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

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

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

It’s Cold, but is it Record Breaking Cold?

February 19, 2015: The Stateline is no stranger to wicked cold winter temperatures, and dangerously cold morning wind chills. We’re used to layering up, warming our cars, and heading out into the bitter cold. This morning was another day to add to the list of uncomfortably cold mornings with hazardous wind chills. But could this one be one for the record books?

Turns out, it might be TWO for the record books.

Potential record number 1:
If Rockford’s high temperature stays in the single digits today, a 79 year old record will be broken. February 15-18, 1936 holds the record for Rockford’s latest consecutive days of single digit temperatures. Yesterday, Rockford hit a high temperature of 8°. If we combine yesterday with today’s forecast of single digit high temperatures, we’ve got ourselves a record of the latest occurrence of 2 or more consecutive single digit high temperatures.

2-19-15 recordbreakingcold2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Potential record number 2:

If Rockford’s high temperature only climbs to 6° or less, a 56 year record will be broken. On February 19th, 1959 Rockford only reached a high temperature of 7°, which is still the coldest for this date on ever recorded.

2-19-15 recordbreakingcold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re so lucky, right?

-Morgan Kolkmeyer

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Posted under cold blast, history, record weather, statistics, weather, weather geek, winter weather

This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on February 19, 2015

Big spread in morning/afternoon temperature

Light jackets in the morning and beads of sweat in the afternoon. Welcome to Spring in the Upper Midwest! There are four reasons why we’ll see unusually big swings in temperature over the next few days.

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#1 is the lack of moisture in the air. (Think desert.) The more water molecules in the air, the more energy is needed to warm and cool the air. So, when there’s dry air present, there are usually bigger changes in temperature from night to day.

#2 is the fact we don’t have mature crops in the fields yet. Did you know that mature corn and soybean plants give off lots of moisture? It’s true! However, that’s only the case in June and July. Right now, those plants are less than a foot tall…not big enough to give us any added humidity.

#3 is the lack of cloud cover at night. If you’ve watched me for any length of time, you’ve heard me say that “clouds act like a blanket on the bed.” The next few nights will be clear so more of that summertime heat escapes into space.

#4 has to do with the sun. We’re entering the time of year with the strongest and most direct rays of sunshine. With sunny days coming in the next few days and with more hours of daylight, look for warmer afternoon temperatures.

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Posted under weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on May 28, 2014

Don’t get kicked by a “rain foot”

rainfoot3Thank you to Ashley Jordan for this stunning photo from Leaf River on Sunday. What looks like a normal rain shower is actually evidence of a wet microburst! What’s abnormal with this photo is the presence of a “rain foot.” A rain foot is where the rain shaft (which is normally at an 80-90° angle to the ground) actually bends into the horizontal. The photo to the left is the unedited version she shared on Facebook. But let’s analyze the photo to learn what’s going on here.

Look closely at the base of the cloud and you can see the opening where hail and heavy rain is falling. The rain shaft also shows us where the heavy precipitation is occurring. Yesterday’s storms produced quite a bit of hail at their mature stages and this one probably did produce at least pea-sized hail.

RAINFOOT2

 

Now look closely at the leading edge of the rain shaft. See how it juts out along the ground to the right? That’s a rain foot. A rain foot gives us visual evidence of a wet microburst, a very strong wind pushing down and out ahead of the thunderstorm. Most times, it’s hard to see a rain foot head on. If you drive into one from the front, you’ll be buffeted by very strong horizontal wind with pelting rain. But this photo from Ashley shows the rain foot at a perfect angle.

I’m interested to know if anybody saw any damage with this rain foot near the Leaf River area Sunday. If so, pass the information along to us!

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Posted under weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on May 12, 2014

Multi-Day severe weather expected

output_hhZstPResidents of the Southern Plains are gearing up for the first multi-day severe weather risk of the season. Severe weather and tornadoes are possible from Texas into Oklahoma and Kansas on Saturday. Arkansas, Louisiana, and East Texas are under the gun on Sunday. We’ll be tracking the weather for you all weekend! (Click image to animate)

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Posted under severe weather, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on April 25, 2014

Two very different cold fronts

1A quick look at a weather map can usually give us a quick idea whether it will produce severe weather. On the left is the scenario for Thursday. A weak cold front will work in from the north. Because of its east-west orientation, there may be just enough convergence at the surface to produce some showers. However, long-lived thunderstorm activity isn’t expected. With east-west cold fronts, the jet stream is almost always parallel to the front. While rain is possible, big thunderstorms aren’t likely.

2However, with thunderstorms that sweep in from the west, there is usually more convergence which leads to higher rain and thunderstorm chances. Southerly winds in advance of the front can bring in higher levels of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, there’s usually a strong jet stream perpendicular to a north-south front. This leads to higher wind shear…and a higher intensity of thunderstorms! So as we head through the spring season, be on the lookout for the north-south orientation on the weather map.

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Posted under severe weather, weather, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on April 8, 2014

Weird clouds spotted over Northern Illinois

Many of you spotted these weird clouds overhead on Monday. Earlier this evening, I posted one on Facebook and asked if anybody wanted to guess what was going on. Michael Janssen said “Snowing but not reaching the ground.” Joseph Girouard said “Flock of Altocumulus with virga.” You both are exactly correct!

UntitledLet’s examine Lorraine Dyba’s photo from Dixon, Illinois. Here you can see a few cumulus trying as hard as they can to develop. Unfortunately, there isn’t much moisture in the air. And there isn’t enough instability to keep them going. Notice the lack of a discernible updraft. For rising motion, look for hard edges on the top of the clouds. (Think about the cauliflower appearance to Summer cumulus clouds.) Instead, what’s going on here are cumulus clouds that are literally falling…quite literally! Looking closely, you can see some precipitation falling out of the clouds. Instead of a rain or snow shaft falling all the way to the ground, the precipitation is falling into dry air. This is called virga. So if you were under the clouds, you’d stay dry, even though the clouds above you were producing rain and/or snow.

Cool stuff!

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Posted under weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on March 19, 2014

Magic Number: Two

Capture

There are two different days where 50 degree temperatures are anticipated this week. A broad, southwesterly breeze will allow temperatures to surge right up to that 50 degree mark on Tuesday, even without much sunshine. Some rain will mark the change back to cooler weather Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. Another 50 degree day is anticipated Friday ahead of another weathermaker. This one will bring much cooler temperatures to our region for the weekend. 30s are likely both Saturday and Sunday.

Capture3Two weather systems will bring some light rain or snow to the region this week. The first will bring us about a quarter inch of rain Tuesday night into Wednesday. By Wednesday, as low pressure moves up to our northwest, it could be cold enough for a few wet snowflakes to mix in. No accumulation is expected. A similar stormtrack will affect us Friday into Saturday. Again, little/no accumulation is expected. However, it will turn colder after the passage of each low pressure system. -ERIC

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Posted under weather, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on March 17, 2014