When a City Loses Its Ever-lovin’ Mind 125


An unprecedented weather event happened in south central Kansas on April 8, 2015 and it had nothing to do with what was going on in the sky.

The intense, unrelenting hype about the recent chance of storms and accompanying severe weather would have made you think that we Kansans had never had such a chance before. One friend of mine went out to buy fresh batteries for her storm kit and could find none left in stock at several locations. Churches and schools cancelled events. At Beltone, I was booked solid for the day, but by 9AM most had cancelled because it was “too dangerous” for them to go out for an appointment. Social media was packed with severe weather information (much of which I shared) and the city and area was nearly in a panic. Every “tornado tank” in America was in the city. FEMA was issuing special advisories. TWC was doing live interviews with the fire chief. I can only imagine how stressful the day was on those that are truly frightened of storms or who have actually been through a tornado before.

So, what happened? Why was this time different than previous times? I have several theories. Here are a few of them. I doubt one single thing caused the irrationality, but put them all together and it is a recipe for mental and financial disaster.

Reason #1: Media reporting. Let me say up front, I love the media and have many friends still in the business…heck I am still in the business in several ways. What the average person at home doesn’t understand is how incredibly high the pressure has gotten to perform, especially in severe weather situations. Ratings are everything. In the “olden days,” they used to be kept by paper and pencil, sent in by families and compiled about two weeks after the ratings period ended. There were several ratings periods a year. Now, with new technology, ratings can be seen the next day and in some cases in real-time broken down into minute-by-minute segments. This kind of information causes the station owners to put a lot of pressure from the top down to perform so that more money can be charged for commercials. It is what keeps them in business. Profit margins have gotten smaller and smaller, so the difference between being #1 and #2 in any given event has been greatly magnified. The final result of this in severe weather situations is to build up as much expectation as possible in advance of the storm, to cover even the smallest storms in real-time, to be on the air the most, stay on the air the longest and after the event promote the fact that you were there and what a great job you did.

Reason #2: SPC’s new outlook system. Let me also say that I love the SPC and have many friends that work for the National Weather Service. This year, they introduced a 7 tier, 7 color scale for the impact of severe storms to replace the 3 tier, 3 color system. While I am all about “the more data the better,” it seems to have had an impact where the “bull’s eye” looks SO much more ominous than it used to. For example, a moderate risk used to be an orange area surrounded by yellow and green (much like the radar colors you see). Now, a moderate risk is surrounded by 4 colors which makes it look more intense. You may think I am crazy with this one, but I have no doubt it is contributing to the “over-hype” factor.

Reason #3: People have a very short memory. I wrote a chapter about this in my book, but it never ceases to amaze me that from year-to-year even I forget how a season feels and how I react to it. This time of year, it is hard to remember that by late May/early June, we will be having thunderstorms several times a week that are more severe than the storms were yesterday, and people will go about their business like nothing is wrong. The college I teach for sent out a memo yesterday afternoon saying they were flooded with questions about whether they were cancelling classes for the evening. The response was spot-on. Paraphrasing here, “We have NEVER closed school due to a forecast of thunderstorms or even actual thunderstorms before, so we don’t see a need to now. All of our facilities have safety officers and shelters for severe weather should a warning be issued.” And, quite honestly, that should have been all of our reactions this time. We are Kansans, we get literally thousands of thunderstorms a year. Some of them are severe. Some are more severe than others. Should we take it lightly when a warning is issued? Absolutely not. Should we be running around like chickens with their heads cut off screaming that the sky is falling (mixed metaphor), cancelling everything in our plans HOURS before the first storm has even developed. Absolutely not.

When it is time to panic, have a plan, execute it, then panic. When there is a 30% chance of spring-time thunderstorms with an “Enhanced Risk” (would have been “Slight Risk” a year ago) of severe weather, pay attention, go about your business and if a warning is issued, go to shelter. Otherwise, remember: we are Kansans, we are tough, we have been through this before and will go through it again too many times to count, don’t get caught up in the scare mongering of anyone (including me).

Now…get out and enjoy the beautiful spring weather, and if that includes the occasional thunderstorm, enjoy it and be safe!


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125 thoughts on “When a City Loses Its Ever-lovin’ Mind

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Very good and valid point! As my boss, Dave Freeman used to say, “The only difference between a busy day and a very busy day is geography.” I remember one tornado we had over Ness County that would have eaten a town for lunch, but it missed the towns. The next day people asked, “Why do you look so tired? It wasn’t bad last night.” Put that same tornado through Great Bend, Hays or Wichita and it would make headlines for weeks…

    • Storm Chaser Scott Roberts

      James, all it would have taken was to move the Barber county storm 100 miles due east, where I thought it was going to be. Superimpose the path in Comanche/Barber/Kingman county on Harper/Sumner/Sedgwick counties and tell me what we’d be dealing with right now…

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Very good and valid point! As my boss, Dave Freeman used to say, “The only difference between a busy day and a very busy day is geography.” I remember one tornado we had over Ness County that would have eaten a town for lunch, but it missed the towns. The next day people asked, “Why do you look so tired? It wasn’t bad last night.” Put that same tornado through Great Bend, Hays or Wichita and it would make headlines for weeks…

    • Storm Chaser Scott Roberts

      James, all it would have taken was to move the Barber county storm 100 miles due east, where I thought it was going to be. Superimpose the path in Comanche/Barber/Kingman county on Harper/Sumner/Sedgwick counties and tell me what we’d be dealing with right now…

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner

      Very good and valid point! As my boss, Dave Freeman used to say, “The only difference between a busy day and a very busy day is geography.” I remember one tornado we had over Ness County that would have eaten a town for lunch, but it missed the towns. The next day people asked, “Why do you look so tired? It wasn’t bad last night.” Put that same tornado through Great Bend, Hays or Wichita and it would make headlines for weeks…

    • Storm Chaser Scott Roberts

      James, all it would have taken was to move the Barber county storm 100 miles due east, where I thought it was going to be. Superimpose the path in Comanche/Barber/Kingman county on Harper/Sumner/Sedgwick counties and tell me what we’d be dealing with right now…

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Very good and valid point! As my boss, Dave Freeman used to say, “The only difference between a busy day and a very busy day is geography.” I remember one tornado we had over Ness County that would have eaten a town for lunch, but it missed the towns. The next day people asked, “Why do you look so tired? It wasn’t bad last night.” Put that same tornado through Great Bend, Hays or Wichita and it would make headlines for weeks…

    • Storm Chaser Scott Roberts

      James, all it would have taken was to move the Barber county storm 100 miles due east, where I thought it was going to be. Superimpose the path in Comanche/Barber/Kingman county on Harper/Sumner/Sedgwick counties and tell me what we’d be dealing with right now…

  • Cheryl Green

    Thank you for the rational thoughts on the total lunacy of the atmospheric prognosticators yesterday, Mark. I am in complete agreement. This round of normal Kansas thunderstorms was hyped since last Saturday and had one of my kids totally freaked out by the time she got off the school bus yesterday afternoon. It saddens me that everything, now including normal seasonal weather, is all hyped for ratings.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…I worry about the kids the most. I was a kid who was irrationally afraid of storms. We adults can kind of let it slide off our shoulders, but there is nothing funny about a kid hiding under their bed crying out of fear…

  • Cheryl Green

    Thank you for the rational thoughts on the total lunacy of the atmospheric prognosticators yesterday, Mark. I am in complete agreement. This round of normal Kansas thunderstorms was hyped since last Saturday and had one of my kids totally freaked out by the time she got off the school bus yesterday afternoon. It saddens me that everything, now including normal seasonal weather, is all hyped for ratings.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…I worry about the kids the most. I was a kid who was irrationally afraid of storms. We adults can kind of let it slide off our shoulders, but there is nothing funny about a kid hiding under their bed crying out of fear…

  • Cheryl Green

    Thank you for the rational thoughts on the total lunacy of the atmospheric prognosticators yesterday, Mark. I am in complete agreement. This round of normal Kansas thunderstorms was hyped since last Saturday and had one of my kids totally freaked out by the time she got off the school bus yesterday afternoon. It saddens me that everything, now including normal seasonal weather, is all hyped for ratings.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner

      Yeah…I worry about the kids the most. I was a kid who was irrationally afraid of storms. We adults can kind of let it slide off our shoulders, but there is nothing funny about a kid hiding under their bed crying out of fear…

  • Cheryl Green

    Thank you for the rational thoughts on the total lunacy of the atmospheric prognosticators yesterday, Mark. I am in complete agreement. This round of normal Kansas thunderstorms was hyped since last Saturday and had one of my kids totally freaked out by the time she got off the school bus yesterday afternoon. It saddens me that everything, now including normal seasonal weather, is all hyped for ratings.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…I worry about the kids the most. I was a kid who was irrationally afraid of storms. We adults can kind of let it slide off our shoulders, but there is nothing funny about a kid hiding under their bed crying out of fear…

  • Liz Jahnke

    I think our very quiet season last year contributed as well. It’s been almost 2 years since we had major tornado threat, and we’ve forgotten how to act. After having all the damage from the straight line winds that we got little warning on Friday night, I think we were a little on edge about something made to seem so certain.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Excellent points! I wish I would have thought of them and included them as a #4 and #5! 🙂 I forgot that we didn’t have a SINGLE tornado watch in Sedgwick County last year. Also, the wind storm missed my part of town, so it wasn’t stuck in my psyche…

  • Liz Jahnke

    I think our very quiet season last year contributed as well. It’s been almost 2 years since we had major tornado threat, and we’ve forgotten how to act. After having all the damage from the straight line winds that we got little warning on Friday night, I think we were a little on edge about something made to seem so certain.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Excellent points! I wish I would have thought of them and included them as a #4 and #5! 🙂 I forgot that we didn’t have a SINGLE tornado watch in Sedgwick County last year. Also, the wind storm missed my part of town, so it wasn’t stuck in my psyche…

  • Liz Jahnke

    I think our very quiet season last year contributed as well. It’s been almost 2 years since we had major tornado threat, and we’ve forgotten how to act. After having all the damage from the straight line winds that we got little warning on Friday night, I think we were a little on edge about something made to seem so certain.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner

      Excellent points! I wish I would have thought of them and included them as a #4 and #5! 🙂 I forgot that we didn’t have a SINGLE tornado watch in Sedgwick County last year. Also, the wind storm missed my part of town, so it wasn’t stuck in my psyche…

  • Liz Jahnke

    I think our very quiet season last year contributed as well. It’s been almost 2 years since we had major tornado threat, and we’ve forgotten how to act. After having all the damage from the straight line winds that we got little warning on Friday night, I think we were a little on edge about something made to seem so certain.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Excellent points! I wish I would have thought of them and included them as a #4 and #5! 🙂 I forgot that we didn’t have a SINGLE tornado watch in Sedgwick County last year. Also, the wind storm missed my part of town, so it wasn’t stuck in my psyche…

  • Victoria Draper

    exactly right. I agree that the SPC has ramped up the threat people see. And we all had a scare from the previous week. Then there is the fact that we had no severe weather from the previous season. And finally, the warning system malfunctioned and sounded all over Wichita instead of just out northwest. So…in a nut shell…all hell broke loose with people loosing their minds. I know that I knew where the storms were yet went to the basement when the sirens sounded in downtown. So…shake it off and get ready for the next one. And buy your batteries now!

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…the “outdoor warning device” malfunction was especially unfortunate. Warning 400,000 people when it was nowhere near them is never a good thing…

  • Victoria Draper

    exactly right. I agree that the SPC has ramped up the threat people see. And we all had a scare from the previous week. Then there is the fact that we had no severe weather from the previous season. And finally, the warning system malfunctioned and sounded all over Wichita instead of just out northwest. So…in a nut shell…all hell broke loose with people loosing their minds. I know that I knew where the storms were yet went to the basement when the sirens sounded in downtown. So…shake it off and get ready for the next one. And buy your batteries now!

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…the “outdoor warning device” malfunction was especially unfortunate. Warning 400,000 people when it was nowhere near them is never a good thing…

  • Victoria Draper

    exactly right. I agree that the SPC has ramped up the threat people see. And we all had a scare from the previous week. Then there is the fact that we had no severe weather from the previous season. And finally, the warning system malfunctioned and sounded all over Wichita instead of just out northwest. So…in a nut shell…all hell broke loose with people loosing their minds. I know that I knew where the storms were yet went to the basement when the sirens sounded in downtown. So…shake it off and get ready for the next one. And buy your batteries now!

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner

      Yeah…the “outdoor warning device” malfunction was especially unfortunate. Warning 400,000 people when it was nowhere near them is never a good thing…

  • Victoria Draper

    exactly right. I agree that the SPC has ramped up the threat people see. And we all had a scare from the previous week. Then there is the fact that we had no severe weather from the previous season. And finally, the warning system malfunctioned and sounded all over Wichita instead of just out northwest. So…in a nut shell…all hell broke loose with people loosing their minds. I know that I knew where the storms were yet went to the basement when the sirens sounded in downtown. So…shake it off and get ready for the next one. And buy your batteries now!

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…the “outdoor warning device” malfunction was especially unfortunate. Warning 400,000 people when it was nowhere near them is never a good thing…

  • Melissa McGlothlin

    I agree with James. New technology allows us to predict storms sooner and with more accuracy. Being warned about a high threat of tornados days in advance is only a good thing. Sure it can cause anxiety, but I would rather events be cancelled than everyone go about their business and get stuck somewhere without proper shelter. I’d rather leave work early than run the risk of getting stuck in traffic with a tornado coming. Not to mention I enjoy watching severe storms and tornados from the comfort of my own home not work or the highway. Why are we even criticizing people being prepared?! If we need to criticize someone lets go for the people complaining that they missed Survivor because of the weather coverage.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      I agree and disagree. I took SO many angry phone calls, letters and emails for interrupting someone’s program over the years. I agree that being prepared is ALWAYS a good thing. I am not sure I agree with the “better safe than sorry” idea. That can and is used as a crutch by so many for ulterior motives. Not saying that you do that, but I know too many that do. We can live our lives prepared but not in fear…

  • Melissa McGlothlin

    I agree with James. New technology allows us to predict storms sooner and with more accuracy. Being warned about a high threat of tornados days in advance is only a good thing. Sure it can cause anxiety, but I would rather events be cancelled than everyone go about their business and get stuck somewhere without proper shelter. I’d rather leave work early than run the risk of getting stuck in traffic with a tornado coming. Not to mention I enjoy watching severe storms and tornados from the comfort of my own home not work or the highway. Why are we even criticizing people being prepared?! If we need to criticize someone lets go for the people complaining that they missed Survivor because of the weather coverage.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      I agree and disagree. I took SO many angry phone calls, letters and emails for interrupting someone’s program over the years. I agree that being prepared is ALWAYS a good thing. I am not sure I agree with the “better safe than sorry” idea. That can and is used as a crutch by so many for ulterior motives. Not saying that you do that, but I know too many that do. We can live our lives prepared but not in fear…

  • Melissa McGlothlin

    I agree with James. New technology allows us to predict storms sooner and with more accuracy. Being warned about a high threat of tornados days in advance is only a good thing. Sure it can cause anxiety, but I would rather events be cancelled than everyone go about their business and get stuck somewhere without proper shelter. I’d rather leave work early than run the risk of getting stuck in traffic with a tornado coming. Not to mention I enjoy watching severe storms and tornados from the comfort of my own home not work or the highway. Why are we even criticizing people being prepared?! If we need to criticize someone lets go for the people complaining that they missed Survivor because of the weather coverage.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner

      I agree and disagree. I took SO many angry phone calls, letters and emails for interrupting someone’s program over the years. I agree that being prepared is ALWAYS a good thing. I am not sure I agree with the “better safe than sorry” idea. That can and is used as a crutch by so many for ulterior motives. Not saying that you do that, but I know too many that do. We can live our lives prepared but not in fear…

  • Melissa McGlothlin

    I agree with James. New technology allows us to predict storms sooner and with more accuracy. Being warned about a high threat of tornados days in advance is only a good thing. Sure it can cause anxiety, but I would rather events be cancelled than everyone go about their business and get stuck somewhere without proper shelter. I’d rather leave work early than run the risk of getting stuck in traffic with a tornado coming. Not to mention I enjoy watching severe storms and tornados from the comfort of my own home not work or the highway. Why are we even criticizing people being prepared?! If we need to criticize someone lets go for the people complaining that they missed Survivor because of the weather coverage.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      I agree and disagree. I took SO many angry phone calls, letters and emails for interrupting someone’s program over the years. I agree that being prepared is ALWAYS a good thing. I am not sure I agree with the “better safe than sorry” idea. That can and is used as a crutch by so many for ulterior motives. Not saying that you do that, but I know too many that do. We can live our lives prepared but not in fear…

  • Nikki Coffey

    Liz Jahnke I completely agree about being on edge after Thursday nights straightline winds. I think after something like that happens you have a little more respect for what mother nature is capable of. And in regards to events being cancelled… it was originally supposed to start at 2:00pm and they kept moving it back so I can see where people would be unnerved about not knowing when it would happen and thus deciding to just be safe than sorry. I will always be one to be cautious and plan ahead, I do it for snow storms so why wouldn’t I do it for potentially life threatening weather events? After seeing the results of the Joplin, Moore, and Norman tornados I hope more people take these storm seriously, because it wouldn’t take much for Wichita to be added to that list.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…that is one thing that the weather world certainly has to get better at. Forecasting an event to begin at the wrong time does more harm than good. Wichita has certainly been on that list in the past and it is a matter of when, not if, we will be on that list again…

    • Storm Chaser Scott Roberts

      I think in most cases, canceling an event due to a forecast of severe weather is an overreaction. The exception being if the event is being held outdoors or in a venue without substantial shelter that will hold the people expected for an event.

  • Nikki Coffey

    Liz Jahnke I completely agree about being on edge after Thursday nights straightline winds. I think after something like that happens you have a little more respect for what mother nature is capable of. And in regards to events being cancelled… it was originally supposed to start at 2:00pm and they kept moving it back so I can see where people would be unnerved about not knowing when it would happen and thus deciding to just be safe than sorry. I will always be one to be cautious and plan ahead, I do it for snow storms so why wouldn’t I do it for potentially life threatening weather events? After seeing the results of the Joplin, Moore, and Norman tornados I hope more people take these storm seriously, because it wouldn’t take much for Wichita to be added to that list.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…that is one thing that the weather world certainly has to get better at. Forecasting an event to begin at the wrong time does more harm than good. Wichita has certainly been on that list in the past and it is a matter of when, not if, we will be on that list again…

    • Storm Chaser Scott Roberts

      I think in most cases, canceling an event due to a forecast of severe weather is an overreaction. The exception being if the event is being held outdoors or in a venue without substantial shelter that will hold the people expected for an event.

  • Nikki Coffey

    Liz Jahnke I completely agree about being on edge after Thursday nights straightline winds. I think after something like that happens you have a little more respect for what mother nature is capable of. And in regards to events being cancelled… it was originally supposed to start at 2:00pm and they kept moving it back so I can see where people would be unnerved about not knowing when it would happen and thus deciding to just be safe than sorry. I will always be one to be cautious and plan ahead, I do it for snow storms so why wouldn’t I do it for potentially life threatening weather events? After seeing the results of the Joplin, Moore, and Norman tornados I hope more people take these storm seriously, because it wouldn’t take much for Wichita to be added to that list.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner

      Yeah…that is one thing that the weather world certainly has to get better at. Forecasting an event to begin at the wrong time does more harm than good. Wichita has certainly been on that list in the past and it is a matter of when, not if, we will be on that list again…

    • Storm Chaser Scott Roberts

      I think in most cases, canceling an event due to a forecast of severe weather is an overreaction. The exception being if the event is being held outdoors or in a venue without substantial shelter that will hold the people expected for an event.

  • Nikki Coffey

    Liz Jahnke I completely agree about being on edge after Thursday nights straightline winds. I think after something like that happens you have a little more respect for what mother nature is capable of. And in regards to events being cancelled… it was originally supposed to start at 2:00pm and they kept moving it back so I can see where people would be unnerved about not knowing when it would happen and thus deciding to just be safe than sorry. I will always be one to be cautious and plan ahead, I do it for snow storms so why wouldn’t I do it for potentially life threatening weather events? After seeing the results of the Joplin, Moore, and Norman tornados I hope more people take these storm seriously, because it wouldn’t take much for Wichita to be added to that list.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…that is one thing that the weather world certainly has to get better at. Forecasting an event to begin at the wrong time does more harm than good. Wichita has certainly been on that list in the past and it is a matter of when, not if, we will be on that list again…

    • Storm Chaser Scott Roberts

      I think in most cases, canceling an event due to a forecast of severe weather is an overreaction. The exception being if the event is being held outdoors or in a venue without substantial shelter that will hold the people expected for an event.

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…I did an awful lot of sharing as well, but I really didn’t see a big change in how social media was used this time over others, so I tried to address a few ideas that maybe we hadn’t thought of. And yes, if you have been through it once, you have a WHOLE different perspective that nobody else can possibly understand…

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…I did an awful lot of sharing as well, but I really didn’t see a big change in how social media was used this time over others, so I tried to address a few ideas that maybe we hadn’t thought of. And yes, if you have been through it once, you have a WHOLE different perspective that nobody else can possibly understand…

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner

      Yeah…I did an awful lot of sharing as well, but I really didn’t see a big change in how social media was used this time over others, so I tried to address a few ideas that maybe we hadn’t thought of. And yes, if you have been through it once, you have a WHOLE different perspective that nobody else can possibly understand…

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…I did an awful lot of sharing as well, but I really didn’t see a big change in how social media was used this time over others, so I tried to address a few ideas that maybe we hadn’t thought of. And yes, if you have been through it once, you have a WHOLE different perspective that nobody else can possibly understand…

  • Tommy Fanoele

    I knew the spc added new stuff but DID NOT know it meant less for a higher grade of severe and thats kind of annoying but hey never let your guard down yesterday was very annoying im glad i wasnt the only one freaking out about the moderate severe chance formerly slight chance well i think we all know what an enhanced chance can give us now from what we have seen tonight in Illinois so yes i agree with the changes they made its just hard to get used to it after all the years of seeing the former outlooks

  • Tommy Fanoele

    I knew the spc added new stuff but DID NOT know it meant less for a higher grade of severe and thats kind of annoying but hey never let your guard down yesterday was very annoying im glad i wasnt the only one freaking out about the moderate severe chance formerly slight chance well i think we all know what an enhanced chance can give us now from what we have seen tonight in Illinois so yes i agree with the changes they made its just hard to get used to it after all the years of seeing the former outlooks

  • Tommy Fanoele

    I knew the spc added new stuff but DID NOT know it meant less for a higher grade of severe and thats kind of annoying but hey never let your guard down yesterday was very annoying im glad i wasnt the only one freaking out about the moderate severe chance formerly slight chance well i think we all know what an enhanced chance can give us now from what we have seen tonight in Illinois so yes i agree with the changes they made its just hard to get used to it after all the years of seeing the former outlooks

  • Tommy Fanoele

    I knew the spc added new stuff but DID NOT know it meant less for a higher grade of severe and thats kind of annoying but hey never let your guard down yesterday was very annoying im glad i wasnt the only one freaking out about the moderate severe chance formerly slight chance well i think we all know what an enhanced chance can give us now from what we have seen tonight in Illinois so yes i agree with the changes they made its just hard to get used to it after all the years of seeing the former outlooks