Q: It seems like this week's damaging thunderstorms and heavy rainfall caught many people by surprise. Why wasn't there more advance warning?

A: Forecasting as a science is always changing and improving, said National Weather Service Hydrometeorological Technician Bill Barrett, but the biggest change in recent years is a shift to social media.

"People are much more into that now," Barrett said. "We have Twitter and Facebook, which is primarily what we use here, of course. But you will see that often, forecasts are put out, when there's weather going, on every couple of hours."

Barrett said that he sees a trend of forecasters moving away from forecasting through more traditional methods. Instead, he said social media gives them a quicker and more accessible way to reach audiences with easy-to-read graphics and more real-time reporting as weather happens.

On Twitter, NWS first tweeted about the possibility of severe thunderstorms and heavy rainfall in the Grand Forks area on Monday, June 29. The storms began gathering around 3 p.m. over the Devils Lake Basin on Tuesday, June 30. That day, NWS updated its Twitter 19 times with storm locations, potential impacts and severe weather warnings as they were issued. On the same day, NWS Grand Forks updated its Facebook page with information about the storms and rainfall 11 times.

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He said there are still those who might seek weather reports through traditional formats. However, he said those people might find that if they seek out local NWS social media accounts, they might prefer it.

"It used to be with text products that people couldn't find them all the time," Barrett said. "A lot of times, we'd send stuff out and it would go somewhere, or to a website or some other place and it could be harder, but now it's right in front of you. So I'd say that's probably the biggest change."

The storms that hit this week didn't come with traditionally publicized predictions of heavy rainfall. But some areas in the region had between 5 and 10 inches of rain in the string of storms, which hit Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.

NWS can be found on Facebook at US National Weather Service Grand Forks North Dakota, or on Twitter at @NWSGrandForks.

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