A "large and extremely dangerous" tornado touched down near Albany, New York today, and the National Weather Service couldn't issue a warning in time thanks to a nationwide communications issue within the agency.
The issue, caused by a firewall upgrade according to a spokesman who talked to Mashable this afternoon, prevented the agency from sending out many of its products in areas that were being pounded by severe weather. Some of the products affected include certain types of heavily-used radar data, as well as tornado warnings.
One of the tornado warnings that never made it to the public (aside from over social media) includes one apparent tornado near Albany, New York that produced "significant damage."
The tornado warning was issued at 4:01PM EDT, but the communications outage prevented the warning from reaching the public until it was too late at 4:35PM EDT.
The problem highlights the vulnerably in the nation's official weather forecasting agency, compounded by the fact that the NWS doesn't have enough meteorologists to handle forecasts or even technical issues like the one that occurred today.
Tornado warning lead time has greatly increased thanks to the advanced technology we have today, but when communications go down, that lead time vanishes and lives are put at risk. The NWS needs to address this issue and make sure that it doesn't happen again, especially during an ongoing severe weather situation.
[Images via NWS Mount Holly, NJ]