Beneficial Rain

May 5, 2015: For the 2nd night in a row, the soothing sounds of showers were heard in the Stateline. Heavy rainfall exceeded the previous night’s totals, and in some cases, was double the amount of rain we got Sunday night.

Rainfall totals from Monday night

Rainfall totals from Monday night

The soggy start to the month gets us almost back on schedule for rainfall this spring. We’ve had a several drier than average months in a row, so the extra moisture these last 3 days has been helpful.

RAINFALL THIS MONTH

Let’s hope we can soak up more rainfall this week, because we may be in for a longer drier period into the middle of the month. Here’s the Climate Prediction Center’s outlook for next week and beyond.

Climate Prediction Center's forecast for the middle of May; plenty of dry weather is in the forecast for the upcoming weeks.

Climate Prediction Center’s forecast for the middle of May; plenty of dry weather is in the forecast for the upcoming weeks.

There are a few more chances for rain, primarily Friday with on and off showers and t-storms Saturday into early next week, so there are plenty more chances to build on our early surplus before drier weather takes over again.

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on May 5, 2015
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More rain in the forecast

May 4, 2015: Hopefully you weren’t too sleepy today if you woke up to lightning, thunder, and heavy rainfall last night.  If you were, well…you may have to deal with the sleep-interrupting stormy weather for another night.

First off, here’s the total rainfall from a stormy Sunday, when rain came through during the afternoon, followed by the overnight storms:

Total rainfall from 8 am Sunday to 8 pm Monday

Total rainfall from 8 am Sunday to 8 pm Monday

The cold front responsible for last night’s rain stalled south of the region, and will rebound slightly tonight as a warm front. This will create another round of showers and thunderstorms, with heavy downpours and gusty winds again, similar to last night.

next week

With another night of heavy rain coming, here’s Futuretrack’s take on the overnight rain:

Futuretrack's estimated rainfall for tonight

Futuretrack’s estimated rainfall for tonight

We could see an 1″ or more of rain alone between last night and tonight.  More rain is in the forecast later this week as well. We could definitely use the soggy weather. Since March 1, we are about 1″ below average on precipitation, and nearly 2″ below average since the start of the year.

It will be nice to have plenty of rain in the forecast tonight. Let’s just hope it doesn’t wake you up again tonight!

-Alex

 

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on May 4, 2015
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Continuing the Conversation…

Every year as we approach and push through the months of spring, severe weather is always a big topic. Perhaps it’s been an even larger topic recently, considering the 11 tornadoes that occurred in early April across the state of Illinois, 7 of which affected the Stateline.

Last night, I was able to attend a symposium where meteorologists from Northern Illinois University and the National Weather Service in Chicago, as well as NIU’s emergency management coordinator spoke on behalf of how a meteorologist interprets severe weather, a breakdown of the April 9th EF-4 tornado, and necessary steps to take to stay safe throughout severe weather.

Ph.D. student Stephen Strader presented research that he has been working on with NIU’s Dr. Walker Ashley, part of it focusing on the path of this tornado.  He compared it to the effects it could have had if it was shifted about 12 miles northwest through the Byron nuclear power station, to the southeast through the NIU campus, or even through Chicago. All scenarios that could very well happen, likely causing much more damage.

Senior Meteorologist Gino Izzi of the National Weather Service in Chicago was the meteorologist that was issuing the tornado warnings on April 9th, 2015. He analyzed the radar and explained the different panels used when dissecting a storm. Since a bulk of the audience was the general public, perhaps the biggest takeaway (in my opinion) was his note about his choice on issuing tornado warnings. Among his colleagues, he says he’s been getting the reputation of the “older and more conservative” meteorologist. He explained what that meant when determining whether or not he should issue a tornado warning. The takeaway? There is A LOT of studying, analyzing, thought, and confidence put into the warnings that are issued BEFORE they are issued, so be sure to take them seriously.

Northern Illinois University’s staff meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste talked about staying safe during severe weather. A big note, “have a plan.” At times, you could only have seconds before you’re in the path of danger, and it’s important to have a plan ahead of time. He also noted that many fatalities due to tornadoes are completely preventable, unfortunately people choose to ignore the warning. He gave information on ways to stay safe on the campus, listing all of the resources available to students. He also mentioned the plethora of resources available to the general public when it comes to severe weather. Those include outdoor warning sirens, text warnings, social media posts, weather radios, etc.

So, I ask this question to you: what does it take for you personally to take a tornado warning seriously? The meteorologists that prepared and presented last night at NIU say the whole point was to educate people.

It is so important to continue to conversation of severe weather.

With all of that being said, the 13 Weather Authority is committed to continuing the conversation throughout severe weather season with you. We’ve already begun our Project: Tornado events this week. For the entire month, we are visiting elementary schools across northern Illinois educating kids on severe weather, how to stay safe, and answering questions they may have. Roughly 4,000 students will go home with a Project: Tornado book filled with pictures, games, and knowledge of severe weather.

4-28-15 PT perry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re also beginning our Weather Radio events Friday, May 1st. Our first event will be held at the Schnucks in Cherry Valley from 5PM-7PM. You can stop by and purchase a weather radio, and our team of meteorologists will program it for you for free. It’s easy! Already have a weather radio but need it programmed? Great- bring it to us and we’ll get it set up for you.
We’re doing these events throughout the entire month of May. The list of where we’ll be can be found here: WREX Weather Radio Events. Stay tuned for the list for the month of June.

wx radio 5-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are so many continuing conversations about safety on every level, whether it’s texting and driving, Stranger Danger, Click it or Tick it, or Stop, Look & Listen . Let’s add severe weather safety to the list and let’s continue the conversation.

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This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on May 1, 2015
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Another Sign of Warmer Weather

April 28, 2015: Today is an interesting milestone for the Stateline: on average, our last night of freezing weather is on this date. Can we have freezing temperatures after this date? Sure, and we definitely have had them in the past.  The chances for a freeze do steadily drop off after this date.  In fact, by early May, our chances for frost and freezing are reduced by half.

Average last freeze date (32° or lower) for Rockford

Average last freeze date (32° or lower) for Rockford

Our odds are pretty good that the next two weeks will be frost-free. Our lows for the rest of this week will climb into the low 40’s (check out the 7-day outlook at www.wrex.com/weather), and next week features a good chance for above average weather, keeping frosty weather at bay.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center's forecast for early May. The Stateline looks to have above average weather.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center’s forecast for early May. The Stateline looks to have above average weather.

Want a guaranteed day for when freezing weather isn’t a possibility? After May 27, the record low stays above freezing until September 13 (though record lows in the middle 30’s linger into early June). Does that mean we won’t ever have freezing weather from the end of May to early September? No, but it would take some awfully cold weather to get us to freezing during that time span.

All in all, we are steadily getting closer to saying “au revoir” to freezing weather… at least until September.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on April 28, 2015
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Quiet Week Ahead

April 27, 2015: If you enjoyed today’s beautiful spring weather, you are in luck. We’ll have a large helping of the sunny and quiet weather for the rest of the week.

The jet stream will be in a ridge over the Midwest, leaving warm and tranquil weather in the Stateline.

The jet stream will be in a ridge over the Midwest, leaving warm and tranquil weather in the Stateline.

The polar portion of the jet stream will be arching into a ridge steadily this week, drawing in warmer air from the south and keeping high pressure around to keep the weather quiet. This will help start a warming trend back to the 70’s by this weekend.

Last week (in red) compared to the high temperature forecast for this week (blue).

Last week (in red) compared to the high temperature forecast for this week (blue).

This new pattern is especially nice, considering the weather from last week. We usually are in the middle 60’s by mid- to late April; we were barely getting out of the 40’s some days last week. Most days this week will be between 10° and 20° warmer compared to their counterpart from last week.

The one downside to the tranquil weather this week is the lack of rain. If the lawn or gardens start to look dry, better get out the hose. Don’t expect Mother Nature to help out with the watering this week.

– Chief Meteorologist Alex Kirchner

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on April 27, 2015
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Graupel

April 21, 2015: If you happened to be out early this morning, you may have seen what looked like little balls of styrofoam falling from the sky.

A look at graupel from South Beloit this morning, courtesy of Suzan Laws

A look at graupel from South Beloit this morning, courtesy of Suzan Laws

These little balls of ice are called “graupel”, and they are similar to hail and sleet. We had conditions ideal enough to form these little pellets of ice.  Here’s how we get those:

 

Graupel starts out as snow crystals

Graupel starts out as snow crystals

Basically, the upper atmosphere has to be pretty cold.  Cold enough to create snow crystals.

The snow crystals fall through supercooled water droplets. The droplets freeze on to the snow crystals.

The snow crystals fall through supercooled water droplets. The droplets freeze on to the snow crystals.

As the snow crystals fall through the clouds and toward the ground, they fall through a layer of supercooled water drops. “Supercooled” means the water is at a temperature below water’s freezing point. Water needs to have some structure on which an ice crystal can form; if the water is “pure” and without dust, etc. for the ice to form onto, it will stay as a liquid.

Round balls of ice form as the freezing water droplets build up.

Round balls of ice form as the freezing water droplets build up.

So, as the snow crystals fall through this area of supercooled water droplets, the water droplets form ice on the snow crystals as the crystals come in contact with them.  This ice builds up to the point where the snow crystals are covered and resemble “pellets” or “balls” of ice.

The balls of ice or graupel fall to the surface after the ice builds up enough.

The balls of ice or graupel fall to the surface after the ice builds up enough.

This all falls to the surface, resembling bouncing balls of styrofoam as they fall. How do you tell the difference between graupel and sleet, hail, etc.? Graupel is brittle and falls apart easily.  Graupel is also pretty small, especially compared to hail.

We usually do not see graupel except in thunderstorms, or when the atmosphere is below freezing in a deep layer, similar to the cold conditions we had today.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on April 21, 2015
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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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This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on April 20, 2015
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Tornado Timeline

April 16, 2015: A week ago, severe weather slammed the Stateline, with a total of 7 confirmed tornadoes in our area alone (11 total throughout Illinois). The National Weather Service has completed their damage survey, so here’s a final look at where and when each tornado touched down.

The paths of each tornado from last week's outbreak. Courtesy: National Weather Service

The paths of each tornado from last week’s outbreak. Courtesy: National Weather Service

6:37 pm: EF-0 Cherry Valley tornado touches down. The tornado is on the ground for 3 minutes, with winds at 65 mph. The tornado travels nearly 3 miles.

6:39 pm: EF-4 tornado forms near Franklin Grove. With winds up to 200 mph, the tornado travels 30 miles into southern Ogle Co., and is on the ground for 40 minutes.

7:05 pm: EF-0 tornado touches down in eastern Ogle Co., east of Lindenwood. This is one of the EF-4’s satellite tornadoes. The twister is on the ground for 3 minutes, and travels nearly 2 miles.  Winds reach 65 mph.

7:15 pm: EF-1 tornado forms between Kirkland and Belvidere. Winds hit 110 mph as the tornado travels almost 4 miles.  This is the second satellite tornado from the EF-4 storm, and lasts 6 minutes.

7:24 pm: EF-0 tornado touches down shortly after the EF-4 lifted. This tornado formed south of Belvidere, and lasted 1 minute. Winds reached 85 mph.

7:25 pm: EF-1 tornado hits I-90 and the Summerfield Zoo. This tornado formed from the same storm that created the EF-4, and touched down after the EF-4 lifted. Winds reached 110 mph as the tornado was on the ground for 6 minutes.

7:50 pm: EF-0 tornado forms southeast of Harvard in McHenry Co. The tornado had winds near 90 mph, traveled 1/3 of a mile, and lasted 1 minute.

There are still plenty of ways to help out the tornado victims.  Check with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army to see how you can help.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on April 16, 2015
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Quiet Weather

April 15, 2015: If you’ve enjoyed the weather we’ve had so far this week (little rain, lots of sunshine with a few clouds, middle 60’s to 70°), then you are in luck: we should see this stretch of weather end until the weekend.

Satellite and radar imagery from Wednesday evening.

Satellite and radar imagery from Wednesday evening.

Here’s why: see where the jet stream is? The main polar jet is well up into Canada. Along with allowing the above average warmth into the Stateline, the “steering winds” for any weather systems is staying well to the north as well. Under the ridge over the Midwest, we shouldn’t see anything get moved in until the weekend.

The pattern breaks down by Friday night, so the weekend will featuring a little more variety than what we’ve had so far this week. Enjoy the sunshine and warm weather!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on April 15, 2015
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Record dry air (nearby)

April 14, 2015: Did the air feel really dry today to you? It did in Chicago today, where the dry air tied a record at O’Hare airport.  The relative humidity dropped to 13%, which tied April 8, 1971, April 11, 1956, and May 10, 1934 for the driest relative humidity on record for Chicago. For reference, the human body generally feels comfortable at 45% relative humidity, so 13% is very dry!

Relative humidity readings at 4 pm today

Relative humidity readings at 4 pm today

If you are wondering what or how we figure out the relative humidity of the air, here’s a crash course (get ready for a lot of science!): humidity describes how much water vapor is in the air. We can measure this with absolute humidity, which is the mass of water vapor divided by the mass of dry air at a certain temperature. The hotter the air, the more water vapor it can hold, and so the value for absolute humidity is higher.

To get to relative humidity, we use the ratio of the current absolute humidity to the highest possible absolute humidity at that temperature. At 100% relative humidity, the air is completely saturated and can’t hold any more water, usually creating rainfall as the moisture falls out of the air.

An area of high pressure results in downward movement in the atmosphere. This dries the air out, and is why we don't usually have clouds or active weather under high pressure.

An area of high pressure results in downward movement in the atmosphere. This dries the air out, and is why we don’t usually have clouds or active weather under high pressure.

Why did the air feel so dry today? We did have an area of high pressure right overhead, which may have contributed to the dry conditions. High pressure promotes downward movement in the atmosphere, which counteracts what you may have learned in elementary school about the water cycle- instead of the air rising, then cooling and condensing into clouds, downward moving air dries out.  This is one of the reasons why the air was so dry today.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on April 14, 2015
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