Tornado wrap-up

June 23, 2016: Now that the National Weather Service has had time to analyze the damage left over from last night’s tornadoes, here are the findings:

In total, eleven tornadoes struck northern Illinois, with a lot of them clustered between I-88 and I-80. The majority were also EF-1’s, which feature wind speeds around 100 mph.

June 22 Illinois Tornadoes

Click on image to zoom in.

The tornado closest to home for all of us was in Lee County, striking near West Brooklyn. The tornado was on the ground for a little over 2 miles, and was 300 yards wide. With winds over 100 mph, this tornado was rated as an EF-1.

Click on image to zoom in.

Click on image to zoom in.

The ingredients for very strong thunderstorms and tornadoes were definitely there last night.  The warm front basically determined the location of all these nasty storms. Once we put the warm front on the map, you can see how the tornadoes (and the supercells that spawned them) basically rode or followed the warm front into central Illinois.

Click on image to zoom in.

Click on image to zoom in.

Since the atmosphere was so explosive, we were hoping the warm front didn’t make it too far north, since it would focus the intense severe weather across our area instead of mostly south of us.

Looking ahead, thunderstorms are looking possible Saturday night into Sunday, but severe weather isn’t likely right now. We’ll keep you update, as always, if we do see anything concerning!

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 23, 2016

Updated thoughts on Wednesday’s severe weather threat

June 21, 2016: Here’s a few quick thoughts on tomorrow’s severe weather threat, as new information keeps coming in.

First, remember, the situation is still fluid. How the afternoon round of significant severe weather plays out will partly be determined by what the morning storms do. Those morning storms will take some of the energy and instability out of the atmosphere, so we have to wait and see where the atmosphere recharges the best. The later the storms stick around, the lower the severe weather risk.

At this point, I think a lot of the morning activity should be out by 9 AM, which does give us plenty of time to recharge the atmosphere. That isn’t good news for us hoping to avoid severe weather in the afternoon. Some potential good news is the severe weather risk for the morning hours seems to be going down.

severe setup 2

The overnight and morning storms will push on the incoming warm front, and it looks like the front will be slowing down some and staying in southern Iowa and Illinois. This means the worst of the morning weather is drifting to the south in the latest model runs.

THREAT TRACK INDEX

We’ll likely still get some showers, and possibly some heavy rain, but the threat for high winds and large hail is going down right now. The picture is getting clearer because the storms are starting to sprout up tonight, plus some of the high-resolution short-term models are catching up to the hours we are most curious about, giving us a better picture over the next 12 hours or so.

severe setup 3

As for the afternoon round, the morning storms may help keep the warm front away and keep the instability down for us, which helps limit the severe weather threat for certain areas. However, we can’t rule out explosive storm development yet. Those morning storms won’t keep the front away forever. For now, the risk area could shift to the south and west, away from Rockford but more toward Dixon and Genoa.

THREAT TRACK INDEX 2

Also, strong storms may arrive later in the evening Rockford and areas to the north, during the middle of the evening, rather than the late afternoon.

WREX2

Even if the severe weather risk starts to move away from certain areas, remember that we are still under a Flash Flood Watch. The air around the Stateline will be flooded with very humid air, so any storms that pop up will be major soakers. We still could be torrential rainfall with 2″/hour for rainfall rates.

alex headlines

Remember to review your severe weather plan, and stay weather aware tomorrow. While the morning threats may be diminishing, the afternoon round could still be explosive. Stay with the 13 Weather Authority for updates both on-air and online at www.wrex.com/weather.

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 21, 2016

Two Potential Rounds of Severe Weather

Two rounds of severe weather are possible on Wednesday, exactly 1 year after the tornado that swept through Sublette and the Woodhaven Lakes area.

My first note will be to say that the timing and specifics are subject to change, as we get closer to the overnight hours of Tuesday into Wednesday.

6-21-16 outlook 1
Let’s start with Wednesday morning:

An hour or two before sunrise we’ll start to see thunderstorms enter northern Illinois, and they’ll persist through the late morning hours. An organized cluster of thunderstorms that lasts for hours will bring us heavy rain with possible flooding. There’s a risk for large hail, followed by a low threat for strong and damaging wind gusts, with these morning thunderstorms.
The thought now is that those thunderstorms will push out by around 10:00AM or 11:00AM. The earlier those end, the higher the threat for a severe afternoon/evening.

Here’s why: The atmosphere will be destabilized (ripe and juicy) during this time to allow those AM thunderstorms to pop up. A large, long-lasting, cluster of thunderstorms will likely “use” much or all of that instability (juice). Once the thunderstorms end, the atmosphere can start recharging (heating back up, destabilizing) which will give some juice to evening thunderstorms. The later those morning thunderstorms last, the less time the atmosphere has to recharge, meaning the less juice available for the next round of storms.

6-21-16 outlook 2

More on Wednesday mid-afternoon through evening: A warm front should lift northward sometime in the early afternoon on Wednesday. South of that warm front, will be a warm and humid airmass (dewpoints near 70 degrees) that will be unstable. In addition to an unstable airmass, strong winds high up in the atmosphere will be exceptionally high, giving the air a better ability to spin.
*IF* we get thunderstorms to fire up in the mid-afternoon through evening, the chance of those turning severe is likely.
Time frame for the afternoon/evening round of storms is pretty wide, with the expectation to narrow it after seeing how Wednesday morning storms affect our atmosphere. Right now, be weather aware again between 3PM-8PM, with a bigger emphasis on the second half of that time frame. Thunderstorms would move east-southeastward into the Chicagoland area after that. All threats are possible with this. Large hail, a few tornadoes, and damaging wind gusts.

6-21-16 when what

Overall here’s an important note: What happens in the morning will play a very big role on what happens in the mid afternoon/evening.

There’s plenty of time to prepare instead of panic. Put fresh batteries in the weather radio, practice your safety plan, and stick with the 13 Weather Authority.

 

– Meteorologist Morgan Kolkmeyer

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This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on June 21, 2016

Strong to severe storms possible Wednesday

June 20, 2016: Happy (official) first day of Summer! We’ve reached the Summer Solstice, or when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted at its maximum toward the Sun.  We get the most direct sunlight on this day, giving us one of the longest days of the year, plus plenty of daytime heating during the summer to provide us with hot weather. The Northern Hemisphere tilts away from the Sun from now through late December, shortening the days and eventually bringing in Fall and Winter.

High temperatures for June 20, 2016

High temperatures for June 20, 2016

It was also fitting that we had the warmest day of 2016 so far in Rockford with a high of 93°!

Now, onto the topic at hand- severe weather, and possibly several rounds of it, are possible Tuesday night through Wednesday evening.  All of the heat and humidity that is leaving the area comes roaring back by Tuesday night, triggering a complex of thunderstorms similar to last Tuesday night.

Severe weather setup for Wednesday morning. A complex (or massive group) of t-storms will erupt overnight, then follow the warm front into the area early Wednesday morning.

Severe weather setup for Wednesday morning. A complex (or massive group) of t-storms will erupt overnight, then follow the warm front into the area early Wednesday morning.

We’ll see those race into the area early Wednesday morning. Strong winds and large hail would be the primary severe threat, with heavy rain possible due to the increasing humidity.

After that, the picture gets much more murky.  Once the morning storms leave, the atmosphere recharges in a big way as heat and humidity continue to surge into the region. We’ll have plenty of warm and very humid air to work with, plus a strong area of low pressure and a warm front will be a lot closer to help trigger storms.

Severe weather setup for Wednesday afternoon. A 2nd round of severe weather is possible, and could be significant with the hot and humid air surging in. However, placement of fronts and boundaries after the early morning storms makes the afternoon placement of storms difficult to predict at this time.

Severe weather setup for Wednesday afternoon. A 2nd round of severe weather is possible, and could be significant with the hot and humid air surging in. However, placement of fronts and boundaries after the early morning storms makes the afternoon placement of storms difficult to predict at this time.

The big question is this: will the low and warm front line up in the right spot to maximize the atmosphere over us and bring severe weather? The overnight to early morning storm complexes, like we’ll see Wednesday morning, tend to leave behind pockets of cool air. Storms may fire up Wednesday afternoon along these pockets, so where will those be placed? It’s hard to say as we are still 48 hours out.  The potential for a second round of severe weather is there; we just need to see where the pieces fall into place.

Possible severe threats for Wednesday afternoon.

Possible severe threats for Wednesday afternoon.

POTENTIAL rainfall for Wednesday. Subject to change.

One model’s thoughts on POTENTIAL rainfall for Wednesday. Subject to change.

If and when we do get severe weather Wednesday afternoon, those storms may be significantly stronger. Tornadoes are possible early in the storms, then large hail and damaging winds may be widespread after that. We’ll also have to watch out for flash flooding. The atmosphere will be very humid, so torrential rain is possible, especially along the fronts.

For right now, expect a quiet Tuesday, then plan for strong thunderstorms on Wednesday. Have your weather radio and other alert devices ready to go. We’ll keep analyzing the situation as new data comes in, and keep you updated leading up to Wednesday morning AND Wednesday afternoon.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 20, 2016

Topsy-turvy Temperatures

June 17, 2016:

You know what they say about Midwest weather…wait a few seconds/minutes/hours/days, and it’ll change!

Earlier this week we went from 90° on Wednesday to 75° on Thursday, then jumped back to the mid-80’s today, with the 90’s coming this weekend. The big temperature swings aren’t over yet.

Cold Blast

First, the heat this weekend- the jet stream will be arching well into Canada, allowing the hot weather to build northward, which started today. We also will see our “window” to the Gulf of Mexico open again, providing a spike in the humidity again. By Sunday, it’ll feel like the mid-90’s when you factor in the muggy air.

Cold Blast 2

Starting Monday, the jet stream takes a tumble south of us, allowing cooler, drier Canadian air to spill into the region. So again, we’ll go from the 90’s for a few days, to the 70’s for a few days.

You might be thinking: don’t we usually get nasty weather when changing from one temperature extreme to another? We had weather like that Tuesday night when the heat and humidity came blasting in for Wednesday.  That may not be the case Monday evening when the cooler air arrives. First, we won’t have great wind shear. We need that to get the storms to spin a little, which helps severe thunderstorms to form. We may get another round of heavy to torrential rain, however. Those high dew points means there’s a lot of moisture that can get squeezed out of the air, so beware that Monday could bring a lot of rain, like last Tuesday night.

Billboard 4

You also may be thinking: when will the big swings in temperatures stop? It may take a while. The jet stream looks pretty wavy through the end of the month, which means more of the back-and-forth between the 70’s and the 90’s. Looking beyond that gets a little murky, but we may be seeing more of these swings back and forth into July, but not as sudden, meaning longer stretches of one end or the other before changing back and forth.

Heat Check

For those keeping track, we’ve had 4 days in the 90’s so far, with another 1 to 3 coming between Saturday and Monday. We usually see around 15 days of the 90’s during a typical summer, so we could potentially be at the half way point of our average amount by next week, and it’s only June!

Stay cool this weekend, and remember, cooler weather is only a few days away if you aren’t a fan of the heat!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 17, 2016

Hot (and Stormy) Weekend

June 10, 2016: We made it! This afternoon was our first day in the 90’s for 2016. With above average temperatures forecasted for this summer, there’s a good chances we’ll see at least several more days like today.

DMA High Temperatures

 

Having the 90’s pretty early in June almost puts us in record territory.  We weren’t too far away from the record high today (98° set in 1933), and we’ll likely be a handful of degrees away from the record tomorrow.

Billboard 3

What might fall is the record for the overnight low.  Tonight’s forecast has us potentially tying the record, at the least.  That does mean we’ll be off to a very warm start tomorrow, and the day will feel worse than today, mostly due to higher humidity and less of a breeze.  The heat index (or “feel’s like” conditions) will be near 100°, so make sure to follow the safety tips that you likely have stashed away in your brain for days like these:

-Drink lot’s of water! Sports drinks help, but they can be pretty sugary.  Water intake is the best way to go.

-Take it easy! You can still get outside and enjoy the heat, but take plenty of breaks, especially in a cool or air conditioned place.  This will give your body a break from fighting off the heat, so you don’t suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

-If you do have to do something strenuous or exercise outdoors, do it early in the day before the heat sets in (usually before 10) or in the evening when the heat is dying down.

-Loose, light colored clothing helps ward off the heat as well.

-Don’t forget about your pets! Give them plenty of water and shade if they have to be outside, or bring them in as much as possible to give them a break from the heat. Also, never leave your pet in a locked car in the heat!

The heat and humidity will charge up the atmosphere, so we’ll have to watch out for thunderstorms Saturday evening as a front moves through. While the wind shear isn’t great, we may still see a few storms capable of producing large hail.

 

WREX

 

The storms will be scattered, so not all areas may see intense thunderstorm activity. In addition to the hail threat, the storms may be moving slow enough to cause flooding concerns, as the high humidity can help set up heavy rainfall.

 

 

 

THREAT TRACK INDEX

Stick with the 13 Weather Authority during the day tomorrow on www.wrex.com/weather, and we’ll keep you updated on the heat and the threat for storms. The weather will cool down plenty by Sunday after the cold front passes.

Stay cool, and have a great weekend!

– Alex

akirchner@wrex.com

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 10, 2016

Bring on the heat!

June 6, 2016: The weather may be cooling off a little for June 7, but by Friday (June 10), the weather may be a good 20° warmer!

alex headlines

Yes, we are looking at our first crack at 90° days in 2016. A quick look back at the last 2 years shows we haven’t had a ton of these hot days the last few summers. 2015 had nearly the average amount, and 2014 was very cool with only 2 days in the 90’s. 2 days!

Part of this may be due to El Niño or La Niña.  The last few summers coming out of a La Niña winter, we’ve been lacking in the 90° department, and 2014 was one of those cases (the 2013-2014 winter was a La Niña winter, so the following Summer 2014 was cool). Last year was a neutral year (“normal” or a very weak El Niño/La Niña), so we had our typical amount of the 90’s. Now that we are leaving a very strong El Niño from this last winter, we may be in for plenty of 90° days this summer.

Cold Blast

Jet stream pattern for Tuesday

 

Looking short term, this is how the week will be shaking out.  We will see the jet stream dip to the south of us for Tuesday into Wednesday, allowing some cooler air to spill in for the time being. During this time, a strong ridge is forming well up into Canada on the West Coast, allowing heat to build northward and give those areas a blast of hot summer weather.

Cold Blast2

Jet stream pattern by Friday

That ridge transitions east by Friday, allowing hot air to flood the Midwest, and provide possibly a few days in the 90’s. Also during this time, we’ll see moisture get directed into our region, making the weather not only hot but muggy too.  The “feel’s like” conditions with the heat and humidity combined may be in the upper 90’s by Saturday, so get the fans, A/C, and slip-and-slide ready for the weekend; it’ll be a hot one!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 6, 2016

Looking ahead at June

June 1, 2016: Yesterday I wrote a quick blurb about how the summer weather may pan out (link: http://addins.wrex.com/blogs/weather/2016/05/summer-2016-outlook), so now that we are kicking off the month of June, here’s a look ahead at how the month may shape up, at least to the Climate Prediction Center:

One Month Outlook

Click on image to zoom in.

Warm to hot conditions are likely in the West (and especially the Pacific Northwest) as well as for the Deep South and Florida.  It may be a cool start to summer for the Great Plains states in into Texas. For our area, we should be near average.  There may be some hot and cool days sprinkled in, but overall the weather will average out to be in the low 80’s most days.

One Month Outlook2

Click on image to zoom in.

The precipitation outlook is pretty interesting. First, above average rainfall is likely for a good portion of Texas, and especially around Houston. The city was hit very hard recently with flash flooding, so a wet month there doesn’t sound good. Secondly, just to the south of the Stateline, is a bull’s-eye for drier than average weather for central and southern Illinois, in addition to a lot of Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. We’ll have to see just how close the drier than usual weather area gets to us, and if we’ll feel any effects as well.

Looking at the overall picture: if this summer is supposed to be warmer than average, then we may be easing into the heat, if this month is supposed to be near average. July and August may end up being hotter than usual, so June could give us a little time before the heat really sets in.

Keep this outlook in the back of your mind, and we’ll revisit it at the end of the month and see how the forecast compares to reality.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 1, 2016

Summer 2016 Outlook

May 31, 2016: Here comes Summer 2016! Well, at least “meteorological summer” starts June 1st. It is looking likely that we’ll have a warmer to hot summer ahead.

Billboard 3

First, we’ve been on a hot streak leading up to the start of summer. Today marked the 11th day in a row in the 80’s, which is a rare streak for May. In fact, this is the 4th longest stretch of 80’s that we’ve seen in May. The streak ends today, since the month is ending.

Looking ahead to the summer months, we may be in for a pretty warm summer. Overall, we are transitioning from El Niño to La Niña. This has bigger implications during our winters (a La Niña this winter may mean colder than average conditions), but during the change to La Niña during the summer usually means hot weather is ahead.

The Climate Prediction Center’s outlook for the summer months (June, July, August) looks like this:

Summer Outlook2

Much of the West Coast, and sections of the Northeast are looking likely to have a hot summer. Much of the East, including sections of Wisconsin and northeast Illinois, will likely have warmer than average weather. This means plenty of warm days in the upper 80’s to possibly plenty of 90° days, but still some cool days and not too many unbearable hot stretches.

Summer Outlook

The weather pattern also looks to keep us near average for rainfall, but it could be a wet summer for much of Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado. New England also looks to be wetter than usual.

Remember, this is an average of all 3 summer months, so in total we should be warm to hot this summer, but day-to-day and month-to-month may vary a little with cool or wet weather or both popping up from time to time.

Get ready to bring on the heat! Cheers to summer!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on May 31, 2016

Why so stormy?

May 25, 2016: Scattered showers and thunderstorms do not seem to want to leave the forecast, with chances for rain nearly every day into next week. As we’ve seen, this doesn’t mean rain all day. However, we are seeing spotty thunderstorms become more frequent the later into the week we get.  This trend carries on into next week, meaning you may be dodging raindrops as late as next Wednesday.

So why are we seeing so many chances for rain, and why can’t the forecast be a little more concise on when the rain arrives? Here’s the overall pattern:

WREX 2016The jet stream will be in a similar pattern almost all week and into the weekend.  You can see the jet stream cutting right across the Midwest, which helps direct subtle waves of energy into our region. These waves help trigger storms if conditions are right. We’ll see plenty of these “triggers” slide by, giving us plenty of chances for rain as a result.

The one issue, is that these subtle waves or “triggers” are a little difficult to track when and where they show up, providing a lot of uncertainty to the forecast. That’s why we have broad chances for rain, rather than pinpoint time frames. The forecast does usually get clearer the closer we get to the rain showing up.

WREX 2016 2

Helping fuel the extra rain chances is the much warmer, muggy air that started to set up today.  With humid, warm air, storms are a little more likely to form, plus we have higher chances for heavier rain with the extra moisture in the air.

The good news is that the end of the holiday weekend may be a little quieter, as that broad, unsettled weather pattern begins to break down.

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on May 25, 2016