NOAA/NWS 1982 Williamson County / Marion, IL F4 Tornado Web Site
Advanced technology and better communications have certainly helped to improve warning operations over the past few decades. Even with such systems as Doppler radar and the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, the warning process still has plenty of room for improvement. While radar is helping to detect more severe weather events than ever before, the warning forecasters at NOAA's National Weather Service still rely heavily on trained spotters to help correlate radar data with ground-truth information. These spotters range from those in the law enforcement community to emergency management and volunteer weather observers.
Everyone who worked at the NOAA National Weather Service Forecast Office in St. Louis, Missouri in 1982 and had input into this web site were quick to recall the tremendous service that law enforcement and spotter groups provided in relaying timely information to those who were issuing the warnings on May 29, 1982. Bob Hamilton, the Meteorologist-In-Charge of the St. Louis NOAA National Weather Service Forecast Office in 1982, said the event "provided a great example of the cooperation between law enforcement, civil defense, and local media in the warning process."
In particular, the efforts of Troopers Rheamond Evans and Paul Freeman, both now retired from Illinois State Police District 13 in DuQuoin, Illinois, were recognized with a "Special Service Award" after the Williamson County tornado event. Both troopers were on duty when the tornado touched down, and followed the tornado as it headed east along Route 13 into Marion. In fact, if it were not for the brave efforts of these unsung heroes, the death toll may have been much higher.
According to former NWS Central Region Director Dennis McCarthy, the brave effort of both Illinois State Police troopers "underscores the importance of timely ground-truth reports in the warning process and provides an example of the efforts law enforcement folks make during severe weather outbreaks."