Severe Weather Peaks

Last night brought the country our biggest tornado outbreak of the year with a confirmed F4 that touched ground in Easter Texas near Granbury. This mile wide twister has claimed 6 lives, has left 7 people missing, has injured dozens more and has detroyed hundreds of homes. This outbreak isn’t uncommon, however after last year’s relatively tame severe weather season, it caught many people off guard. It is important to remember that May is peak season for tornadic activity, with the peak for thunderstorm activity coming in July. -Greg12


Posted under Project: Tornado, severe weather, statistics, tornado, weather

This post was written by qni_it on May 16, 2013

Project: Tornado Question of the Day

I had the opportunity to visit two schools on Friday for Project: Tornado 2013.  My first stop in the morning was near Poplar Grove at North Boone Upper Elementary School, where I spoke with 5th and 6th graders.  My second stop of the day brought me to Franklin Grove, where I spoke with 3rd and 4th graders at Ashton Franklin Center Elementary School.

A great question was brought up at AFC and it stumped me!  The question was: ‘How many tornadoes touch down each year in Illinois?’


After digging around for the answer, I found that 54 tornadoes occur in the Prairie State during an average year.  This climatological average was derived from all tornadoes that touched down between 1991 and 2010.  This ranks Illinois as 6 out of all 50 states for the most tornadoes per year!  Of course, this is a climatological average, so some years will see more and some years will see far less.  In 2006, 124 tornadoes were observed in Illinois.  In 2012, however, only 39 tornadoes touched down in Illinois.  Wisconsin averages 24 tornadoes per year, ranking it at 20 out of all 50 states.

Another statistic that better portrays the yearly tornado threat in Illinois is the average number of tornadoes per 10,000 square miles.  Illinois’ average is 9.7 tornadoes per 10,000 square miles and Wisconsin’s is 4.5 tornadoes per 10,000 square miles.  How big is 10,000 square miles? To give you an idea, the size of all 13 counties in the 13 WREX viewing area put together is just 7,695 square miles.



Posted under Project: Tornado, safety, severe weather, statistics, tornado, weather

This post was written by qni_it on May 10, 2013

Will you be awake if a Tornado Warning happens at night?

Capture2It’s a no-brainer that everyone needs a smoke-detector and even a carbon-monoxide detector. In most homes, we have several of them placed in different spots. But what would wake you if a tornado was bearing down on your house in the middle of the night? Sure, we’ll be tracking storms on 13WREX in the middle of the night. We just want to make sure you have a way to know in advance.

We have teamed up with Schnucks and Midland Radio to offer programmable weather radios at a discounted cost. You can pick one up at any Logli, Hilander, or Schnucks store in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin now. However, every Friday we will be out for two hours to program them for you! So if you just want your county programmed to sound for a Tornado Warning, we can do it for you. Last Friday, I had a couple buy a radio and I programmed it for their parent who lives in Waushara Co., Wisconsin.

We don’t know when the next tornado will touch down. It’s our goal to have as many people in the storm’s path be ready with a plan in place. It’s worth thirty bucks, don’t you think? -Eric


Posted under Project: Tornado, safety

This post was written by qni_it on May 8, 2013

Severe Weather Warnings Timelapse

Here’s an interesting perspective of 2012, in regards to severe weather.  This video highlights every single severe thunderstorm warning and tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012.  The time lapse video is just 30 seconds long, but incredible nonetheless.

Keep an eye on our local area…..not a whole lot happened in 2012.  In fact, only a handful of tornado warnings were issued for northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin this past year.  Thankfully, no tornado touchdown occurred in the local area.

Nationally, areas of the Ohio Valley and Tennessee Valley appear to have had the most tornado (red) warnings issued in 2012, including very early in January.  Also, notice the spike in tornado (red) warnings along the Gulf Coast toward the last week of the year.  This just goes to show that severe weather and tornadoes can occur in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter!



Posted under 13 Climate Authority, Project: Tornado, severe weather, tornado, weather, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on January 3, 2013

Better Tornado Preparedness

Joplin Tornado - Courtesy NWS Springfield

We’ve all done it.  A Tornado Warning is issued, but we’ll continue on with our daily lives.  Change the channel, look outside, call a neighbor, but probably not go to the basement unless we see it coming.  Then, something catastrophic happens.  In May 2011, an EF-5 tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri.  Sadly, nearly 160 people lost their lives.  This was the first and only triple-digit-fatality tornado event observed since the Tornado Warning was introduced in 1957.  Many people in the Joplin area believed that the tornado was headed north of town, according to a post-disaster survey.  Furthermore, people don’t react and head for shelter so readily because often times when a Tornado Warning is issued, there is no physical tornado.

The National Weather Service is aiming to change peoples’ reactions and the way they perceive severe weather alerts.  While research is still ongoing, the National Weather Service found out through numerous surveys and studies that when a Warning is issued, people usually ask themselves one or more of these questions:

  • Where is the hazard?
  • Has it been confirmed?
  • How bad is it?
  • When will it arrive?
  • How long will it last?
  • What is the meteorologist’s confidence in it occurring?

People often dismiss severe weather alerts such as a Tornado Warning because often times there is no tornado.  A Tornado Warning is issued by the National Weather Service if tornadic conditions are observed on Doppler Radar and/or an actual tornado is observed on the ground.  Many times, a Doppler-indicated tornado is just that…..storm rotation on radar.  It has been suggested that the NWS issue some type of alert between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning.

Joplin Tornado Aftermath - Courtesy KVUE-TV

The general public, in a way, has been ‘trained’ to not react when the tornado sirens sound off.  A parallel that has been brought up many times is the story of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf.’  This is part of the reason why the Joplin tornado was so devastating.  Between 2008 and 2011, Jasper County, Missouri (where Joplin is located) was issued a Tornado Warning 34 times.  Of those 34 warnings, only 2 tornadoes were actually on the ground!

Other reasons why the Joplin tornado was such a catastrophic event include the fact that the tornado was invisible along most of its path.  The general public is solely dependent on the public warning system, although many advances with today’s social media (Twitter, Facebook, Text Alerts) have helped with getting the word out.  Also, there was some disconnect between the Storm Prediction Center and the National Weather Service Springfield, Missouri office.  The NWS office did not have enough updates, perhaps, during the event.

Another major problem was the Joplin warning siren system.  The sirens were not sounded properly for the tornadic storm that impacted the city.  They were sounded prematurely for another storm and the sirens were shut off before the threat had completely ended.

There were many things to learn after the Joplin disaster.  The National Weather Service has been working diligently to come up with better warning methods, more community input, better partnerships with local media and government.  In 2012, NWS offices in Kansas & Missouri began testing ‘Impact Based Warnings.’  This type of warning will use strong words (such as mass devastation, unsurvivable, and catastrophic) to connect the severity of a storm with its expected impact.  The goal is to more effectively communicate the dangers of an approaching storm so people can understand the risks they will face.



Posted under news, Project: Tornado, safety, severe weather, statistics, tornado, weather

This post was written by qni_it on October 9, 2012

VIDEO: “Project:Tornado” Special Report

Our weather team worked tirelessly all month long to educate more than 5,000 students on the power of severe weather. We wrapped up our Project:Tornado campaign with a half hour special that aired this past Sunday. Here are all four parts with no commercial interruptions:



Posted under event, news, Project: Tornado, safety, science, severe weather, statistics, technology, tornado, weather, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on May 28, 2012

Project: Tornado Question of the Day

I had the chance to head to Freeport Middle School this afternoon for Project: Tornado and spoke with the entire 6th grade class.  While we were waiting for the video to load, I answered some good questions from the audience.  One question I was unable to answer was about EF-5 tornadoes.

Many of you are probably familiar with the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale, used for measuring the strength or intensity of tornadoes.  Dr. Ted Fujita developed this scale in 1971 at the University of Chicago.  Tornadoes are ranked from EF-0 through EF-5, based on the amount of damage they cause.  Wind speeds (classified by the EF number) are then determined after the National Weather Service surveys the severity of the damage.  In 2007, the original scale was updated to reflect the continuing evolution of tornado knowledge and information.  That’s where the ‘E’ (enhanced) came from!

The question asked today was ‘How many EF-5 tornadoes have there been?’

Officially, there have only been 57 EF-5 tornadoes confirmed in the United States since 1950.  This is less than 2% of all tornadoes that have occurred in our country.  The most recent EF-5 tornadoes occurred one year ago.  The May 22, 2011 Joplin tornado moved through southwest Missouri, leaving nearly 160 people dead and causing $2.8 billion in damage.  Two days after that tornado, another EF-5 touched down in Oklahoma, killing 9 people.  Both of those tornadoes had wind speeds estimated over 210mph.

Only two EF-5 tornadoes have touched down in Illinois since 1950; three EF-5 tornadoes have moved through Wisconsin.  The 1990 Plainfield, Illinois tornado killed 29 people and caused hundreds of millions in damage.  The storm that produced that tornado formed in Rock County, put down a small tornado near Pecatonica in Winnebago County, and then continued southeast to the Chicago suburbs where a tornado intensified to EF-5 strength at Plainfield.



Posted under Project: Tornado, statistics, weather

This post was written by qni_it on May 23, 2012

Project: Tornado Question of the Day

Project: Tornado 2012 continued this morning as I headed south down Illinois Route 2 along the Rock River to Oregon Elementary School.  Over 400 third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders gathered in the Hawks’ gymnasium for the presentation….by far the largest group of students this year!  They were all very well behaved too!

One question asked by a student was something that many people are curious about.  “How come no tornadoes form in Alaska?”  Contrary to popular believe, tornadoes do occur in Alaska.  They are not nearly as common as in the lower 48 states, but they are possible!  Since 1950, only 2 tornadoes have touched down (on state record) in Alaska.  Since Alaska is so vast and sparsely populated, it is possible more tornadoes have moved across the landscape unnoticed.

The most recent tornado in Alaska was during July 2005.  A tornado occurred near the town of Sand Point on the Aleutian Islands.  No one was injured.

The big thing to take away is the fact that tornadoes can happen on EVERY continent (except Antarctica) during EVERY season.

Thanks again, Oregon Hawks!



Posted under Project: Tornado, weather

This post was written by qni_it on May 18, 2012

Project: Tornado Question of the Day

Once again, another great question was asked on Wednesday during Project: Tornado.  Eric Sorensen and myself visited Meehan Elementary School in Belvidere.  Angel Garcia, a 3rd grader, asked ‘How did the tornado get its name?’

Angel, I looked through the dictionary and encyclopedia and found the origin of the word ‘tornado.’  ‘Tornado’ is derived from ‘tronada,’ the Spanish word for ‘thunderstorm.’  The Spanish word ‘tornar,’ which means ‘to turn or twist,’ also had an influence.  These two Spanish words were molded together over the years to create our English word ‘tornado.’  The precise year when the word ‘tornado’ was first used is unknown, although some evidence points to the early 1600s.

There are other words used to describe a tornado.  Sometimes we use ‘twister.’  Other synonyms include ‘cyclone’ and ‘waterspout’ (which is a tornado over water).  And of course there is the ‘dust devil.’  In Australia, a dust devil is called a ‘willy willy!’

Thanks for that great question, Angel!  And thanks to Meehan Elementary for a great time!



Posted under Project: Tornado, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on May 16, 2012

Project Tornado: Question of the Day

I had the pleasure of going to Taylor Park Elementary School this morning for Project Tornado.  Jonathan from Ms. Avery’s 4th grade class asked a very good question.  He asked: How fast does lightning strike?

 Answer:  Lightning actually travels at different speeds. The atmospheric conditions determined how fast a bolt of lightning can travel.  On average, a typical lightning bolt moves at 224,000 mph, which comes to about 3,700 miles per second.  Now… that’s fast!

 Here are some other interesting facts about lightning:  A bolt of lightning is no more than an inch wide and is hotter than the surface of the sun; and when you see a flash of lightning, it might actually be three or five strokes of lightning in the same place.  That is why when you see lightning; it looks like its flashing or flickering.


Posted under Project: Tornado, science, severe weather, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on May 14, 2012