Severe Weather Preparedness Week 2016

March 3, 2016: This week is Severe Weather Preparedness Week for the state of Illinois. Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, the state has its statewide tornado drill, so you likely heard the warning sirens, and your weather radio also may have gone off with a test message. The National Weather Service also held a storm spotter training class for Winnebago County.

The purpose of the week is to remind and refresh residents on the dangers of severe weather. Why so early in March, when there’s still snow in the forecast? Look at it this way- there’s still plenty of time to get ready and refresh yourself on your severe weather plan of action before the storms start to hit our area!

Billboard 2

So what should you do to get ready?  First, review your severe weather plan of action. Don’t have one? Here’s what you should think over and coordinate with your friends and family: where do you need to go to be safe from severe weather?  This includes tornadoes, severe thunderstorms with hail and high winds, and flash flooding. You may know where to go in your house or apartment, but do you know where to go at work, at school, at church, or anywhere else you visit frequently?  If you don’t know, start asking at those places or ask us at 13 WREX- we are hear to help!

Secondly, make sure you have multiple ways to get severe weather information.  This may include:

– outdoor warning sirens (***IMPORTANT***: remember that those sirens are only meant for people outdoors! You may not hear them in the house, so don’t completely rely on them!)

– local TV and radio stations

– a NOAA weather radio

– text message alerts or weather app alerts

– calls from family or friends to relay important information

– the internet

Multiple ways to get severe weather alerts is very, very important.  Only relying on one way to get warnings can lead to injury or worse, in case that particular method does not get your attention in time.

Severe weather season is coming up fast- while severe weather can happen at any time of the year (even in winter), our peak season for tornadoes is between April and June, with flash flood events mostly likely between July and August. Start getting ready now, and stay tuned for more information like this as we get closer to the start of severe weather season!



Posted under safety, severe weather, tornado, weather

This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 3, 2016

One thing’s for sure; it’s going to be windy.

We’ve seen them before, thunderstorms (severe and non-severe) during the month of November in the Midwest. In fact, the anniversary of the 2013 Washington, Illinois tornado that took 8 lives is one week from today. In just under two weeks, we’ll pass the anniversary of the 2010 Caledonia, Illinois tornado that was responsible for snapping trees and high-tension transmission power towers.

This Wednesday looks far from those events for the Stateline, but we may get in on a few rumbles of thunder. First, let’s talk about what’s happening:

An area of low pressure is sitting over Colorado right now, and will track northeast in our neck of the woods as we get closer to Wednesday night. We should dodge most (if not, all) of the severe weather that could come along with this system.  Especially for places as far north as Rockford.

Regardless of thunderstorm activity, winds will be gusty Wednesday and Wednesday night (around 40mph without thunderstorms) through Friday. IF we generate a thunderstorm or two on Wednesday night, those winds could get strong to severe (upwards of 50 mph).

What does all of that really mean? There is a *slight* chance for thunderstorms on Wednesday night and through those overnight hours. There is a much better chance to just see some rainfall, and possibly Wind Advisory set up out of this as well.

What to expect: Rainfall
Don’t rule out: Thunderstorm with strong to severe winds

While most of the marbles add up to just seeing some rain/gusty winds, be prepared for some strong winds during those hours, especially near and south of I-88.

Because of this, the Storm Prediction Center has the Stateline area under a marginal risk for severe weather, with a few areas (including Dixon and Rochelle) under a slight risk. The biggest threat still looks to be damaging winds. The bigger threat stays to our southwest, in eastern Iowa and western Illinois. We’ll keep you posted on air and right here on the 13 Weather Authority Blog.





Posted under First Look, rain, safety, severe weather, Threatrack, tornado, Wind

This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on November 10, 2015

Cold air funnels vs. tornadoes

June 29, 2015: The conditions in the atmosphere this afternoon brought some interesting weather to the Stateline. We saw funnel clouds of a few types around our area. To help with any curiosity or confusion over what we saw today, here’s the difference between cold air funnel clouds and tornadic funnel clouds (basically, two very different set of conditions in the atmosphere):

First off, what does a cold air funnel look like?  A few viewers provided snapshots of some of the cold air funnels in our area today.

Viewer photos of cold air funnels this afternoon. Click on image to enlarge.


Notice a couple things about the funnel clouds.  First off, see how high they are in the sky? And how small and puny they look?  These are some of the distinguishing characteristics of a cold air funnel cloud.  They are “high-based”, as we meteorologists like to call them, or that they form pretty far off the ground and high up in the storm or clouds.  Two, they look like a much bigger problem, but only get to be about that size, and remain small, weak-looking, and are slowly rotating. Cold air funnel clouds rarely reach the ground, and if they do, there is minimal to no damage. They only appear threatening, but are basically harmless.

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

How do they form? There has to be a shallow layer of cold air, BEHIND a cold front (this is a key difference from tornadoes, in that tornado-producing storms usually form along or AHEAD of a front).  There also has to be a little wind shear, or winds changing direction as you go up away from the ground. As the air from the surface rises, it spins a little in the weak shear, and if that air makes it to the cloud and fully condenses, you see a little, weak rotating cloud under the storm.

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

This is different from a tornado, in that a tornado needs much stronger wind shear, as well as plenty of warm, moist air to raise the instability in the atmosphere.  Unstable air can rise very quickly, getting the base of the storm to be lower.  This allows a much stronger rotation to be close to the surface, causing damage winds.

In summary, a cold air funnel forms much higher in the sky, is weakly rotating, and doesn’t pose much of a threat. A rotating funnel cloud spinning much faster and is much closer to the ground is most likely going to result in a tornado.

Tornado Warning for Lee County this evening. The conditions were much different in Lee Co. compared to elsewhere, so this type of rotation was threatening. Click on image to enlarge.

Tornado Warning for Lee County this evening. The conditions were much different in Lee Co. compared to elsewhere, so this type of rotation was threatening. Click on image to enlarge.

We saw both of these conditions today- the air near Rockford was cooler and weakly sheared, while the air in Lee Co. where we had a tornado warning for a while was much more humid, a little warmer, and had better shear.

So, how do you know the difference, and what should you do if you see a funnel cloud? Treat all funnel clouds with respect, and keep plenty of distance between you and them. The best advice is if you see a ROTATING (sometimes clouds hang low off of the storm, look like a funnel, but are harmless because they don’t rotate) storm cloud, check in with us online, on Facebook or Twitter, on-air, etc. and etc., or check to see if you weather radio is going off, your phone has an emergency alert on it, etc. We or the National Weather Service will let you know if that funnel cloud poses a threat or not. And remember, conditions can change in a hurry, or vary from location to location. Earlier in the day, the cold air funnels to the north did not pose a threat, but later in the afternoon there was a different set of conditions that sparked a potential tornado in Lee Co.  When in doubt, play it safe, get inside, and check in with us.



Posted under safety, science, severe weather, tornado, weather

This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 29, 2015

Project: Tornado 2015 Wrap-up

May 21, 2015: Project: Tornado has wrapped up for another year, as we visited our last school today. While this year’s round of presentations is over, our message about severe weather preparedness isn’t!  We’ll get to that in one second.

First, a special thanks goes out to all of the teachers, principals, and administrators that invited us to visit your school and students!  We had a great time talking to all of the eager and enthusiastic children in the Stateline we got to meet within the last 4 weeks.

project tornado

Overall, 4,176 students were taught about severe weather safety and tornadoes. Each student went home with a Project: Tornado book, so our hope is that for each student that reads and shares that book with their loved one, we reach many more thousands of people about the importance of weather awareness and safety.

Severe weather season is not over yet, so make sure you are always taking the proper steps to be aware and safe during severe weather, even though we haven’t had any since the April 9 tornado outbreak. This is the same message we shared with all of the students:

– have multiple ways to get weather alerts, such as the TV, radio, text message alerts, a weather app, and a weather radio.  You can sign up for text alerts at, download our 13 Weather Authority app for free for your smartphone, and we will hold several more weather radio events to program a radio for you.

– know where to go and what to do when severe weather strikes.  If you hear thunder, go indoors immediately. In the event of a severe thunderstorm, get inside and stay away from the windows. Know where to go in your house, work place, etc. if a tornado threatens.  You may only have minutes to act, so have a plan in place now.

– be weather aware: stay in-tune with the weather forecast, know when severe weather may threaten, and plan accordingly. If you see rapidly changing weather, it would be best to head indoors and check with 13 WREX for updates.

Thanks again to all of the schools we visited this year!  Look for sign-up for next year’s Project: Tornado sometime in March 2016.

– Alex


Posted under event, Project: Tornado, safety, science, severe weather, tornado, weather

This post was written by Alex Kirchner on May 21, 2015

Project: Tornado…The Final Days

The end is near, but the reason has only just begun!
Severe weather season is in full swing, and the 13 Weather Authority has been making sure Stateline students know how to handle it by continuing Project: Tornado.

Within the last three weeks, we have traveled to 19 schools across Northern Illinois educating elementary students on how thunderstorms form and how to stay safe during a tornado. As of today, roughly 2,651 students are prepared for severe weather, and we’re still not done!
Next week, we finish off our final week of Project: Tornado, as we head to Spring Creek Elementary, Rolling Green, Barbour Language Academy, Swan Hillman and St. Mary’s School to educate another 1,200 students. This means almost 4,000 Stateline students will know exactly what to do when severe weather strikes.

Each student receives a Project: Tornado booklet, filled with pictures, games, and important information to help them understand thunderstorm processes, tornadoes, safety, and local historic tornadoes.
Here’s a sneak peek:




























‘Severe weather ready’ students are from Conklin Elementary, Perry Elementary, Pecatonica Elementary, Keith Country Day, Jefferson Elementary, Immanuel Lutheran School, Ellis Arts Academy, Lincoln-Douglas Elementary, Rockford Lutheran Academy, Thurgood Marshall School, Ralston Elementary, C. Henry Bloom, Holy Family Catholic School, West View Elementary, Shirland School, Highland Grade School, Loves Park Elementary, Lewis Lemon Elementary, and Nashold Elementary.



Posted under event, Exactrack|HD, history, Project: Tornado, safety, science, severe weather, tornado, weather, weather geek, Wind

This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on May 15, 2015

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.


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.


Posted under event, history, news, safety, science, severe weather, statistics, tornado, weather, weather geek

This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on April 20, 2015

Project: Tornado sign-up has begun


Attention teachers and principals: it is that time of year again! We want to come to your school!

Every year, WREX puts together an extensive education campaign called “Project: Tornado.”

The premise is simple: each school day for an entire month, the 13 Weather Authority team will speak to children about the power of severe weather. Our visits in gymnasiums and auditoriums are complete with interactive demonstrations, documentary video produced here at WREX, and ending with a question and answer session. Every student will go home with a full-color booklet so the information is shared with family and friends. Best part? It’s a free service of WREX!

We are very proud to have seen 40,000+ students complete our course in the past eight years. If you’re interested in our program, click here.

To sign your school up for Project: Tornado, click here. Make sure to include your preferred time slot when you choose your 1st and 2nd choices on the date!




Posted under Project: Tornado, safety, severe weather

This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 10, 2015

Line of Storms on the Way

A Tornado Watch is in effect for Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago County in northern Illinois until 7pm Monday. A Tornado Watch is also in effect for Green and Rock County in Wisconsin until 7pm.

Exactrack HD Doppler Radar: 3:30pm

Exactrack HD Doppler Radar: 3:30pm

A fast moving line of thunderstorms will barrel out of eastern Iowa for the late afternoon and in the the evening hours. The main threats with this line are strong, damaging wind gusts over 70mph, some hail, dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning, and very heavy rain. This line of storms is expected to reach the Rockford area just in time for the evening commute. Storms will likely exit the eastern half of our area just before sunset. Please keep an eye to the sky!

Be prepared to seek shelter as these thunderstorms are fast approaching. There is the possibility of some rotation in this line of storms….something that will have to be closely watched.  Flash flooding is also a concern with the potential for a couple of inches of rainfall. Keep it tuned to the 13 Weather Authority for the latest information!



Posted under flooding, safety, severe weather, weather

This post was written by qni_it on June 30, 2014

Keep an Eye to the Sky

A good swath of the Midwest will be under the gun for the risk of severe weather today. Locally, we will see warm and even humid conditions for the better part of Mother’s Day. Temperatures will rise into the upper 70s and flirt with 80 in a few spots.

The main player in our forecast is a warm front positioned across Missouri and southern Illinois. As this warm front lifts north this afternoon and evening, scattered thunderstorms will develop along it. Some of these thunderstorms will be on the strong-to-severe side.

T'Storms along the Warm Front

T’Storms along the Warm Front

Weather forecast models vary on the exact timing of thunderstorm development. It appears that late afternoon into the after-dark hours will be the time frame. This will allow plenty of heating to take place during the day, which will help fuel any thunderstorm development.

Strong winds over 60mph, sizeable hail, frequent cloud-to-ground lightning, and torrential rain will be possible in a severe thunderstorm. There is a risk of tornadoes today, primarily over Iowa and Kansas. However, some rotation is possible with local storms…..something which we will be monitoring.


There is no need to panic, but today is a good day to be weather aware! If you haven’t already, I’d recommend downloading our 13 Exactrack app for your smart phone. It’s free and has a few of the tools we use to track the weather!



Posted under FutureTrack, safety, severe weather, weather

This post was written by qni_it on May 11, 2014

Weather Radio Campaign Begins

Spring is a busy season for the 13 Weather Authority! Not only are we monitoring the radar for any storms, we will also be out and about promoting severe weather safety. In addition to our Project: Tornado program offered in our local schools, another campaign will start this Friday (April 25).

Last spring, meteorologists Eric Sorensen, Greg Bobos and Joe Astolfi helped distribute and program a record 2,100 weather radios.

What does a weather radio do? It’s pretty simple. In the event of severe weather (like thunderstorms, flooding and tornadoes) it will alert you of any nearby danger. Trust me, you will hear the alert sound and be aware of approaching weather hazards. Think of it as an investment that will bring you many years of safety!


We made it to 7 Schnucks stores in the Rockford and DeKalb area last spring. We plan on a total of 15 store visits in the next couple of months. In addition to Schnucks, we will expand our presence to Walgreens stores throughout the area. We’ll now be able to make stops in Belvidere, Freeport, Dixon and other area towns.

Midland / NOAA Weather Radios will be available for purchase during regular store hours. Look for updates on the Weather Blog, Facebook, Twitter and 13 News to find out where and when you can meet the 13 Weather Authority meteorologists in person!

Our first event is this Friday, April 25, from 5pm to 7pm at the East State Street Schnucks store in Rockford. See you there!



Posted under Project: Tornado, safety, severe weather

This post was written by qni_it on April 23, 2014