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.


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.


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

Project: Tornado sign-up has begun


Attention teachers and principals: it is that time of year again! We want to come to your school!

Every year, WREX puts together an extensive education campaign called “Project: Tornado.”

The premise is simple: each school day for an entire month, the 13 Weather Authority team will speak to children about the power of severe weather. Our visits in gymnasiums and auditoriums are complete with interactive demonstrations, documentary video produced here at WREX, and ending with a question and answer session. Every student will go home with a full-color booklet so the information is shared with family and friends. Best part? It’s a free service of WREX!

We are very proud to have seen 40,000+ students complete our course in the past eight years. If you’re interested in our program, click here.

To sign your school up for Project: Tornado, click here. Make sure to include your preferred time slot when you choose your 1st and 2nd choices on the date!




Posted under Project: Tornado, safety, severe weather

This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 10, 2015

Line of Storms on the Way

A Tornado Watch is in effect for Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago County in northern Illinois until 7pm Monday. A Tornado Watch is also in effect for Green and Rock County in Wisconsin until 7pm.

Exactrack HD Doppler Radar: 3:30pm

Exactrack HD Doppler Radar: 3:30pm

A fast moving line of thunderstorms will barrel out of eastern Iowa for the late afternoon and in the the evening hours. The main threats with this line are strong, damaging wind gusts over 70mph, some hail, dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning, and very heavy rain. This line of storms is expected to reach the Rockford area just in time for the evening commute. Storms will likely exit the eastern half of our area just before sunset. Please keep an eye to the sky!

Be prepared to seek shelter as these thunderstorms are fast approaching. There is the possibility of some rotation in this line of storms….something that will have to be closely watched.  Flash flooding is also a concern with the potential for a couple of inches of rainfall. Keep it tuned to the 13 Weather Authority for the latest information!



Posted under flooding, safety, severe weather, weather

This post was written by qni_it on June 30, 2014

Keep an Eye to the Sky

A good swath of the Midwest will be under the gun for the risk of severe weather today. Locally, we will see warm and even humid conditions for the better part of Mother’s Day. Temperatures will rise into the upper 70s and flirt with 80 in a few spots.

The main player in our forecast is a warm front positioned across Missouri and southern Illinois. As this warm front lifts north this afternoon and evening, scattered thunderstorms will develop along it. Some of these thunderstorms will be on the strong-to-severe side.

T'Storms along the Warm Front

T’Storms along the Warm Front

Weather forecast models vary on the exact timing of thunderstorm development. It appears that late afternoon into the after-dark hours will be the time frame. This will allow plenty of heating to take place during the day, which will help fuel any thunderstorm development.

Strong winds over 60mph, sizeable hail, frequent cloud-to-ground lightning, and torrential rain will be possible in a severe thunderstorm. There is a risk of tornadoes today, primarily over Iowa and Kansas. However, some rotation is possible with local storms…..something which we will be monitoring.


There is no need to panic, but today is a good day to be weather aware! If you haven’t already, I’d recommend downloading our 13 Exactrack app for your smart phone. It’s free and has a few of the tools we use to track the weather!



Posted under FutureTrack, safety, severe weather, weather

This post was written by qni_it on May 11, 2014

Weather Radio Campaign Begins

Spring is a busy season for the 13 Weather Authority! Not only are we monitoring the radar for any storms, we will also be out and about promoting severe weather safety. In addition to our Project: Tornado program offered in our local schools, another campaign will start this Friday (April 25).

Last spring, meteorologists Eric Sorensen, Greg Bobos and Joe Astolfi helped distribute and program a record 2,100 weather radios.

What does a weather radio do? It’s pretty simple. In the event of severe weather (like thunderstorms, flooding and tornadoes) it will alert you of any nearby danger. Trust me, you will hear the alert sound and be aware of approaching weather hazards. Think of it as an investment that will bring you many years of safety!


We made it to 7 Schnucks stores in the Rockford and DeKalb area last spring. We plan on a total of 15 store visits in the next couple of months. In addition to Schnucks, we will expand our presence to Walgreens stores throughout the area. We’ll now be able to make stops in Belvidere, Freeport, Dixon and other area towns.

Midland / NOAA Weather Radios will be available for purchase during regular store hours. Look for updates on the Weather Blog, Facebook, Twitter and 13 News to find out where and when you can meet the 13 Weather Authority meteorologists in person!

Our first event is this Friday, April 25, from 5pm to 7pm at the East State Street Schnucks store in Rockford. See you there!



Posted under Project: Tornado, safety, severe weather

This post was written by qni_it on April 23, 2014

Project: Tornado Begins

Severe weather can happen at anytime of year. But in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, things really pick up in May and June. The time is right, so Project: Tornado is about to begin.


Every spring, the 13 Weather Authority meteorologists visit 25 to 30 schools throughout the area to teach our kids about storms and severe weather safety. We will kick things off on Monday April 28 with visits to Concordia Lutheran School in Machesney Park and St. Rita School in Rockford. Other stops this year include Amboy, Lena, Polo and South Beloit. Check out the complete list HERE.

In the upcoming weeks, kids will learn the science behind severe weather and tornadoes. Why do we do this? As 13 Weather Authority meteorologists, it is our job to keep you safe. Learning about the power of storms at a young age is important. Our ultimate goal is to make sure students know exactly what to do during tornadoes and violent storms.

Over 35,000 students have taken part in Project: Tornado. This year, Eric Sorensen, Greg Bobos, and Joe Astolfi look to add another 5,000 to the list!



Posted under Project: Tornado, safety, severe weather

This post was written by qni_it on April 23, 2014

Project: Tornado sign-up has begun

BEGINSAttention teachers and principals! We want to come to your school!

Every year, we put together an extensive education campaign called “Project: Tornado.” the 13 Weather Authority team travels to at least one school every day for an entire month! Our visits in gymnasiums and auditoriums are complete with interactive demonstrations, documentary video produced here at WREX, and ending with a question and answer session. Every student will go home with a full-color booklet so the information is shared with family and friends. Best part of this? It’s a free service of WREX!

We are very proud to have seen 35,000+ students complete our course in the past seven years. If you’re interested in our program, click here.


Posted under Project: Tornado, safety

This post was written by qni_it on March 24, 2014

Flooding Concerns

Even though we’ve got chilly temperatures for the next day or so, minor flooding will cause a few headaches this week. As the ground thawed out and much of our snowpack melted off last week, area creeks and rivers have been on the rise. Luckily, we’ve had a slow thaw and very little rain to agitate our waterways. Nonetheless, creeks and rivers have filled their banks in many spots, even flowing over their banks in others.

Washed out road in Ogle County

Washed out road in Ogle County

As the ice continues to break up, ice jam flooding will be a concern. Ice jam flooding can last a short amount of time or several hours and often comes with very short notice.

Ice jam along the Rock River

Ice jam along the Rock River

Flood warnings and advisories are posted for the Rock River in Ogle, Lee & Whiteside County. Minor flooding is also occurring along the Pecatonica River in Winnebago & Stephenson County. Smaller rivers and creeks have also been affected, including Turtle Creek near Beloit, Yellow Creek near Pearl City and Killbuck Creek near Lindenwood.

Minor flooding is forecast

Minor flooding is forecast

The National Weather Service offers river gauge and water level data for waterways throughout our region. Click on these links to monitor your local creeks and rivers:

With more melting expected for this upcoming week, minor flooding may continue. -Joe


Posted under flooding, ice, safety, weather

This post was written by qni_it on March 15, 2014

How to survive a fall through the ice

  1. Be prepared. Many people fall through ice in or near towns where help is nearby, but if you’re going to be some distance from civilization (as you might on a backpacking or snowmobiling trip) you should prepare for the possibility of a plunge.
    • Carry a spud bar – a long metal or metal-tipped wood pole that can be used to probe unsure areas of ice, and can also be used as a walking stick when traveling on slick areas.
    • Carry safety spikes. There are also many types of safety spikes, designed to give traction to an ice adventurer, should he break through. Pairs can be bought at stores, but some of the most effective spikes can be made of wooden dowels and nails at home. By putting a nail into one-inch-diameter dowels that fit into your hands, you have created a floating tool that could very well save your life. Connect the two dowels with eye-hooks and a durable cord to have them comfortably hang around your neck available to use at a moment’s notice.
    • Rewarming yourself after spending time in ice-cold water is essential, and in a remote area fire will likely be your only option. Carry reliable fire starters, such as those commercially available in camping and outdoor supply stores, or, at the very least, waterproof matches. Fire starters may not be waterproof, so make sure to keep them in a tightly sealed plastic bag or other waterproof container. Keep your fire-making supplies in a zipped pocket of your jacket so there is no chance of losing them. If you go through the ice, whether on foot or snowmobile, you will likely lose all your supplies that aren’t attached to you.
    • Wear a small backpack that contains essential supplies such as water, food, an emergency blanket, and possibly a change of clothes. Make sure the backpack is waterproof, or keep the items inside sealed in a bag. Don’t overpack this bag; just keep the necessities in it. If you’re already carrying a heavy backpack, keep in mind that you may need to dump it in order to get out of the water, so consider keeping some emergency supplies in a fanny pack or in the pockets of your clothes.
    • Wear a flotation suit if you’re traveling by snowmobile. Regular snowmobile suits can weigh you down and make escape from the water difficult. A flotation suit is more expensive, but worth every penny – and more – if you end up needing it.
  2. Survive a Fall Through Ice Step 2.jpg

    Brace yourself. As soon as you realize you’re falling through the ice, hold your breath so that you do not breathe in water if your head goes under for a moment. If you have the presence of mind to lean back a little, this will also help you to avoid submersion of your head. Everything usually happens very quickly, though, so just be sure to immediately get to the surface if your head does go underwater.

  3. Survive a Fall Through Ice Step 3.jpg
    Keep a cool head. You don’t literally want a “cool” head, of course, but you dowant to calm down. The body will react to the plunge by going into “cold shock,” a condition characterized by hyperventilation, involuntary gasping, and internal responses including hypertension (high blood pressure) and changes in pulse rate. It’s easy to panic under these conditions, but the fact is, you’ve got time: even in near-freezing water, people in decent physical condition will generally have at least 2-5 minutes, and sometimes much longer, before they lose the strength or coordination to pull themselves out. Yes, it’s a race against time, but the race is a bit longer than most people think. Panic is your worst enemy.
  4. Survive a Fall Through Ice Step 4.jpg
    Find the hole! Especially when speed skating, momentum can make you end up far away from the original break in the ice. Being calm and try to locate what’s up and remember this:
    • When the ice is covered with snow: the hole will be darker.
    • Ice without snow: the hole will be lighter.
    • Always look for the contrasting color!
  5. Survive a Fall Through Ice Step 5.jpg
    Stay afloat. Though your head may have gone underwater initially, you want to make sure you keep it out of the water from here on out. Tread water, and lean slightly back to help you float more easily. Don’t worry about getting out right away; in the first minute you should just concentrate on keeping afloat and not drowning. If a heavy backpack is pulling you down, ditch it.
  6. Survive a Fall Through Ice Step 6.jpg
    Control your breathing. The gasping and hyperventilating associated with cold shock begin the second you go into the water and can last up to 4 minutes. You need to normalize your breathing as quickly as possible to ensure that you have enough energy and awareness to get yourself out of the water and minimize the risk of cardiac arrest (cardiac arrest resulting from cold shock is rare in healthy people, but can strike almost instantly in the elderly or people with preexisting heart conditions). Concentrate on slowing your breathing, and make an effort to take deep breaths (note this may not be feasible if the water around you is turbulent). If you continue to take rapid, shallow breaths, try breathing through pursed lips.
  7. Survive a Fall Through Ice Step 7.jpg
    Position yourself to face the strongest part of the ice. Since you fell through the ice, you know that the ice around the edges of the hole may very likely also be weak. Generally, the strongest ice will be that which you were on just before you fell through. After all, it was holding you only moments before. In some cases, however, the edge from which you came may difficult to reach or may have fragmented. If this happens, just get to an edge that you can reach and which appears thick and intact.
  8. Survive a Fall Through Ice Step 8.jpg
    Get as much of your body as possible out of the water. Grab onto the top of the ice and use your arms and elbows to lift yourself up. It’s likely that you won’t be able to get all the way out by doing so, but you can get a good start. You’ll also lighten your load as water drains off of you.
  9. Survive a Fall Through Ice Step 9.jpg
    Kick your feet and simultaneously pull yourself out. Since you generally won’t be able to lift yourself upward and out, you want to instead “swim” out by getting your body as horizontal as possible. Lean forward onto the ice, and kick your feet as you would if you were swimming. As you do so, use your arms and elbows to push and pull yourself out of the hole. An alternate method is to roll out and away from the hole by floating on your back, hooking your strongest arm over the ice and bring your leg on the same side up over the ice edge; begin rolling up on the ice with a throwing motion with the opposite arm in the direction of the roll while bringing the opposite leg up as the roll commences. continue to roll until you are on solid ice.
    • If you’re unable to get out of the water after 5 or 10 minutes, you’re almost certainly not going to get out. Your body will become weak and uncoordinated, and you will eventually lose consciousness. Don’t give up, though. Instead, change your strategy. Many people who have lost consciousness after falling through ice have still been rescued because they managed to keep their heads above water even while they were passed out.
    • Get as much of your body onto the ice as possible. The body loses heat in water much more quickly than it does in air, so the more of your body is above water the better.
    • Stretch out your arms flat against the ice, and don’t move them unless you start slipping. If you hold your hands and arms in one position against the ice, they may freeze to the ice. This can prevent you from sliding into the water once you pass out, thus giving you more time to be rescued.
    • If you’re certain you cannot escape, stop struggling. Struggling takes away your energy and can lower your body temperature, increasing the rate at which hypothermia sets in.
  10. Survive a Fall Through Ice Step 10.jpg
    Roll away from the hole. Don’t stand up right away. The ice around the hole may be weak, so you want to distribute your weight over as much area as possible. Roll away from the hole or crawl on your belly until you are several feet from the hole. After that, you can crawl on your hands and knees until you are certain you are out of danger. Only then should you stand up.
  11. Survive a Fall Through Ice Step 11.jpg

    Retrace your footsteps or path back to shore after getting out. At least try as hard as you can to go back the way you came, as the ice you crossed earlier held up under your weight until the breaking point.

  12. Survive a Fall Through Ice Step 12.jpg
    Warm up and get help. Severe hypothermia actually takes quite a while to set in, but it’s critical to get warm as soon as possible, even if you don’t feel particularly cold (you will probably be numb). If you’re in the wilderness, start a fire. Otherwise, get indoors or inside a warm car as soon as possible. Get medical attention promptly, even if you don’t feel like you need it.

Posted under cold blast, safety

This post was written by qni_it on February 10, 2014

Bitter Cold Returns

Arctic high pressure will be in control of our weather through Wednesday morning. This will give us a break from the snow, but not from the cold! Temperatures will fall below zero late Sunday night and bottom out near 10 below by early Monday morning.  We’ll have to deal with a slight northwest breeze, around 10mph, so wind chill values will be even colder.


A Wind Chill Advisory is in effect for our entire area overnight through the morning hours of Monday. The advisory takes effect at 9pm for Carroll, Jo Daviess, Stephenson and Whiteside County. The advisory begins at midnight for Boone, DeKalb, Green, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Rock, Walworth and Winnebago County.


Late Sunday night, our wind chill values will to plummet to 15 below zero. By sunrise Monday, wind chills will be as cold as 25 (possibly 30) below zero!  There will be some improvement by Monday afternoon (wind chill around 10 below).  Air temperatures Monday afternoon will only reach the single digits.


Monday night into Tuesday morning looks to have record-breaking cold temperatures. The current forecast calls for temperatures near 17 below.  Our record low of -12° from 1981 is in jeopardy.  Tuesday will top out around 10 degrees, while Wednesday makes a push for the lower 20s.



Posted under cold blast, FutureTrack, record weather, safety, statistics, weather, Wind, winter weather

This post was written by qni_it on February 9, 2014