Wednesday, March 09, 2011

What does an "Alert Mode" mean?

Every once in a while, will go into "Alert Mode" for various weather phenomenon. Flooding, heavy snow and severe thunderstorms are the three most common prompters of an Alert Mode. But what exactly do I mean by this, and how do I determine when to go into Alert Mode. This post will hopefully help you understand this better.

The Alert Mode is reserved for special instances of exceptionally dangerous weather that will impact the lives of those in and around the forecast area. The weather during an Alert Mode threatens lives and property. Precautions to stay safe need to be taken during these events. These are among the most significant weather events our area sees, and are accompanied by widespread watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service. The Alert Mode is meant as another way to highlight the potential dangers.

Obviously, not every significant weather event is worthy of an Alert Mode, and the decision to send into Alert Mode is taken very seriously. Only a few Alert Modes are issued each year. A combination of things has to be taken into account when going into Alert Mode:

First, the weather needs to be significant enough to create widespread dangerous conditions. Every severe thunderstorm is dangerous, and even a little freezing rain can cause deadly automobile accidents. However, most of the time, these dangerous weather events are more localized events that most Central New Yorkers are probably used to. For an event to garner an Alert Mode, it has to be above and beyond the "average" bad weather situation.

Secondly, there has to be a good deal of confidence this life threatening situation will occur. Often times, Alert Modes are prompted during an evolving situation. Such is often the case with severe thunderstorms and flash flooding. These situations will also lead to shorter Alert Mode times, as the dangerous weather is often shorter lived. Other situations, including snow and some flood events, may have Alert Modes lasting days due to the prolonged nature of the event. Typically, these types of Alert Modes can be issued further in advance due to a greater certainty of the event occurring. Still, Alert Modes will almost never be issued more than 24 hours prior to the start of an event. Instead, will go into Standby to raise awareness of the potential for devastating weather.

When an Alert Mode is issued, pay extra attention to and other weather media sources for frequent updates on the dangerous weather. The weather during these situations may rapidly change. It is strongly recommended that you become a follower of on Facebook and/or Twitter for these situations, as updates are frequently issued there. (Click here for our Facebook and Twitter pages). Often times (but not always due to other time restraints), special Grotonweather features are available during these times, including Weather Chats, Videos, safety tips and special maps.

The bottom line is this: as a meteorologist, I personally feel a responsibility to keep you informed and safe during severe weather. The absolute worst thing I can imagine is having a weather related fatality under my watch. The Alert Mode is meant to help prevent that from ever becoming a reality. If you see an Alert Mode has been issued, stay aware and "keep checking back for updates!"


  1. Thank you for such a comprehensive explanation. I value your weather reports more than any other, due to the accuracy with which you forecast.

  2. FYI - you might wanna change your "about me" section, as you are now a true Metard!