National Weather Service assesses systems used during deadly derecho

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Multiple agencies are continuing to investigate the deadly duck boat accident that happened on Table Rock Lake in July of 2018.

The list includes the National Weather Service.

Top scientists with the agency were tasked with taking a closer look at how they do business after fierce winds caused the sinking that left 17 passengers dead.

After months of studying the data they issued a 60-page assessment of the products and services they use to warn and inform the public of when the weather turns bad.

It was determined that a severe thunderstorm, later designated a derecho, hit the Table Rock Lake area. A derecho is categorized as a line of intense, widespread, and fast-moving windstorms.

"It's different in that the leading edge of the wind gusts were well out in front, about 10 to 15 miles in front of the actual thunderstorms. In some cases when that occurs these things can hit without people even hearing thunder," said National Weather Service meteorologist Dick Wagenmaker.

He took the lead on the agency's investigation.

"Our role is simply to do an internal evaluation of our products and services and how we can better reach the public," he said.

His team poured over data collected July 18, 2018. They also interviewed regional meteorologists about the deadly weather event.

"Springfield did a pretty good job on these warnings. They were on time. The lead time was almost a half an hour to Table Rock Lake. But we were able to suggest a few tweaks. One was to encourage that use of a path cast," said Wagenmaker.

A path cast lets people know where a storm will likely hit.

Their research also extended to talking with the likes of park rangers.

"We found in our interviews, especially with vulnerable, outdoor populations that time of arrival was very important," he said.

Wagenmaker said that local teams performed their duties well that day.

"I thought that the Springfield office is one of the best that I've seen. They have a great and trusted working relationship with local media and the emergency community management community there," he explained.

He said the next challenge is continue to improve the ways weather warnings are distributed.

"We're working with social scientists all the time on how to best communicate that information," said Wagenmaker. "It's not an easy thing to do. People respond in different ways and process information in different ways so that's a challenge for us going forward. We want to train them to know where to go and have a plan set up. That's key."

The National Weather Service will continue their research and investigation into best practices that includes using smart phone and other mobile technology to provide even more efficient updates.

Many of the civil lawsuits against the owners and operators of ride the ducks have been settled, however, criminal charges are still pending against the Ride the Ducks general manager and the operations supervisor, along with the boat's captain.