Wicker, Colleagues Introduce TORNADO Act

April 26, 2023

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., along with U.S. Senators Ted Cruz, R-Texas, John Thune, R-S.D., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., Todd Young, R-Ind., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., John Boozman, R-Ark., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., today reintroduced the Tornado Observation Research Notification and Deployment to Operations (TORNADO) Act to improve the forecasting and understanding of tornadoes and other hazardous weather. The TORNADO Act would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to update its methods for predicting and communicating weather alerts to residents.

“Even when tornadoes are well-forecasted, warnings do not always provide enough lead time to ensure the public can respond or seek appropriate shelter. The federal government has a vested interest in making sure Americans have as much notice as possible of severe weather,” Wicker said. “The TORNADO Act would improve the forecasting and understanding of these natural disasters so we can prevent future loss of life and property.”

“Tornados regularly threaten the lives and homes of Texans and others in Tornado Alley,” Cruz said. “I am proud to join my colleagues in an effort to use innovations in technology to identify and respond to these deadly, destructive storms with greater speed and efficiency.”

“South Dakotans rely on weather warnings to protect their families, homes, and businesses from the devastating effects of tornadoes and other severe storms,” Thune said. “This common-sense legislation would improve the accuracy of tornado forecasting and streamline the weather alert system, which would lead to earlier, more accurate warnings for tornadoes and other severe weather.”

“Iowans have seen more than our fair share of severe weather, and while tornados and other storms can wreak havoc on livelihoods, our first priority is always personal safety. This bill helps to update and streamline NOAA’s severe weather alerts and communications systems so that precious seconds aren’t lost when notifying communities about dangerous weather events,” Grassley said.

“Great advances in weather forecasting in recent decades have helped save lives, but more can and should be done to alert people when tornadoes threaten their lives. The terrible and deadly tornadoes that ripped through Mississippi recently tells us that,” Hyde-Smith said.  “This legislation would be useful in helping provide greater support for NOAA and its research partners, like the University of Mississippi, to advance severe storm and tornado detection technologies.”

“In recent months, severe weather has tragically taken the lives of Hoosiers and devastated several Indiana communities. While we can’t prevent these storms from occurring, the TORNADO Act would improve severe weather forecasting, notifying the public faster and allowing Hoosiers to find safety more quickly,” Young said.

“In Arkansas we are unfortunately very familiar with the devastation brought by severe storms. In fact, communities in central and eastern parts of the state are cleaning up and rebuilding as a result of the extensive damage from recent tornadoes that caused the deaths of five Natural State residents,” Boozman said. “This legislation will modernize how NOAA communicates with the public during natural disasters to help keep Arkansans and all Americans safe and informed.”

“There are common sense steps we can take to better predict and warn Americans about tornadoes and other severe weather events,” Peters said. “I’m pleased to partner with Senator Wicker on the bipartisan TORNADO Act, which would do just that.”

The reintroduction of the legislation follows a particularly active start to tornado season, which included a series of devastating tornadoes in Mississippi.

On March 24, a tornado left a path of death and destruction that stretched from Rolling Fork to Amory. The storm claimed over twenty lives, injured dozens, and left an estimated $100 million in property damages.

Despite following current protocols, The National Weather Service (NWS), which is a part of NOAA, only issued a tornado warning 20 minutes before the storm arrived, leaving residents little time to prepare for the deadly winds.

The goal of the TORNADO Act would be to require NOAA to implement new technology and procedures that could help increase the lead times provided to the public in advance of extreme weather events.

Among other provisions, the TORNADO Act would:

  • Require NOAA to prepare and submit an action plan for the national implementation of high-resolution probabilistic guidance for tornado forecasting and prediction.
  • Encourage NOAA to evaluate the current tornado rating system and make updates.
  • Require NOAA to coordinate with appropriate entities when conducting post-storm assessments to optimize data collection, sharing, and integration.

The full text of the bill can be found here.