Storm Spotter Training Season

Feb. 26, 2016: It’s that time of year again to start thinking about severe weather. I know we are barely out of winter, but that’s why it’s a good time: you have plenty of days to prepare before spring severe weather season kicks off!

If you are at all curious or enthusiastic about severe weather, do your community a favor and attend the National Weather Service’s storm spotter training class this upcoming Tuesday.  Why?

1) It’s free!  Well, almost free: the class is 2 hours long, so you’ll have to give up part of your evening.

2) You’ll be properly trained to report severe weather. Why’s that important? Storm spotters provide potentially life-saving observations.  Even as new technology emerges to help the NWS issue warnings with more lead time, NWS meteorologists can’t be everywhere at once, and technology can’t fully replace having trained individuals confirming on the ground what the radar is indicating.

3) You’ll help your community: as mentioned above, your reports help confirm what the NWS is able to see on radar, satellite, etc., which in turn helps get warnings out quicker.  The faster your neighbors know about a warning, the more time they have to get to a safe place.

The NWS will be in Cherry Valley to host Winnebago County on March 1st, and in Dixon to host Lee and Ogle Counties March 23rd. For more information, click here.  We at the 13 Weather Authority know how much of a help storm spotters provide during severe weather season, so we hope you are able to attend!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 26, 2016

Back to Reality (late February edition)

February 22, 2016: Who enjoyed the 50° warmth over the weekend? Wasn’t that nice? The weather pattern this week is a subtle reminder that winter isn’t over just yet.

Billboard 1

First off, having the 40’s in February is still doing pretty well. Average highs are between 37° to 39° this time of year, so even cracking 40° feels pretty nice (though not substantially above average).  We should remain close to average, if not a little above, each day this week.

Billboard 2

The winds are coming back as well, as a by-product of the temperatures whipping back and forth between the middle 40’s and the middle 30’s. While not like Friday’s hard-hitting 60 mph gusts, we should see wind gusts reach 30 mph each of the days listed in the graphic, making the weather blustery for a few days this week.

Billboard 3

Finally, we are keeping an eye on a major snow-maker…just not necessarily here. The latest major winter storm looks to hit Michigan with up to 6″ of snow, with areas of Indiana and Illinois getting in on the fun as well. Right now, Rockford looks to get flurries and windy weather out of the storm only.

Snow forecast for Wednesday (valid 8:30 pm Monday, Feb. 22)

Snow forecast for Wednesday (valid 8:30 pm Monday, Feb. 22)

However, if you have any business or reason to go into Chicago on Wednesday, keep a close eye on the weather. A few inches of snow plus the blustery winds are possible for the Windy City in the middle of the week.

For those unhappy with winter “returning” this week, keep in mind- the official start to Spring is less than a month away!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 22, 2016

Friday’s High Winds

February 19, 2015: Friday’s winds were a little much at times, with hazardous conditions even popping up at wind gusts topped 60 mph! A fast-moving, very strong area of low pressure combined with dry air and sunshine allowed the strong winds from higher in the atmosphere to reach the surface, blasting us with 50-60 mph wind gusts for parts of the day.

Top wind gusts for February 19

Top wind gusts for February 19

Not surprisingly, we had all sorts of issues with the wind, from power flickers and outages to semi rollovers to downed tree limbs and branches.

Courtesy: Lisa Cushman Hasting

Courtesy: Lisa Cushman Hasting

Take a good look at the semi, and remember, on very windy days like this, to take it slower and have a firm grip on the steering wheel.  Granted, semi trucks catch the wind a lot easier, but the power of the wind can cause accidents.

Aprilruary

High temperatures for February 19

High temperatures for February 19

On the positive side, check out our temperatures! Saturday will be in the 50’s, and highs almost reached the 60’s, which would have been the only the 9th time on record in Rockford. Enjoy the warmth while it’s here!

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 19, 2016

50’s in February

Feb. 16, 2016: With the end of the week showing signs of 50° weather in northern Illinois (or warmer than that in central Illinois!), I got a little curious- how often do we typically see 50° weather in February?  The short answer: not very often.

February 50sIn an average February (from the 1980 to 2010 climate records (the National Weather Service sets our climate normals each decade based on the previous 30 years)), we get a whopping 2 days in the 50’s.  However, considering how cold February can get, plus the fact that we are still in winter, that’s doing pretty well!

Looking further into this, it has been a little while since we were treated to a day in the 50’s in February.  Feb. 18, 2013 was the last time the thermometer read 50° or higher in Rockford (the high was 52° that day).

In fact, it will be nearly 3 years to the very day that the 50’s return to the Stateline in February.  February 19th is this Friday, which is when the 50’s pop up next! How neat is that!

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 16, 2016

Ground blizzard

February 8th, 2016: Something interesting weather-wise happened in the Midwest today. Have you ever heard of a ground blizzard? I’m sure you are familiar with a blizzard; one almost reached the Stateline last week, and buried some spots in Iowa with a foot of snow.

What makes a blizzard such a dangerous storm is not necessarily the amount of snow, but what the storm does with it. A blizzard produces high winds, which blows the snow around, and creates whiteouts. Not only is driving very difficult to dangerous, the whiteouts make it impossible to see.

There were blizzard warnings into Iowa and Minnesota today, but not because of a major winter storm slamming the area again. Instead, a ground blizzard occurred.

This image, tweeted out by the National Weather Service in La Crosse, WI, shows the dangerous weather conditions during the ground blizzard.

This image, tweeted out by the National Weather Service in La Crosse, WI, shows the dangerous weather conditions during the ground blizzard.

The big difference is between a “regular” blizzard and a “ground” blizzard is that the ground blizzard is much more of a wind-driven event. These events happen a lot more often in North and South Dakota, where high winds are able to blow around light and fluffy snow, causing whiteouts in the windy areas. Today’s storm did produce a couple inches of light snow, which was enough to create impossible-to-see conditions when combined with the winds.

The reason behind all of this? It’s easy to get caught up in how much snow we can get in a storm, but remember that other conditions like wind can factor into how dangerous a storm can be!

– Alex

 

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 8, 2016

El Niño Check-In

February 5, 2016:

El Niño causes much warmer water to develop in the Pacific near the Equator and South America; that, in turn, affects the jet stream over North America

El Niño causes much warmer water to develop in the Pacific near the Equator and South America; that, in turn, affects the jet stream over North America

Now that we are just past the 2nd month of winter, how is the strong El Niño that we were talking about going into winter affecting us so far?

El Niño's effects on North America during the winter

El Niño’s effects on North America during the winter

As you may remember, El Niño brings a much warmer and drier winter to the Midwest, and a strong El Niño like the one in play now amplifies those effects.

El_Nino Update3

No question about El Niño’s effects on December: warmest on record. January, however, was a little cooler, but still a little above average. El Niño peaked in the Pacific after December, so its effects didn’t have as much of an impact. The drier than average portion of El Niño still came into play: January was 6″ below average for snowfall (and we didn’t see much rain, either), just like December.

Climate Prediction Center's forecast for February shows potentially warmer than average weather

Climate Prediction Center’s forecast for February shows potentially warmer than average weather

One month to go- and February looks to be warmer than average, as we still see some influence from the strong El Niño.  In a few weeks, we can put a bow on this winter, and see just how much El Niño impacted this season!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 5, 2016