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TV station issues apology for opting to air football game instead of tornado warning

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Posted at 9:45 PM, Oct 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-23 21:45:07-04

TV stations are frequently criticized for opting to break into regular programming in lieu of severe weather coverage. On Sunday, the NBC affiliate in Dallas opted to not break into a Cowboys game instead of interrupting the game to notify viewers of a possible tornado.

It turns out that an EF-3 tornado was on the ground in Dallas, and some who were watching the football game were unaware of the twister.

It took six minutes for the station to interrupt coverage of the game.

Following the tornado, the station issued an apology:

"During Sunday night's Dallas Cowboys game, we made a mistake by not immediately interrupting the football game with a Tornado Warning.

"Although our meteorologists were tracking thunderstorms across the area when the National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for Dallas County, we delayed breaking into programming for six minutes.

"Our meteorologists were also streaming live weather coverage throughout the evening on our site, NBCDFW.com. We also alerted the football audience to our weather livestream throughout the game.

"When it comes to dealing with severe weather, we know that seconds matter. We should have broken into football programming sooner. We apologize and want you to know that we’re doing everything in our power to make sure this does not happen again.

"We look forward to regaining the trust of anyone we may have disappointed."

According to FCC rules, broadcasters must inform the public with both visual and audio format of emergencies, which include tornadoes. Although an on-screen graphic and an emergency alert tone satisfies this requirement, many stations opt to fulfill their requirement by breaking into regular programming.

In April, Alabama meteorologist James Spann stated many residents are unable to locate their town on a map, making a graphic with no commentary useless. Spann says this is concerning during incidents of life-threatening weather.

Spann expressed his frustration while on air on WMBA-TV in Birmingham.

"During severe weather, what do we use? Maps," Spann explained on the air. "We have learned a large percentage of people in our state and in many states cannot find themselves on a map.

"If I were to give you a blank map with no labels, no highways, just county lines and state lines, could you draw a dot within 50 miles of your house? We've seen some studies which show about 85 percent of the population cannot."

In May, Jamie Simpson, then a meteorologist in Dayton, Ohio, called out viewers on air for social media posts to resume normal programming. Hours later, the city was devastated by an EF-4 tornado.

Simpson's rant then went viral.

"I am done with you people," Simpson told viewers.