There’s a new sound to some weather reports in Iowa. When storms start racing across Iowa, it’s not the time to take trained forecasters away from their work. The meteorologists used to record alerts, forecasts and warnings for the national weather service weather radio system, but Data Program Manager Rob DeRoy says it’s faster and more efficient to use computer-generated voices…programs that turn text into synthesized speech. His office “drives” nine transmitters, each with its own programming, so each can get two or three new warnings on the air at once with computer speech, with no waiting for a human to “rip and read” the warning onto a recording. DeRoy explains a tornado moving along the ground at 40 MPH would cover a lot of ground in the time it took a human to rip off a printed script, key on weather radio codes and announce the latest warning, so they save important time by using speech synthesis. The weather service has dubbed the new set of voices “Tom” and “Donna.”DeRoy says people like a name, and many don’t believe these voices are synthetic. But it’s not all that rare any more, and DeRoy says they didn’t have to get special programs just for the National Weather Service’s “All-Hazards” weather broadcasting system. There are a lot of text-to-speech programs out there, he says, as well as those that will type out text as you speak words aloud. The nine regional weather radio systems are: Des Moines on 162.550 MHZ;Waterloo 162.550 MHZ; Fort Dodge 162.400 MHZ; Marshalltown 162.450 MHZ; Montezuma 162.450 MHZ; Lenox 162.450 MHZ; Rathbun Lake 162.425 MHZ; Carroll 162.425 MHZ; Van Wert 162.475 MHZ.
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