As severe thunderstorms peppered the central United States today, a major systems outage impeded the National Weather Service from issuing forecasts and warnings.
And in D.C., the Weather Service inadvertently issued an invalid flash flood warning.
The Weather Service blamed a service “interruption” that began at 10:30 a.m. Eastern for the problems. It said the flow of information was restored at 2:30 p.m., but that data “in queue” was still moving slowly.
According to the Weather Service’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction, which sent out a message at 11:37 a.m., the problem stemmed from “a major network issue” that affected data flowing through the agency and to its customers.
“It appears the entire NWS is dead in the water,” said Dan Sobien, president of the Weather Service’s labor union. “I don’t know if anything is getting out.”
Sobien said the outage prevented standard dissemination of at least two severe thunderstorm warnings in the central United States and a flood warning in the Midwest.
But, in a statement, the Weather Service said warnings were still available on NOAA weather radio and at weather.gov, and that forecast offices used social media to disseminate watch and warning information during the interruption.
“The National Weather Service office in Kansas City/Pleasant Hill did a great job in disseminating current warnings via Twitter, email and instant messaging, as well as local media and law enforcement,” said Jim Gorski, a reader from Kearney, Missouri. “We had a line of severe storms move through just as the weather service system went down.”
But just after the flow of data was being restored, the Weather Service erroneously disseminated a flash flood warning for D.C. at 2:40 p..m.:
The NWS forecast office in Sterling, Va., was forced to clarify that no actual warning had been issued:
Network problems and data flow interruptions are not new at the Weather Service, whose mission is to provide timely warnings to protect life and property. In 2013, it experienced several systems failures.
But in its statement explaining today’s outage, the Weather Service said it is working toward solutions. “The National Weather Service is in the process of executing network and infrastructure upgrades that will reduce the likelihood of a similar outage in the future,” it said. “These upgrades should be completed by December.”