Low Humidity + High Wind = Fire Danger

Even though a few rain showers are dotting the landscape Saturday afternoon, the atmosphere is still relatively dry.  Humidity values will generally remain below 40% while wind gusts have the potential to approach and even exceed 40mph through the evening. The dry air combined with a consistent wind speed and higher gusts puts us at risk for the spread of wildfire.

 

There have been been a few reports of grass and brush fires across rural Winnebago & Ogle County.  The best plan of action is to stop any outdoor burning on Saturday.  Wait until Sunday, when our sustained wind speed will be below 10mph. -Joe

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Posted under safety, wildfires, wildlife, Wind

This post was written by Joe Astolfi on April 6, 2013

Great fall color showing up in Wisconsin

With dry weather expected this weekend across Northern Illinois and Wisconsin, this would be a perfect weekend to make plans to do a little leaf-peeping! (If you can deal with the near $4/gallon gas). Areas in far Northwestern Wisconsin are seeing peak color right now with even a few spots up near Duluth and Superior slightly past peak.

Areas from La Crosse, Eau Claire, down to the Wisconsin Dells, and then up toward Leaf River are nearing peak this weekend with some brilliant yellows and oranges showing up in Southern Wisconsin.

As always, we’re looking for your great photos to add to our HotShot Album. If you would like to be added to our album, be sure to send us your photos to weather@wrex.com or upload them to the 13 Weather Authority Facebook page. -Eric

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Posted under photos, weather, wildlife

This post was written by qni_it on September 27, 2012

Fall “turnover” makes it harder to catch fish

A gentleman who lives along the Rock River in Byron called me yesterday and wanted to know why I haven’t been talking about the rivers and lakes “turning over.” I told him there probably aren’t too many people who are interested in that. Then last night I opened a few articles on the fall “turnover” and was intrigued!

Here’s what I’ve learned: During the spring and summer months, rivers (and especially lakes) heat from the top-down, thanks to warm wind and sunshine above the surface. This creates a thermocline (or area between warm water above and cool, less oxygenated water below). This is the “happy zone” for most fish species as they are able to gobble up plenty of food, while staying in higher oxygenated water. But when the top layer of water begins to cool, the temperature of the water becomes quite uniform. The uniform temperature means the density of the water is the same…and the water mixes out.

However, this mixing doesn’t occur on every body of water. According to fishingreports.com, windy lakes, lakes with current, or shallow lakes usually don’t even turn over.

When the turnover occurs in the fall, the top  (warm) layer mixes with the lower layer, breaking the thermocline. Some signs of a turnover include murky water and sometimes a bad smell. This is due to the dead organisms that fall and decompose at the bottom. For at least a few days after this occurs, the fish won’t feed much, and they’ll scatter to other depths and locations. A friend of mine who fishes regularly says you’re better off to move around during and after the turnover. As things settle down, the fish will come back to their “happy place.” You’ll just have to find where that is and throw your line in there.

My grandpa always said the best fishing happens on cloudy, calm days. And I vaguely remember him talking about the turnover when I was a kid. I’m more of a “baiting the hook for my nieces kind of guy.” What are your experiences out there? Fish stories are welcome here. Just post a comment here, on Facebook, or on Twitter. -Eric

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Posted under cold blast, news, science, statistics, sunlight, weather geek, wildlife

This post was written by qni_it on September 25, 2012

Sunny, but with a Little Haze….

If you were outside this morning, you probably witnessed some filtered sunshine.  That was due to a batch of high-level cirrus clouds associated with an upper atmospheric disturbance.  Those clouds were quick to move out of the area by lunchtime, and we saw plenty of sun after that.  However, you probably noticed a bit of haze lingering in the atmosphere.

 

That haze, actually diluted smoke, was caused by forest fires nearly 1,000 miles west of here in Montana and Wyoming!  Carried east by the jet stream, the unexpected smoke/haze actually kept the sun from warming us up to our full potential Sunday afternoon.  It helped contain some of the sun’s radiational heat from reaching the surface of the Earth!

 

The smoke/haze layer was so fine, that most satellite radars were unable to pick it up.  A satellite with greater resolution (MODIS) used by the United States Forest Service was able to show the large area of smoke/haze, as it moved over South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin!  -Joe

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Posted under sunlight, weather, wildlife

This post was written by Joe Astolfi on September 16, 2012

Creepy Crawly Increase

We have heard about many of the effects from this summer’s record heat, but there is one you may have noticed but not thought much about. The Midwest’s spider populations have been on the rise all summer long due to the intense heat. Spiders are cold-blooded so contrary to what you might think they reproduce more quickly and grow more quickly meaning that more generations of spiders can exist at once time, which has been the case this summer. Of course, just like us, spiders don’t enjoy the heat either so they do whatever they can to find their way into home and garages to cool down a bit. So if you have been thinking to yourself “there are a lot of spiders this summer!” but didn’t know if it was all in your head, well it isn’t! As long as temperatures stay up you can continue to expect to see more spiders than normally throughout the rest of the summer. -Greg

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Posted under climate/climate change, event, heat wave, humor, wildlife

This post was written by qni_it on August 27, 2012

Another Fire Risk on Monday

Similar to Sunday, Monday’s weather conditions are conducive to a higher-than-normal fire risk.  Temperatures will be a bit cooler, but relative humidity values will be slightly lower as well.  The wind will be stronger tomorrow afternoon.  Sustained out of the west and northwest between 15-25mph, afternoon wind gusts could approach 35-40mph.  Therefore, any outdoor fire and ash have the potential to spread to dry vegetation and quickly become uncontrollable. 

It’s best to play it safe and hold off on any outdoor burning for another day! 

-JA

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Posted under safety, wildlife

This post was written by Joe Astolfi on April 8, 2012

Fire Danger Tomorrow

Thanks to mild temperatures, low dew point readings, and a breezy west-northwest wind, there is an elevated risk for controlled burns to get out of control tomorrow.  Our relative humidity will be low on Sunday, indicating the atmosphere is dry.  The rain we saw Saturday evening is so insignificant that vegetation will remain dry.  Therefore, we’ll have a higher than normal risk of fire-spreading tomorrow.

The best advice is to not burn anything outdoors on Easter Sunday.  We don’t want to create any extra stress for our firefighters!

-JA

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Posted under safety, wildlife

This post was written by Joe Astolfi on April 7, 2012

Greetings from Colorado!

Hello everybody! I hope you enjoyed what was hopefully Old Man Winter’s last winter storm on Friday. And why does it seem that when I go out of town some big weather event happens?

I’ve been keeping a diary of my trip so far with the hope that you’ll learn about some of the great things to see and do in Colorado! Frontier Airlines is the third airline to offer non-stop service from Chicago-Rockford International to Denver in recent years and we need to make sure it’s successful! And this is the time to plan a trip because fares can be found cheap online and a vacation can be planned pretty easily!

On Wednesday, my good friend Lauren Williams and I flew out of RFD to DIA, arriving just in time for 13News at Ten. With new 4GLTE technology, we quickly hooked up a Skype connection to announce that Alex Soulke from Rockford won our $1,500 trip to Denver! Perhaps this can be a guide for him as well.

On Wednesday night, we stayed at the Curtis Hotel, a wonderful eclectic hotel right next to the Denver Performing Arts Center. The hotel is funky with a modern feel. Every floor of the hotel has a different theme and everyone who arrives is greeted with fresh cookies! Next door to the hotel is the Corner Office Restaurant and Bar, a great stop for a great meal on your first night. The restaurant and bar have an upscale feel but in a relaxed environment.

We checked out of our cool hotel in Denver on Thursday morning and drove south on I-25. Just a few turns out of downtown I got my first glimpses of the Rocky Mountains. I can’t believe I am 36 years old and have never seen them! On the hour trip south to Colorado Springs, they are on your right side the whole way. Once we got to “The Springs” as locals call it, our first stop was Garden of the Gods, an amazing set of rock formations. Everyone should see this in their lifetime. The rocks jut right out of the ground and are gray, orange, and red. The park is completely free and it’s an easy hike on paved walks around all of them. Look carefully and you’ll see rock climbers several hundred feet above your head. And while we were there, a deer ran right in front of us…so be sure to remain on the lookout for wildlife.

On Thursday night, we had the opportunity to meet A.J. Longhenry who went by the name Jay Fields on WREX about 8 years ago. He and his wife took us to the Colorado Mountain Brewery, a restaurant similar to the Stone Eagle in Rockford (only with several microbrews). It was great to catch up with friends and share stories. It made us feel right at home.

We stayed at the Towneplace Suites in Colorado Springs (because I got a super good deal on priceline) and met a man who was from Rockford! Very small world. On Friday morning, I called the Pikes Peak Cog Railway in nearby Manitou Springs (a smaller version of Galena). We arrived around noon for the 2 hour trip up the mountain. The cog railway has “teeth” as a center rail which allows the train to climb very steep grades. There are many boulders the size of large houses just hanging on the side of the mountain. And as we went up, it got snowier and snowier! By about 10,000 feet you rise above the tree-line. (Trees can’t grow at the very high elevations due to the wind. Simply put, the wind is so strong, it blows the seeds right over the mountain, onto the “lower” elevations. Due to the fact it is March, the train currently does not go to the summit. Our conductor, Mel, told us that they are working every day to clear the tracks in hopes of clearing all of the snow by April. The top of the mountain gets 15-30 feet of snow January through March so it’s impossible to keep the area clear. On the ride up, we drank plenty of water. As you breathe in, you are not receiving as much oxygen so it’s essential to drink as you ascend. We packed some chips and noticed near the top that the bags were inflated and about to explode! That’s due to the lower air pressure on the bags. It was an eerie thing to witness to be sure. I wondered what it would’ve been like to bring blown-up balloons up the mountain. There’s no need to be scared as Mel told us that no visitors have been injured or killed on the railroad since it was built in the late 1800s. I asked him why they built the railroad and he said “Just to take in the view.”

Friday afternoon we drove north on I-25 back to Denver. We checked into the Oxford Hotel in the heart of “Lo Do.” The hotel is one of Denver’s nicest, oldest hotels. The staff here is great! Even though it is a higher-end hotel, there is quite a sense of “come as you are.” It’s very friendly and comfortable. We are right in the middle of the entertainment district with tons of small pubs and eateries. One of which you have to try: Illegal Petes! It’s a great little bar with a kitchen specializing in quick Mexican food. The burritoes looked awesome! You’ve got to try this place.

This morning we got up and drove westbound on I-70. About 25 miles west of downtown you begin your ascent into the mountains and let me tell you, it’s intense! The highway is so steep, it’s hard to maintain your speed. (Okay, part of that is due to the fact that there are large cliffs on the sides of the highway and I was scared to go faster.) There are several little mining towns that are worth a quick stop on the way up. About 45 minutes into the trip we encountered some serious snow! We knew something was up because signs were flashing telling truckers to put on chains. Luckily, I’m from Rockford and know how to drive in snow. The temperature was about 13 degrees at the top of the mountain, even though it was about 50 degrees in Denver! Without much notice you enter the Eisenhower Tunnel which goes right through the mountain at the Continental Divide. The divide is along the highest mountain peaks where water on the east side flows toward the Atlantic and the water on the west side flows toward the Pacific. Look closely and you’ll see a small sign in the middle of the long tunnel marking it.

Once you exit the tunnel, it’s back to winter driving but this time you’re going down…and it doesn’t last long. And after a few small exits (and runaway truck ramps) we arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado. The town was very quaint and VERY snowy! In fact, the main road was completely snowcovered as well as the sidewalks. There was also a flurry of people walking to and fro because it’s the weekend and there are many skiers and snowboarders around. I need a little more practice at Cascade Mountain and Alpine Valley before I try them, but next time I will for sure! Right in Breckenridge you can see the ski resorts on the mountain making for a great photo-op. While there, we stopped at “Downstairs at Eric’s,” a lively restaurant and bar. For the kids there are plenty of arcade games and for the adults there is great food! And I have to admit, I spent some spending cash in the gift shop there.

After a few hours in “Breck,” we headed back to Denver and to our hotel. Tonight, we’re going to just randomly pick a restaurant and tomorrow we’re headed to some of Denver’s museums. I’ll post a few more pictures either Sunday night or Monday on the last part of the trip. I can see how a lot of people in our area take our direct flights to Las Vegas because of the glitz, glamour, and gambling. However, coming to Denver (and Colorado) is much more breathtaking and in my opinion easier on the wallet and full of friendlier people.

Have a great weekend and let me know if you want more information on this type of trip! I’m by no means a travel planner after one trip, but I can help steer you in the right direction. -ES

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Posted under aviation, cold blast, event, health, humor, news, safety, snow, weather, weather geek, wildlife, Wind, winter storm

This post was written by qni_it on March 3, 2012

Myths: Hunting increases car vs. deer accidents; Controls deer population

On 13News tonight we have the opening-weekend forecast for deer hunting (gun) season in Wisconsin. I immediately thought of the increase in number of car versus deer accidents this time of year because deer are scared out of their habitat. Indeed, there is a spike in accidents this time of year, however it may occur more because of deer mating practices. According to the Maryland DNR, deer rarely leave their home territory until late fall when deer begin going farther from their homes in search of a mate. This is thought to be the major cause in the up-tick of deer versus car accidents.

Most of us also believe that hunting is effective in controlling the deer population, which goes on to reduce the number of car versus deer accidents. This also may not be an accurate argument because most hunters are out to score the big buck (trophy hunting). The population of bucks decreases as they are hunted, sure. But there remains the same number of does able to bear fawns. And it takes only one buck to breed with many does.

For the population of deer to be controlled, the ratio of deer killed should be 50/50, male/female. Even though some states now require hunters to go after equal numbers of bucks and does, oftentimes antler-less bucks are mistaken for does. Here in Illinois, Dr. Paul Shelton, the state DNR Forest Wildlife manager said in 1999 “we’re not taking as many does as we should be.”

In all likelihood, the population of deer isn’t lowered by hunting. Instead, the decrease in competition for food may cause overpopulation because it makes it easier for does and fawns to find food in the spring.

According to this graph from the Wisconsin DNR, (click to enlarge) the number of deer harvested during hunting season does not effectively control the population of deer.

To effectively control the population of deer, we must control their habitat more or stop moving into theirs.-ES

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Posted under event, news, wildlife

This post was written by qni_it on November 16, 2011

Not a great opening day for hunting season

The deer hunt begins Saturday in Wisconsin, according to the DNR. However, according to Mother Nature, we’re in for a messy weather system in the Badger State.

The same system that could bring a few thunderstorms to Northern Illinois will be sliding through Wisconsin as well. However, most of the state will be on the cold side of the system. A chilly rain is likely for the southern 2/3 of the state with temperatures in the upper 40s and lower 50s. In Northwest Wisconsin and the Northwoods, highs will only be in the middle 30s with a chance of rain and snow. I am sure the hunters could appreciate a blanket of snow for the tracks but the threat of a rain/snow mix would make for bigger challenges in staying warm.

Be safe everybody!

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Posted under weather, wildlife

This post was written by qni_it on November 16, 2011