Welcome to Twitter, NWS!

The National Weather Service (NWS) recently announced a number of experimental Twitter feeds:

Over the next several weeks, prototype Twitter feeds will be established for the following sites:

NWS Norman OK
NWS LMRFC (Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center)
NWS Pleasant Hill/Kansas City MO
NWS Salt Lake City UT
NWS Charleston SC
NWS Western Region
NWS Honolulu HI
NHC Atlantic | NHC Pacific – The National Hurricane Center will run 2 accounts, basin specific.

The NWS Norman account is currently posting relevant stories to their CWA. I have a pretty strong feeling that Norman didn’t happen to be one of the first WFO’s on twitter, however: their WCM, Rick Smith, interacts on Twitter regularly using his ounwcm account. NWS Kansas City also has an active account with re-tweets of other accounts.

Contrast this with NHC Atlantic, which is strictly a feed (also available via RSS) of their latest products, a la the IEM Bots. It doesn’t seem (so far, at least) that there is any human using the Twitter account..

Twitter means different things to different people. Many people tweet “at” or mention other users (eg. @username) in their tweets, and many people have come to expect a response. Some companies even have entire teams dedicated to dealing with help on Twitter. in fact, when I needed help with my phone, I got a faster response by tweeting @ATTCustomerCare instead of calling! While this is great for some people, I think many would agree that NWS shouldn’t be constantly watching who mentions them. However, I hope that they do occasionally reply and generally keep an eye on mentions just as much as they do for their Facebook pages.

Ideally, this is what I hope to see from these Twitter accounts:

  • Stories and short-term forecasts (eg. an upcoming snowfall event, enhanced fire weather risks, public outreach like Lightning Awareness Week)
  • Occasional re-tweets of reliable sources (eg. an emergency management agency publishing helpful information)
  • Occasional replies (eg. towards members of the general public- but only when time permits)
  • Automated posting of severe weather information, ideally published through the IEM/NWSChat bot system

I hope this Twitter trial is successful and expands to other offices soon!

FYI: How many people are on Twitter? It’s always important to get a reality check: A recent Pew survey found that roughly 13% of online Americans use Twitter. Using various sources, this comes out to about 10% of the entire US population. In comparison, 38% of Americans are on Facebook. These aren’t huge numbers, but they’re likely larger than the current number of Americans who have Weather Radios- which, in my opinion, makes a project like this worth the effort.

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