever seen this on Google...and it's pretty intriguing.

Apparently, Google has had these public alerts up on a subpage of their site for over a year.  Google Public Alerts takes warnings from the National Weather Service, the United States Geological Survey, and other agencies to provide a database of warnings throughout the country. These also include Amber Alerts and any other emergency management communication. It can be localized if one wants to include a specific geographic area or merely include the whole of the country.

The interesting thing is the warnings are rated by Google on how likely the conditions are, how imminent they are, and how severe based on National Weather Service language in their warnings.  Oh, and they provide the "Captain Obvious" statement to never drive through flooded areas if it's a flood warning.

It is another resource out there in the ever-expanding universe of places and things one can visit to get information -- and if there's breaking weather somewhere in the country, it's not a bad site to visit to get a one stop shop for warnings and advisories if it's part of the steady diet of weather news and information one obtains. I wouldn't use it as the be-all and end-all for information gathering, but it's a good resource...and another resource...that one may want to look at.