Project: Tornado…The Final Days

The end is near, but the reason has only just begun!
Severe weather season is in full swing, and the 13 Weather Authority has been making sure Stateline students know how to handle it by continuing Project: Tornado.

Within the last three weeks, we have traveled to 19 schools across Northern Illinois educating elementary students on how thunderstorms form and how to stay safe during a tornado. As of today, roughly 2,651 students are prepared for severe weather, and we’re still not done!
Next week, we finish off our final week of Project: Tornado, as we head to Spring Creek Elementary, Rolling Green, Barbour Language Academy, Swan Hillman and St. Mary’s School to educate another 1,200 students. This means almost 4,000 Stateline students will know exactly what to do when severe weather strikes.

Each student receives a Project: Tornado booklet, filled with pictures, games, and important information to help them understand thunderstorm processes, tornadoes, safety, and local historic tornadoes.
Here’s a sneak peek:

PT1 PT2 PT3

 

 

 

 

 

 

PT4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Severe weather ready’ students are from Conklin Elementary, Perry Elementary, Pecatonica Elementary, Keith Country Day, Jefferson Elementary, Immanuel Lutheran School, Ellis Arts Academy, Lincoln-Douglas Elementary, Rockford Lutheran Academy, Thurgood Marshall School, Ralston Elementary, C. Henry Bloom, Holy Family Catholic School, West View Elementary, Shirland School, Highland Grade School, Loves Park Elementary, Lewis Lemon Elementary, and Nashold Elementary.

ptlewislemon

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Posted under event, Exactrack|HD, history, Project: Tornado, safety, science, severe weather, tornado, weather, weather geek, Wind

This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on May 15, 2015

Severe Weather Ready

We’ve got the opportunity to see some scattered thunderstorms this afternoon, carrying that over to the evening and overnight hours. Although the risk of these turning severe is very low, they’ll bring along lightning and gusty winds.

Most of your Saturday afternoon is looking dry, but we’ll likely see some lingering showers in the morning, and pick up some more as we head overnight into Sunday. The cloud cover is sticking around throughout the entire weekend, and cooler weather takes overs on Saturday after a cold front sweeps through.

Eyes to the sky as we head into Sunday night and Monday. A low pressure system accompanied by a warm, moist airmass will make way for a chance of severe thunderstorm activity. The main threats are strong winds and hail, but isolated tornadoes are possible.

rochelle wx radio

 

We’ve been talking about severe weather safety a lot lately, and it’s so important to not rely on an outdoor warning system in the event of severe weather. These sirens are only reliable if you are outdoors and/or within ear’s reach. Get severe weather ready with a weather radio. The 13 Weather Authority will be at the Walgreens in Rochelle from 5PM through 7PM programming weather radios for free! Don’t get caught in severe weather without a warning.

Good news: Things look to dry up by mid week next week! Temperatures hover the upper 60’s and lower 70’s.

-Morgan

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This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on May 8, 2015

Continuing the Conversation…

Every year as we approach and push through the months of spring, severe weather is always a big topic. Perhaps it’s been an even larger topic recently, considering the 11 tornadoes that occurred in early April across the state of Illinois, 7 of which affected the Stateline.

Last night, I was able to attend a symposium where meteorologists from Northern Illinois University and the National Weather Service in Chicago, as well as NIU’s emergency management coordinator spoke on behalf of how a meteorologist interprets severe weather, a breakdown of the April 9th EF-4 tornado, and necessary steps to take to stay safe throughout severe weather.

Ph.D. student Stephen Strader presented research that he has been working on with NIU’s Dr. Walker Ashley, part of it focusing on the path of this tornado.  He compared it to the effects it could have had if it was shifted about 12 miles northwest through the Byron nuclear power station, to the southeast through the NIU campus, or even through Chicago. All scenarios that could very well happen, likely causing much more damage.

Senior Meteorologist Gino Izzi of the National Weather Service in Chicago was the meteorologist that was issuing the tornado warnings on April 9th, 2015. He analyzed the radar and explained the different panels used when dissecting a storm. Since a bulk of the audience was the general public, perhaps the biggest takeaway (in my opinion) was his note about his choice on issuing tornado warnings. Among his colleagues, he says he’s been getting the reputation of the “older and more conservative” meteorologist. He explained what that meant when determining whether or not he should issue a tornado warning. The takeaway? There is A LOT of studying, analyzing, thought, and confidence put into the warnings that are issued BEFORE they are issued, so be sure to take them seriously.

Northern Illinois University’s staff meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste talked about staying safe during severe weather. A big note, “have a plan.” At times, you could only have seconds before you’re in the path of danger, and it’s important to have a plan ahead of time. He also noted that many fatalities due to tornadoes are completely preventable, unfortunately people choose to ignore the warning. He gave information on ways to stay safe on the campus, listing all of the resources available to students. He also mentioned the plethora of resources available to the general public when it comes to severe weather. Those include outdoor warning sirens, text warnings, social media posts, weather radios, etc.

So, I ask this question to you: what does it take for you personally to take a tornado warning seriously? The meteorologists that prepared and presented last night at NIU say the whole point was to educate people.

It is so important to continue to conversation of severe weather.

With all of that being said, the 13 Weather Authority is committed to continuing the conversation throughout severe weather season with you. We’ve already begun our Project: Tornado events this week. For the entire month, we are visiting elementary schools across northern Illinois educating kids on severe weather, how to stay safe, and answering questions they may have. Roughly 4,000 students will go home with a Project: Tornado book filled with pictures, games, and knowledge of severe weather.

4-28-15 PT perry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re also beginning our Weather Radio events Friday, May 1st. Our first event will be held at the Schnucks in Cherry Valley from 5PM-7PM. You can stop by and purchase a weather radio, and our team of meteorologists will program it for you for free. It’s easy! Already have a weather radio but need it programmed? Great- bring it to us and we’ll get it set up for you.
We’re doing these events throughout the entire month of May. The list of where we’ll be can be found here: WREX Weather Radio Events. Stay tuned for the list for the month of June.

wx radio 5-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are so many continuing conversations about safety on every level, whether it’s texting and driving, Stranger Danger, Click it or Tick it, or Stop, Look & Listen . Let’s add severe weather safety to the list and let’s continue the conversation.

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This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on May 1, 2015

A Look Back 48 Years Ago and 11 Days Ago

We are 11 days removed from the EF-4 tornado that ripped through north central Illinois, beginning in Franklin Grove, stretching 43.5 miles through Flagg and into Fairdale. While locals and non-locals are pitching in on the effort of recovery for residents affected by 7 tornadoes on April 9th 2015, many are also remembering the devastation from a tornado that struck the Stateline nearly 48 years ago.

On April 21st, 1967 the city of Belvidere experienced a deadly tornado, with eerily similar damage to the EF-4 tornado on April 9th 2015, but this one was twelve times as deadly.

Let’s flash back to meteorology in the 1900’s. Right after World War 11, the weather community started the use of radars, which were around for about 30 years by the time the Belvidere Tornado occured.
4-9 radar imageIn 1948, less than 20 years before the 1967 tornado, Robert C. Miller and E. J. Fawbush correctly predicted the first tornado in Oklahoma.  10-15 years before the Belvidere Tornado, computers ran their first models of the atmosphere. Just 5 years before the deadly tornado hit Boone County, Keith Browning and Frank Ludlam published a detailed study of a supercell storm, the first one of it’s kind. In fact, it wasn’t until a few years after the Belvidere tornado that Dr. Tetsuya Theodore Fujita invented the “Fujita Scale.”

Are you catching my drift here? While the foundation and structure of much of meteorology was founded, knowledge and awareness was minimal on the atmosphere during the early and mid 20th century. This is a key contributor to the saved lives and safety of many Stateliners on April 9th 2015.

The tornado that devastated Boone County 48 years ago was rated an “F-4″ on the Fujita Scale. According to the Fujita Scale, an F-4 tornado *estimates wind speeds between 207 and 260 mph, and typical damage includes well-constructed houses leveled, weak foundation structures blown away, and cars thrown. We now know that the Fujita Scale could over-estimate wind speeds, which is why we now use the Enhanced Fujita Scale (another educational advancement).

Still, the damage we see in photos of the Belvidere Tornado in 1967 grimly mimic the photos being posted from Fairdale within the past 11 days.

According to Jim Allsopp, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service, the Belvidere Tornado first struck just before 4PM 2 miles southeast of Cherry Valley. It went on to destroy 300 new cars and 100 employee cars at the Chrysler Plant, which was only a fraction of the damage it would go on to create. The tornado moved on to the southeast side of Belvidere, where 127 homes were destroyed and hundreds more were damaged.

At the time, Belvidere High School had just dismissed students onto buses filled with elementary school students. 12 buses were rolled over and children were flung into muddy fields.
belvtor2

 

In 2011, Ken Anderson (left) told WREX, “My bus (#30) was moved 100 yards by the tornado. I was wedged under a seat, my shirt soaked red with blood. I saw one, little body half buried in the mud. That memory, an 11 year old should never witness. In this picture, I am on the left (shirt tail out). That concerned look on my face marked the end of my childhood.” At Belvidere High School, 13 people were killed and another 300 were injured, which was just a little more than half of the havoc caused that day.

 

 

 

Dale Marks also vividly remembers April 21st 1967, “They tell me I was lucky. I only had both legs and pelvis broken. Our bus was just on the north side of the school. I think there were five people killed on my bus.’
belvtor1The Belvidere Tornado of 1967 went on to kill a total of 24 people and injure another 500.
To read Jim Allsopp’s full synopsis of the event, click here. To read all of the survivor comments from 2011, click here.

 

 

The Belvidere Tornado of 1967 was an F-4 and was up to 1/2 mile wide. It traveled 25-28 miles on the ground.
fairdale1The tornado that hit Fairdale (left) eleven days ago was an EF-4 that was nearly 1/2 mile wide. It traveled 30 miles on the ground.
But, what about the fatalities and injuries? During the 1967 F-4, 24 people were killed and another 500 were injured. During the 2015 EF-4, 2 people were killed and 22 were injured.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Education and awareness are saving people’s lives.

The Storm Prediction Center was able to put out the risk of severe weather nearly a week ahead of the April 9th event. The Chicago National Weather Service was able to implement watches and warnings with ample time to get to safety before these tornadoes struck communities. In fact, Ogle County Sheriff Brian Van Vickle stated, “I don’t think you could’ve asked for better warning.” Local TV meteorologists were able to give in depth explanations on air and online about WHY that Thursday could end with severe weather. We all could do this because of advancements in the world of meteorology.
4-9 radar image 2

In my opinion, the most important thing meteorologists can do is continue to explain to you WHY we could see dangerous weather, WHY we saw dangerous weather, or WHY we ended up not seeing dangerous weather. We’re living in a world with Google at our fingertips, with politics overlapping into sciences, and with education being pushed on everyone. We have been raised and trained to ask questions. Why would you believe something just because someone told you? You have the right to question. I think it’s our job to explain to you why it’s a threat, not just the fact that it’s a threat.

In my opinion, one of the most important things we as a community can learn from both of these deadly tornadoes, is the importance of heeding warnings and continuing to educate yourselves and listening to “the why” instead of chalking it up to “sensationalism,” “hype,” and even “TV ratings.”

Because awareness and education is one of the biggest contributing factors in the difference in death and injuries during severe weather.

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Posted under event, history, news, safety, science, severe weather, statistics, tornado, weather, weather geek

This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on April 20, 2015

Today’s Severe Weather Thoughts

I want to give a detailed description of my thoughts on the potential for severe weather on Thursday. If you’d like to skip over the “why,” scroll to the bottom of this article. I’ve listed my thoughts on the timing and threat.

Showers and thunderstorms started to develop overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning. A cluster of non severe thunderstorms passed through the Stateline early this morning between 3AM and 7AM, with heavy rain as the main threat. Now, we’ve got a break in the heavy rain and thunderstorms this morning. We’ll likely see another round of non severe thunderstorms and showers pass through in the late morning and early afternoon.

4-9 threattracker

 

The threat of severe thunderstorms doesn’t come in until we head into the mid afternoon and into the evening. However, there are some question marks.
One of the biggest reasons has to do with something meteorologists refer to as instability, which is one of the key ingredients to produce a severe thunderstorm. Have you ever noticed that most thunderstorms occur in the late afternoon? That’s because of daytime heating. All day long, the sun heats up the surface and creates a big difference between the temperature around us and the temperature in the mid levels of the atmosphere. This helps to create more instability. Overnight, there is no sunshine to warm the surface, therefore instability is limited. This is one reason why the threat of severe thunderstorms overnight and early this morning was very minor.
Cloud cover is going to stick around early and late Thursday morning. The thick clouds will limit the amount of sun allowed to heat the surface, which will also limit the amount of instability in the atmosphere. This is the big question mark- will the clouds break in the afternoon, before thunderstorms devlop? IF they do, we run a higher risk of seeing severe thunderstorms. As of this morning, much guidances suggests clouds will start breaking after the lunch hour, which will allow the sun to help increase instability and raise the potential for thunderstorms to turn severe as we head into the mid afternoon through the evening.

The other ingredients we look for as necessary for severe development look to be in place. This includes a strong southerly surface wind, that changes direction as you go up into the atmosphere. Dewpoints reaching the low to middle 60’s combined with an incoming cold front will aid in development of scattered thunderstorms.

4-9 whats the threat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think the biggest threat today will be damaging winds, followed by large hail. I expect discrete thunderstorms to turn severe in the mid afternoon, lasting into the evening. There’s also a risk for a few isolated tornadoes to occur across and near the Stateline.

4-9 know your safe place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is important to know your safe place today, whether you are at home, in school, at work, or driving.

4-9 be prepared

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be sure to have your NOAA Weather Radio working today and do not rely solely on outdoor warning sirens.

Chief Meteorologist Alex Kirchner, 13 Weather Authority’s Nick Jansen and myself will be in through the afternoon and evening to track the thunderstorms and update you on the risk for severe thunderstorms.

-Morgan

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This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on April 9, 2015

Thursday’s Severe Threat

The threat for severe thunderstorms still exists on Thursday.

Before we get there, we see the development of showers and thunderstorms overnight on Wednesday, producing a quarter to a half inch of rainfall. As of right now, these thunderstorms do not look to have the capabilities of turning severe. Same story as we head into early Thursday morning. Scattered showers and possibly thunderstorms can occur. The chance of these posing a severe threat is low, but I DO NOT want to rule out the chance completely.

4-8-15 timing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Storm Prediction Center has much of Illinois (including the Stateline) under an enhanced risk for severe thunderstorms.

4-8-15 spc convective outlook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We start to see the potential for these to turn severe as we head into the early afternoon. As of right now, it looks like thunderstorms will continue to develop and pose a severe threat between 1PM and 6PM on Thursday.

If these t’storms turn severe, the possible threats include damaging winds, large hail, and isolated tornadoes. Now is the time to start thinking of your safe place at home, work, and school. Please remember, tornado sirens are for outdoor warnings within ear’s reach. A NOAA Weather Radio is a great way to receive weather alerts indoors.

4-8-15 expect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the hours ahead, key ingredients to producing severe thunderstorms can change quickly. We will continue to analyze new information throughout the day. Chief Meteorologist Alex Kirchner will have the latest on 13 News at 5, 6 and 10 tonight, to let you know if the timing or the threat for these storms changes.
Keep up with us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/13wxauthority and online at wrex.com/weather for the latest information.

 

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Posted under rain, science, severe weather, tornado, weather, Wind

This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on April 8, 2015

Severe Weather Risk This Week

The Stateline is looking at the risk of severe weather toward the end of the work week.

The Storm Prediction Center has issued a Severe Thunderstorm Outlook that puts most of Illinois (including northern Illinois) under a marginal risk for severe thunderstorms.

4-6-15 SPC CONV OUTLOOK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A very strong area of low pressure heads northeast toward much of the Midwest on Wednesday night, bringing the potential for severe weather along with it. Large hail, damaging winds, heavy rainfall, and the possibility of isolated tornadoes are the threats associated with this system.

4-6-15 SEVERE RISK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 13 Weather Authority will continue to track this system throughout the week. We will keep you updated on our 13 Weather Authority Facebook page www.facebook.com/13wxauthority and on twitter at @13wxauthority

In addition to our Facebook and Twitter pages, you can head to www.wrex.com/weather and use our Radar Room to see incoming showers and thunderstorms, as well as the latest watches and warnings issued. You can also head over to our Interactive Radar to track the storm yourself!

arrows to severe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week is a good time to review your severe weather plans!

-Morgan

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This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on April 6, 2015

The Easter ‘Punny’ is Here!

We’ve got an EGGStraordinary forecast in store for the Easter bunny this year! As you SCRAMBLE to find plastic eggs during your early egg hunts, morning temperatures will rise to the middle to upper 40’s. HOPPING into the afternoon, temperatures will SPRING into the low to middle 60’s! HOPfully you like your Easter eggs SUNNY SIDE UP, because we’ll CRACK open the clouds and make way for sunshine. Unfortunately, we won’t have an EASTERly wind, as a high pressure system will funnel in a southwesterly wind throughout the day. To all the CHICKS out there, your HARE may be blowing around so you may want extra hairspray. Winds will be gusting up to 30mph. Don’t worry, it should still be an EGGSHELLent afternoon.

EASTER PUN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve had an OEUF of the clear sky, we work in some clouds later Sunday night, with a slight chance for a SPRINKLE.

Have a great Easter, YOLKS!

-Morgan

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Posted under humor, rain, science, sunlight, weather, weather geek

This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on April 3, 2015

March Snow Vs. March Rain

Now that March is nearing an end, we’re taking a peek at how much precipitation Rockford has received.

Let’s start with snow (since it feels like winter out there)! Rockford normally sees almost 5 inches of snow throughout the month of March. Up until last Monday, we were well below the normal mark. Monday, 5.1 inches of snow fell at the Rockford Airport, bringing our monthly total to 7.6 inches!

2-26-15 march catching up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now for the rainfall.
Rockford usually gets 2.32 inches of rain throughout the month. So far, we’ve only gotten about an inch and a quarter of rain. This Sunday, there’s a good chance we’ll add to that rain total bringing us a little bit closer to average before rounding out the month of March.

 

-Morgan

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This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on March 27, 2015

Unusual March

We’ve been so excited for the temperatures this March, the lack of rain and snow has gone unnoticed.

During the month of March, Rockford usually sees 2.3″ of rain. So far, we’ve seen less than half an inch! On average, we usually see almost 5″ of snow. Cut that in half- that’s as much as we’ve seen so far this month.

march so far

However, we could add to that as we head into the start of next week. We’ve got a chance to see some snow heading into Monday, which would bring us a little closer to that average mark.

Not only have we had very little snow and rain this month, but the precipitation that we’ve gotten, all fell in one day (March 3rd)!

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Posted under 13 Climate Authority, rain, science, snow, weather, weather geek

This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on March 20, 2015