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.

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Posted under Project: Tornado, safety

This post was written by Eric Sorensen 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

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Posted under flooding, ice, safety, weather

This post was written by Joe Astolfi 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.
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Posted under cold blast, safety

This post was written by Eric Sorensen 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.

windchilladvisory

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.

wdchadvz

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.

futuretrack

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.

-Joe

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

This post was written by Joe Astolfi on February 9, 2014

Blizzard Conditions Overnight

A Blizzard Warning is in effect for Carroll, Jo Daviess, Stephenson & Whiteside County overnight. Winter Storm Warnings are in effect for the rest of our area.  We will all deal with blizzard-like conditions through early Monday morning.  The worst of it will occur now through about 3am.

Winter Weather Alerts: Blizzard conditions area-wide

Winter Weather Alerts: Blizzard conditions area-wide

Winds have become increasingly stronger throughout the evening.  West northwest winds will be sustained between 25 and 35mph with wind gusts approaching 50mph.  Blowing and drifting with whiteout conditions are likely area-wide, with the worst being on rural roads and in open areas.

Avoid Travel Overnight

Avoid Travel Overnight

Avoid travel overnight. Numerous roads are shut down. Many cars are in ditches. Temperatures will fall below zero after midnight and wind chills will plummet to 30 below by sunrise; you do not want to be stranded in these conditions.

-Joe

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Posted under cold blast, safety, severe weather, snow, travel, Wind, winter storm, winter weather

This post was written by Joe Astolfi on January 26, 2014

Frostbite Weather

Dangerous—even life-threatening—cold temperatures and wind chills will keep the Stateline area in the deep freeze through Wednesday morning.  Not only will a gusty north-northwest wind cause blowing and drifting snow in open and rural areas, it will cause our wind chill values to be extremely cold.

Wind Chill Warning

Wind Chill Warning

Our general wind speed will be between 15 and 25mph with gusts up to 35mph now through Monday evening. From Monday night through Tuesday evening, winds will lessen to 10 to 20mph with a few higher gusts.  Air temperatures will bottom out around 20 below zero Monday morning and only rise to near 13 below zero by afternoon.  Temperatures will likely stay below zero for most of us all day Tuesday and not return to the positive side until late Wednesday morning.

Our forecast air temperature and wind speed will allow for wind chill values between 45 and 30 below zero through Tuesday night.  The coldest readings will occur overnight and Monday.

FutureTrack Wind Chill

FutureTrack Wind Chill

What does this mean? Frostbite might occur if you are outdoors with exposed skin in as little as 10 to 30 minutes.  It is best to stay indoors. If you must be outdoors take extra precautions. Wear extra layers of clothing. Have that winter preparedness kit in your vehicle.  And don’t forget about our four-legged friends. Animals can get frostbite too.

Wind Chill Chart

Wind Chill Chart

Stay safe and warm!

-Joe

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

This post was written by Joe Astolfi on January 5, 2014

Snowy Travel for the New Year

heavysnowOur next winter system is bearing down on us.. just in time to make traveling difficult for New Year’s Eve plans. We will see our first flakes by mid-afternoon today, and the snow won’t exit the area until tomorrow afternoon. When all is said and done, we will add 4-8″ of fresh powder on top of our existing snow. A few localized areas even have a shot at seeing a bit more than that! The timing is what will really get us this time around. By midnight, there will already be 3-4″ on the ground in most spots, so driving conditions will not be optimal, and road chemicals will be far less effective thanks to the frigid temperatures. Be extra careful if you head out tonight, and remember buzzed driving is drunk driving. If there was ever a NYE to take extra precautions, plan ahead and be extra alert on the roadways, it is this one. – Greg

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Posted under safety, snow, travel

This post was written by GregBobos on December 31, 2013

How much heat is lost out of the top of your head?

I bet you’ve heard someone say “You lose 50% of your body heat from the top of your head.” I think my mom and grandma engrained that into me at a young age. During cold weather we always feared death if we went out in the cold without a hat. But that was good advice, even though it wasn’t exactly true.

The human head makes up about 7% of the surface area of the human body. So it would be next to impossible for 50% of the body’s heat to be lost in the head. Point being, any exposed skin is prone to temperature loss, especially in high wind and if the skin (or hair) is wet. If you have a thick head of hair, you’ve got some free insulation up there. But putting on a hat will offer that much more protection against the cold and when your head is warm, you will feel comfortable.

BALDThe most uncomfortable people during cold outbreaks like this are those who are bald and babies. If you’re bald, you obviously don’t have that layer of insulation. And consider a baby’s body. Their heads are disproportionately bigger than the rest of their bodies. If their heads aren’t bundled up, they will lose A LOT of heat. So make sure they are completely secured in a blanket if they have to be outside…even for a minute.

Lastly, our forecast low temperature tonight is some 109 degrees below your body temperature. Keep that body of yours warm by dressing in layers and limiting outside exposure! -Eric

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Posted under cold blast, safety

This post was written by Eric Sorensen on December 23, 2013

Wind Chill Advisory

A wind chill advisory will be in effect for the Stateline from 3pm this afternoon until 5am tomorrow. 2Overnight low temperatures will take us down to -9° for the second time in three nights, and if we drop another degree down to -10°, it was be the first negative double digit temperature since February of 2011. Due to the bitter cold temperatures and a stiff breeze, our wind chills could drop as low as -25° tonight. 1Frost bite and hypothermia become the most pressing threats when wind chills drop that low. Keep all fingers and toes covered at all times, and stay in doors if at all possible. Have a safe and warm night! – Greg

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Posted under cold blast, safety

This post was written by GregBobos on December 11, 2013

Reduced Visibilities

A Dense Fog Advisory continues for all of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.  Our local counties of Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Green, Jo Daviess, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Rock, Stephenson, Walworth, Whiteside and Winnebago are under the advisory until 6pm Wednesday evening.

Dense Fog Advisory through 6pm

Dense Fog Advisory through 6pm

Drizzly, showery, seasonably mild and foggy weather will continue ahead of an approaching arctic cold front.  Pockets of dense fog with reduced visibility—below one-quarter of a mile at times—will affect the Stateline late this afternoon and early this evening. 

Safe travels!

-Joe

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Posted under fog, safety, travel, weather

This post was written by Joe Astolfi on December 4, 2013