A reporter’s perspective of the aftermath of Katrina

morgan_palmerBefore I began working here at WREX-TV, I previously worked at KLTV in Tyler-Longview, Texas. While there I had the privilege of working with Morgan Palmer, then morning anchor. The television group we worked for (much like the group that owns WREX) oftentimes pooled employees at smaller stations to help cover natural disasters. Morgan and I had the opportunity to cover Hurricane Lili along the Louisiana coast for KPLC-TV in Lake Charles.

In 2005, Morgan again went down to the Gulf Coast, this time to aid WLOX-TV’s coverage after Katrina devastated Biloxi, Mississippi. I remember him telling me (during spotty cell phone coverage at the time) that it was hard to get anywhere. You see, having a map was no help as all of the street signs in town were gone. You couldn’t use landmarks because they were gone. He and his photojournalist had to actually count city blocks as they swerved to avoid debris in order to get to their destination.

His current station, WBBH-TV, in Fort Myers put together a slideshow and video from his work in Biloxi. A picture does tell a thousand words and for that, thank you Morgan for sharing this story!

Click on the images to the left to goto NBC-2’s page.

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Posted under event, tropical weather

This post was written by qni_it on August 27, 2010

Weather Kids Needed!

weather-kids-300x2501I’m running out of weather kids so send me your pictures. When you send me your pictures, make sure that the picture is medium resolution and no objects (hands, hat, fingers, etc.) are blocking the kid’s face. Just attach the picture to an email to either weather@wrex.com or ckahlbaum@wrex.com.

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Posted under weather

This post was written by qni_it on August 27, 2010

Blocking Weekend Pattern

out31We will be in a holding pattern over the weekend all thanks to Hurricane Danielle. Our high-pressure system will gradually move over Pennsylvania on Saturday and then comes to a halt. Why you ask?  Hurricane Danielle is blocking the High from moving further East. Therefore, we’ll gradually heat up for the next couple of days and our humidity levels will stay relatively low over the weekend. Our pattern starts to change by the beginning of next week, where we may see an increase in afternoon cloud cover into Monday and Tuesday. This is because of the continuous southern flow that will allow our dew points to increase back into the upper 60s.

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Posted under weather

This post was written by qni_it on August 27, 2010

ACCAS: The storm predicting cloud

altocumulus-castellanusaltocumulucastelsAltocumulus Castellanus (ACCAS), named for its tower-like pillars that billow upwards from the base of the cloud. Castellanus are the clouds that storm chasers look for on the morning of severe weather. Chasers look for these because they tell us that there is evidence of mid-atmospheric instability that is needed to supports supercell thunderstorms. They may be an indication of heavy showers and thunderstorms, if there is a lifting force at the surface that can connect to the unstable layer in the mid-levels. If they do interact, the Castellanus clouds may develop into cumulonimbus storm clouds.

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Posted under science, weather

This post was written by qni_it on August 27, 2010

Plainfield: No warnings until it was too late

On August 28, 1990 a tornado killed 29 people and injured hundreds as it tore through the communities of Oswego, Plainfield, Crest Hill, and Joliet, Illinois.

plainfield1The little known fact from that fateful day is that there were no tornado warnings in effect until the tornado had already done it’s killer deed. As we discussed earlier this week, the same storm produced a tornado near Pecatonica, Illinois more than an hour before the killer twister touched down. Why were people left to fend for themselves? There are several factors that we need to look at. In 1990, The Department of Commerce (who oversees NOAA and the National Weather Service) was in the process of developing and installing new “doppler” radar which would allow Meteorologists to see into a storm and observe rotation. This technology was not in place at the time which meant that the Meteorologists at the National Weather Service-Chicago forecast office to rely on storm strength and spotter reports. As the storm increased in size, severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for DeKalb and Kendall County but because the tornado was rain-wrapped (meaning it was surrounded by heavy rainfall), it was virtually impossible to see, just one reason no one got advanced warning.

plainfield2Another big reason there was no warning issued is the fact that two Meteorologists on staff at the National Weather Service that afternoon took the situation too lightly. The Meteorologist responsible for issuing warnings and advisories was overworked. In addition, there was a good, old fashioned workplace feud going on at the time which caused the storm to go unnoticed by both people.

In 1990, the Chicago National Weather Service office was responsible for forecasts across the entire state of Illinois which meant even more work for the understaffed office. plainfield3That left Northern Illinois especially vulnerable that day. That night, Northern Illinois was in the midst of cleaning up and repairing one of the strongest tornadoes in state history.

What’s been done to ensure this doesn’t happen again?
Immediately following this event, an investigation was started to see what could be done to prevent a future failure in the warning system. The aforementioned Meteorologists were relieved of duty and the Chicago office was stripped of it’s state-wide jurisdiction. A new office in Lincoln, Illinois was opened and other offices (ie. Davenport) would take over part of the Northern Illinois coverage area. Shortly thereafter, a brand new technology: nexrad doppler radar was implemented. Thanks to the efforts of this investigation there has not been a killer tornado in Northern Illinois without a tornado warning.

dopplerIf you’re an avid viewer of our severe weather coverage you have noticed the “scope” we show on the radar which allows us to observe rotation within a storm. We have occasionally interrupted programming to show you this, even when there may not be a tornado warning in effect. If we have the technology and know how to use it, we are going to get the word out about possible severe weather, sometimes before warnings are issue. This is one of the biggest benefits of doppler radar, and the reason this TV station keeps investing in new weather equipment.

The next time an F5 tornado touches down in Northern Illinois (and it will happen again) we will be able to see it in real time and advise the public to seek shelter in advance. I have been a Meteorologist for 11 years (4 1/2 years in Texas, 6 1/2 years here in Rockford) and have not had a killer tornado on my watch. It is my hope and the subject of many prayers that a day like August 28, 1990 isn’t repeated on my watch. -ES

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Posted under event, tornado

This post was written by qni_it on August 26, 2010

Reliving the Plainfield Tornado

tornado-pathRoy Taylor is a 1989 graduate of Plainfield High School who was attending Illinois State University the day the tornado struck Plainfield. He recalls first getting the news that a tornado had destroyed much of his hometown.

Here is his account:

I grew up in Plainfield, IL, as did my parents, their parents and even some of their parents. I graduated from Plainfield High School in 1989, the year before the tornado destroyed the building I, my mother and sister attended. At that time, I believe there were less than 2000 total attendees of the Plainfield School District, which then had 3 elementary schools, one junior high school, and one high school. There were then roughly 4000 residents of the Village of Plainfield and probably roughly 6000 to 7000 total residents of Plainfield Township.

The tornado hit on the second day of classes of my sophomore year at Illinois State University. In 1989, my freshman year, 99% of the people I met asked me “where the hell is that” when I mentioned Plainfield, IL. The following year, the tornado put Plainfield on the map.
Now, perhaps even more sadly, Plainfield is no longer the fairly idyllic little town just 40 miles from the third-largest city in America. I’d bet that there are now close to 60,000 residents of the school district and it is well on its way to being close to the largest school district in the state outside of Chicago.

Unfortunately I choose not to carry on my family’s tradition of residence in Plainfield because it’s far from the place where I grew up, but I digress. Here’s a little information, hopefully some myth-dispelling and my boring story about August 28, 1990.

I was a fairly inquisitive little kid but also had a few anxieties from birth. One of them being of very severe storms and tornadoes. For this reason I was drawn to reading all the books I could get from the library on the subject. (Please remember this was the 1970’s WAY before the Internet). Imagine having to go to the library to learn something these days?

I remember dining at Stefanich’s Restaurant in downtown Joliet on my Grandmother’s birthday on June 20, 1974 (I was 3) when a tornado hit Plainfield and “blew the roof off” the high school. I remember the days before Plainfield got its first tornado siren (around 1983 I’m guessing) when a blue revolving light on the village hall or the old fire siren would signal a tornado’s imminence. And in 1984 (April 27) another small tornado touched down south of the village. As mentioned, I had read my whole life about the massive tornadoes that devastated places like Xenia, OH and Wichita Falls, TX, and always wondered if something like that would or could happen near my home.

Let me take this opportunity to point out, despite the aforementioned three tornado events in Plainfield from 1974-1990, the notion that “there’s a tornado alley IN/AROUND/OUTSIDE Plainfield” is preposterous.A tornado alley. Tornado Alley is a general term for the midsection of the United States, where most of the world’s tornadoes occur. That’s all. I’ve heard people mention this, even radio personalities mention it on air. There is no such thing as

I was just 19 years old and at a public pool in Normal, IL, on August 28, 1990. I had gone back to school for my sophomore year as early as possible, as usual, for a couple days of R & R (i.e. partying) before classes started. At the pool at right around 3:30 p.m., when the storm was roaring through Plainfield, I remember a few raindrops fell on a generally sunny day. Strange.
Back in my room at my fraternity house, at probably 4:30 or 5:00, my next-door neighbor who was from Lockport, IL, stepped inside and handed me the phone. “My Mom wants to talk to you.” Huh? Strange. That’s when she told me about the tornado and how it had “hit and destroyed most of the downtown.” I grew up and my family still lived right downtown. I panicked, of course, when I called home and got a “call can not be completed” message. I immediately called a friend from Joliet and we made arrangements to hop in the car and drive back, a 90 minute drive.

Still totally panicked, just as I was closing my door to get in the car, my sister called with news that all of my family, houses and businesses were OK. Wanting to get back to see it anyway, my friend and I barged into two classes and picked up two other guys from Plainfield and we all drove back, fighting our way past checkpoints to see our families.

My sister was at home literally three blocks away from the worst tornado in the history of Illinois, and didn’t hear a thing until emergency sirens from dispatched vehicles started wailing. My then-86 year old Grandmother ran a little newsstand downtown, just a block from where the storm roared across Lockport St., and was spared. My father’s auto parts store was probably 150 feet away from the tornado, and came away with one board through the roof. He could see it coming and had dove under his pickup truck parked in back of the store.
His account was republished with his consent and can be viewed on his website. The following videos were taken on September 1st to document the damage. They were taken by one of Roy’s friends. -ES
Please double click to watch each video. A triple click will take you to YouTube to see more information and comments.
A very brief look at Wheatland Plains subdivision.
Driving eastbound on route 126/30, past where Larry’s Diner and a whole bunch of new development is now.
View from the north of destroyed Plainfield High School.
Footage near the destroyed St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
My cousin still farms this open field at the corner of route 59 and Fort Beggs. He recently told me this debris was in that field for years after, nearly wrecking his equipment.
Looking north into Plainfield High School site.
A bunch of wrecked cars near Crystal Lawns Annex subdivision.
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Posted under event, tornado

This post was written by qni_it on August 26, 2010

WREX-TV Katrina coverage 8/29/2005

katrina_videoClick on the player to the left to watch our coverage from the morning Katrina came ashore in Louisiana and Mississippi. Nearly 2,000 people lost their lives because of Katrina, the majority as a result of the levee failures in New Orleans.

No one knew what the people of the Gulf Coast were going through at the time these clips aired. -ES

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Posted under event, tropical weather

This post was written by qni_it on August 26, 2010

It was cool this morning… but why?

rc1rc2Radiational cooling is the reason why our temperatures cooled down during the overnight hours. At night there is no heat coming from the sun, so any heat acquired during the daytime releases into the atmosphere. The low temperature of the day occurs just around sunrise.
The best combination of radiational cooling is with clear skies and light winds. When skies are clear at night it helps the daytime heat to escape into space. When clouds are present, the clouds will push some of the heat back to the surface. Now if you add the light winds, the air is not mixing with warmer air aloft, so your temperatures will be much cooler at the surface.

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Posted under weather

This post was written by qni_it on August 26, 2010

Danielle: threat to fish. Earl: threat to the U.S.?

While Hurricane Danielle continues to hold her own in the Central Atlantic, all forecast guidance continues to show a track that takes it toward Bermuda and then north into the North Atlantic. Bottom line? Danielle will not be a threat to the United States or the Canadian Maritimes.

Earl is expected to be a different beast. It is now a tropical storm, but is expected to intensify over the next few days. Over the weekend we will likely be talking about Earl more as it’s forecast track takes it slightly north of due west…which could make it a threat to the Caribbean islands early next week. Model consensus after that does show a re-curve to the north, but the Eastern Seaboard may get swiped. -ES

track_early2

intensity_early2

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Posted under tropical weather

This post was written by qni_it on August 25, 2010

So many different types…

cirruscumulusstratusHave you ever wondered how many types for clouds there are?We have all heard of the three main categories, Cirrus, Cumulus and Stratus. However, there are so many different forms, features and species of each cloud that are used to describe the kind of cloud that you are looking at. Clouds are divided into the three categories based on the Latin words, which refer to the process of development. From there, each of these categories has several cloud genera. Ten cloud genera are obtained by cross-classification of the stratus and cumulus categories. They are separated by the prefix cirro, alto and low. Examples: cirrostratus and altocumulus. When looking at a species of clouds, that would be the individual or special cloud formation in one of the genera. For instance, the super-cool lenticular cloud (UFO Cloud) is species of cirrocumulus, altocumulus and stratocumulus. There are 13 different cloud species. The last classification before we get to the category all by itself is the main cloud features. This one we have all seen or at least heard of maybe in one of the blogs. Mammatus on the list of main cloud features as well the pileus cloud. Cloud features are usually created from how they are formed, which would bring the total in this classification to 21. Last but not least is the storm associated clouds. This is where you would find your funnel clouds and anvils. There are about 50 different types in the list and they have to do with stormy weather.

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Posted under science, weather

This post was written by qni_it on August 25, 2010