The US National Weather Service warns us about potentially dangerous weather, so it would be pretty scary if their highly reliable data analysis and warning system, the one they use to disseminate all their predictions, went down.
It went down.
Both the primary and backup routers at the National Weather Service's Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System Network Control Facility (AWIPS) failed for the first time this week. This caused an outage lasting two and a half hours, right as New England was being pummelled by a blizzard, according to an NWS press statement released this week and emailed to Gizmodo.
Heads Up - There is a national data outage affecting all NWS offices. Our products might be delayed this afternoon. #mobwx
— NWS Mobile (@NWSMobile) February 13, 2017
The power outage began Tuesday at 6:08AM AEDT, and prevented the NWS from fully distributing forecasts and warnings using their primary system, frustrating some meteorologists who rely on the data. The usual warnings were substituted with the National Oceanic Administration Authority's Weather Radio, as well as updates on local forecast offices' social media pages.
.@NWS data outage continues. No products from any of their offices coming out and no wx obs either. Embarrassing infrastructure failure.
— Ryan Hanrahan (@ryanhanrahan) February 13, 2017
— Carl Jones (@northflwx) February 13, 2017
The NWS has seen smaller data outages before — in 2013 there were several systems issues, as reported by the Washington Post.
The good news is the NWS managed to resolve the latest outage pretty quickly. It's still investigating the power outage's cause, and will be "implementing additional communication pathways to the backup Network Control Facility" to ensure problems won't occur again. We reached out to the NWS for an update on the cause of the outage, where the network control facilities are and what "implementing additional communication pathways" means, but had not heard back at time of writing.