Owner of Illinois Storm Chasers :: Education and Training Leader
Author: Danny Neal
Danny is a storm chaser from the southside of Chicago and has been chasing since 1998. He has over 100 tornadoes documented as well as numerous other extreme weather events. He routinely teaches and trains others about severe and unusual weather and is considered a great resource for Northern Illinois. As a partner with NOAA, he spends most of his time assisting the National Weather Service Chicago during severe weather operations
[January 15th. 2018 – 1:30 A.M.] Good snowy morning everyone. We are currently seeing a pretty decent clipper system pivot through the region this evening and overnight. Snowfall totals of 1-3″ are common across the Upper Midwest with amounts exceeding 4″ in portions of southwest Wisconsin. This weather maker should pivot on out of the region by mid day bringing another shot of cold, bitterly Arctic air down. Winter just wouldn’t be the same without this type of weather every so often am I right? After this system passes, what kind of weather can we expect to see? The good news is we’ll return to sunny conditions Tuesday, the not so great news is the air will still be frigid. Seasonal temperatures aren’t the worst type of chill we can see around here this time of year, but it’s a far cry from the 60’s we observed just a few short days ago. Let’s take a look ahead at some interesting weather headed this direction.
NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center issued their 8-14 day outlook earlier and highlights much of the eastern sections with an above normal chance of being warmer and wetter than normal. That’s not saying we are going to be 70% wetter than normal, it’s saying there is an XX amount percentage that we can see above normal precipitation and/or temperatures for that period. Namely what I am focusing on is the potential for a large storm system to traverse the mid section of the country somewhere in the 20th to 22nd time frame. I have a strong suspicious this particular outlook is reflective of that storm system. It is way too soon to predict the exact type of weather we can expect, but I think the opening image on this article does a good job summing it up. There will be the potential for snow, rain, wind, and even thunderstorms somewhere across the Mississippi River Valley during the next seven days. Beyond that this is still a vast spread in the models, but at least some suggest a continued mild regime over portions of the Midwest.
We’re going to take a gander at the GFS and it’s ensembles from earlier today. The GFS has not performed well overall with many systems over the past several months, but I have noticed the last couple bigger systems it has performed reasonably well. I think it’s fair to look at at this range and it paints a pretty wide spectrum of events here across the Land of Lincoln. Picking which one will ultimately be correct is a game of Russian Roulette that I don’t feel like participating in at this juncture. My business and my page are doing fairly well, so I don’t need to post the hype graphics as a last effort to save my dying career…… or I don’t work for the mainstream media. Take your pick there! Nearly all solutions from the operational model to the ensembles show a storm system developing and riding diagonally across the mid section. There has been some run to run consistency with this and the upper air pattern is one that would support a deep area of low pressure being born and maturing.
I know everyone is waiting to see what the Euro has to say. The Euro is the noobs go to model to predict the weather and the seasoned forecaster’s best friend to verify their own findings with. More times than not the Euro is tops in coming closest to sniffing out an active pattern and/or storm system and quickest in discerning as well. No one weather model is the end all be all, but the Euro seems to perform fairly well comparatively speaking.
With all of that being said, we see some decent agreement with regard to developing a system. At this range I only really look at the H5 plots since I want to see a nice deep trof. Many larger systems are birthed within these trofs. I have been waiting for our “big dog” to appear in the models and this period of time has as good a chance as any. Not only is it being represented by the global, the Euro, and the Canadian models (shown below), it is also in a period that favors these system climatologically speaking. If you recall some of our largest blizzards have occurred right at the end of January into early February. By no means am I saying we will be getting a blizzard, but it bares watching. Spring is prime time for tornadoes across our state, the middle to end of winter is prime time for significant snow storms. We know this based on climatology and history.
One aspect of forecasting that interests me has always been the MJO or Madden Julien Oscillation. The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is the major fluctuation in tropical weather on weekly to monthly timescales. The MJO can be characterized as an eastward moving ‘pulse’ of cloud and rainfall near the equator that typically recurs every 30 to 60 days. Teleconnections as a whole are essential pieces to the atmospheric puzzle. While they are some times difficult to process, being able to recognize shifts with a positive to a negative phase (vice versa) can provide crucial clues to local weather. Below are where we currently stand and some analogs to show some of the deviations from normal we could see in temperature an precipitation.
Another teleconnection of particular interest to the region is the PNA or Pacific/North American teleconnection pattern. These patterns give a clue as to how local weather may unfold. The positive phase of the PNA pattern features above-average heights in the vicinity of Hawaii and over the intermountain region of North America, and below-average heights located south of the Aleutian Islands and over the southeastern United States. The PNA pattern is associated with strong fluctuations in the strength and location of the East Asian jet stream. The positive phase is associated with an enhanced East Asian jet stream and with an eastward shift in the jet exit region toward the western United States. The negative phase is associated with a westward retraction of that jet stream toward eastern Asia, blocking activity over the high latitudes of the North pacific, and a strong split-flow configuration over the central North Pacific.
Now that I have totally lost your interest, let’s refocus and continue to talk about what to expect over the next seven days. Teleconnections, mid-long range operational models, and ensembles all point to an active weather pattern developing by next weekend and beyond. While the signal is there for inclement weather to occur, specifics are futile at this point. If you are planning an event or going out of town around late week through the weekend, you’re going to want to keep an eye out for later forecasts. Climatologically speaking, there could be a winter storm threat across the north and even some severe weather in the south. I will have another update in a few days.
Weather impacts our daily lives each and every day. The fact that it is not taught more from elementary school through high school is a big problem. While that is a topic we will discuss another day, the overall theme is one I will expand upon. I think a little bit more education as a child about the weather would have helped many adults prepare for and withstand the many elements we face daily. Since that is not the case, let’s talk about what many believe to be as the individual that can make a “perfect forecast.”
You show me a person that says they can make a perfect weather forecast and I’ll show you a liar. That is no disrespect to any professional meteorologist, researcher, or forecaster out there doing the best job they can. The fact of the matter is the weather is too fluid and dynamic to ever nail down to an exact. We, as forecasters, analyze clues the atmosphere gives us by dissecting forecast models, recognizing upper air patterns, and using climatology. Even with these tools available to us, forecasts run a success rate not unlike a Hall of Fame baseball player’s batting average. The fact is that no matter how good a forecaster is (or perceive themselves to be), they’re more often wrong than not. That is completely okay! In my estimation there are ASPECTS of a forecast that can be nailed. These aspects include the type of weather one location will receive, what the temperature one location can expect, and other nuances such as how much cloud cover in expected and whether or not the environment is favorable for severe weather.
For many of us, a forecast doesn’t start 4 hours before an event. Depending on the type of weather I am looking for, I will start looking 5 to 7 days in advance. I know I will be wrong on a forecast over 48 hours out if I start talking specifics. Specific snow fall totals are inaccurate even 3 hours before an event. I like to think I am best in severe thunderstorm and tornado forecasting, but still can not hold a candle to many in the profession. As much as I want to say I am good at severe weather forecasting, I can’t tell you if a tornado is going to hit your backyard. The good thing is that nobody can! I am probably in the minority in feeling that we are actually giving out too much information to the general public. Citing exact values give the viewer the false confidence that the forecaster knows how an event will play out. This is why I am such a big detractor of the news and media posting snow fall maps with totals on them. It is unethical and only serves to create click baiting through fear. There is no shame in being wrong. The only shame falls within those amateurs that post specific values from one model run or copy someone else’s forecasts. The “professional” news media that do this for likes I am ashamed of especially. There are enough things happening in the world to draw viewers to your stations. Why not let good journalism bring in your following? Leave weather out of it.
I do want to touch on snow fall maps a little more. Maybe not the maps specifically, but the forecasting that goes behind creating a non-computer generated plot. Forecasters such as myself use a range in numbers. These ranges are usually 1-3 values apart with the lowest being what we are most confident in achieving to the highest being where our uncertainty comes into play. For example, if I tell a location they can expect 2-4″ of snow, that means I expect at least 2″ of snow with as much as 4″ possible. Many times I see the general public latch onto the highest total value whether that is wind speed, snow fall total, or even temperature. I can count on at least 5 comments any given event from people who see the highest value and think that is what they will receive. Please try to remember that ranges are generally from the most predictable [low end] to most variable [high end]. Why are there ranges? There is no such thing as a perfect forecast!
I used to believe I was one of the more accurate sources for forecasts in our state. I had many fans and followers complimenting me saying I was never wrong. As much of a compliment as that is, I have an issue with it. To be never wrong would mean I was perfect. I still have a lot of meteorology to learn. The only way I will learn is if I fail. So no, I am not afraid of failure. It may not be right 100% of the time, hell I am probably not right 40% of the time. I can say with certainty that I try each and every forecast I make. I do tout myself as one of (if not) the best resource to receive weather information in our state. I want to get the word out there to all of you. I refuse to post erroneous information or the latest model hype. There is no room for that in meteorology. There is no room for that on my business page.
Weather has always dictated my every decision. Since I was old enough to understand basic weather, not a day has gone by where I wasn’t infatuated by the elements. Through total and complete fear a deep respect formed of Mother Nature as I matured in age. This hunger to understand more about what makes our atmosphere tick has literally consumed my life. It wasn’t just basic weather that drove me. My hunger to understand and pursue severe weather is ultimately what I gravitated toward. I decided at a young age I needed a career in meteorology.
I took a very curious path into the meteorological profession. I still can’t quite say I am there, but I am content with where my meteorological lust has placed me. I was always encouraged by family to pursue a career in weather, but other forces were at play. For most of life I played baseball and became quite good at it. I was all area for my high school team for three out of the four years I was the varsity team. I was scouted by two different major league teams and several different colleges.
At the tender age of ten I went on my first storm chase with my father and grandfather. It wasn’t about seeing and enjoying the majestic power that Mother Nature provided to many. It was about teaching a ten year old that storms happen regularly and just because the sky grows dark it doesn’t mean the world is coming to a climactic end. To this day, twenty years later I still vividly remember my first storm chase. As I age there are some details I begin to forget about some of my previous storm chases, but this is one I will remember until the day I take my last breath on this planet. Over the past twenty years I have witnessed one hundred and sixteen tornadoes. The tornado was the holy grail of any storm chase. To see one was difficult, let alone over one hundred more. Some were by pure luck, others were skilled forecasting. The end result quenched an insatiable thirst to be as close to Mother Nature’s most powerful force as possibly. This wasn’t always done in the most careful or safe manner. Whether it was the constant grind on the road where I would sleep literally a handful of hours for a week straight or by the weather itself, the physical and emotional grind often put my life in dire straits. I had no direction as a human being and I found myself growing further apart from family, relationships, and my career.
The time I spent storm chasing in my early 20’s were some of the best times of my life. Let me tell you as a former firefighter, there is no adrenaline rush that compares to staring straight up at even the weakest of tornadoes. I have just about everything crossed off my storm chasing check list, even some of the stuff I had to add on to it on the fly that I never thought possible. It was the other events of my early 20’s that led me down the path I am today. I can truly say I embrace and accept every occurrence from the age of 18 to 28 as fate. Life didn’t always sail smoothly, but the relationships I have today would not have been possible had I not made some poor decisions, some good decisions, and some decisions that are still pending. I like to think the biggest waste of time was trying to follow in my family’s foot steps and get into the firefighting profession. Make no mistake I respect and admire firefighters and the job they do on a daily basis. Some days I miss it, other days I am happy to rid myself of the constant albatross that was my firefighting career. I like to think that was just because of who and where I dealt with versus the profession on it’s own. I feel like I wasted several years of my life on a band aid that I had only a luke warm interest in. I was always drawn back to the weather.
Somewhere in mid-2011 I hit the wall. My love for storm chasing remained, by capability to do it did not. I wasted a lot of time and resources I should have saved toward my own ventures and my own future. When it was time to grow up, I felt as though I had to do it on my own and I struggled immensely. Going from a life that I literally never needed anything to one where it took every ounce of energy and time to scrounge up a few dollars for my next meal.
Still, I didn’t give up my love for storm chasing. I just focused my efforts on making enough money to save so I can hand pick the best two or three days out of any given year to chase. In the manner of two years I went from chasing thirty to forty chase set ups all over the United States to chasing a grand total of four times. This wasn’t because I didn’t want to be out there. It wasn’t because I was being responsible either. It was because I literally couldn’t afford to be out there pursuing my passion. This caused me to become a very changed and bitter person. I didn’t want to track or hear about the storms on the great plains. I couldn’t be out there, I didn’t make enough money to get out there quickly, and I had no prospects of changing my life to reach my overall goals. I have always been a planner throughout my life, but for this dark period I was left out in the open with no cover or way to survive.
Through hard work, sacrifice, but still a short sighted outlook I was able to regain the chasing lifestyle in 2013 and 2014. I wasn’t as happy doing it though. Storm chasing had changed drastically over the years and now it was just a watered down hobby with the staunch old timers shaking their fists at the newbies fresh out of high school with the Discovery Channel show “Storm Chasers” still fresh in their minds. I never knew quite where to place myself on the storm chase food chart. I like to say I lean more toward the old school veteran mindset versus the aggressive, get rich quick, extreme video taking youths. Nowadays it is almost bad taste and/or embarrassing to be known as a storm chaser. In any hobby or profession all it takes is a few bad apples to ruin the reputation for everyone. Thankfully I lived my life not caring what other people thought about me or my decisions.
Life takes you on many unexpected twists and turns. Fate is very real and things certainly do happen for a reason. My life was turned upside down from 2013 into 2014. I like to think a lesser willed man would have crumbled and turned to addictions such as drugs or alcohol. I turned to weather. Weather has been by my side since I was a crumbling child at my mother’s feet during a thunderstorm. I am not talking about storm chasing, I am talking about the physical processes that drives our weather and climate. I decided to go back to school and really dedicate my time on spreading weather education to others. I put storm chasing on the backburner, because to be quite honest it was doing absolutely nothing for my life. Passion will make you happy and give your life a purpose, but it can not pay the bills. When you are only passionate about an event that you can only feasibly do a couple times a year, you’re going to find yourself depressed and looking for answers like I was. It was time to shift my passion for storm chasing into a much wider scale and start a life long campaign of educating everyone about the weather that impacts us all. In my bio I say I storm chase for purely selfish purposes, now it was my time to become selfless.
The year 2015 really made my life. Everything came into play and events happened that I still cannot explain. My now wife and I started really getting serious and making plans for the future, my epiphany that the fire service was a giant waste of time, and several key weather events really took my life in the direction it is now. My dedication to public education was noticed by the National Weather Service in Chicago. I was invited to become a member of their social media team and was one of the only solo acts to be recognized as a “Weather Ready Nation Ambassador.” At the time it was really a giant proud moment in my life, but has since mellowed out since now it seems like any group (qualified or otherwise) can become recognized. I like to think those guys at LOT believe in me and support my message with the weather. I can honestly say the date April 9th, 2015 changed my life. Some of the events and impacts happened immediately, while others waited several months and years to reveal themselves. On that date a violent EF-4 tornado struck northern Illinois. The strongest tornado to hit that region ever, and the strongest tornado in the LOT county warning area since the F5 tornado in 1990 to hit Plainfield.
I had a decision to make that afternoon. I could either go chase the setup or I could take up the weather service’s invitation to attend the event at their office to observe operations and to do my part in helping the warning verification process by fishing for social media reports of hail, wind, and/or tornadoes. I had seen over one hundred tornadoes to that point in my career, but felt like this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness at the forecast office. I chose to not chase and go to the NWS. I wasn’t getting paid, I wasn’t officially a part of the NWS, I was just a man that wanted to do everything he could to get the early warning out. These connections I made over the next several hours give me chills because it has opened up so many avenues for my professional career. A professional career that wasn’t just meteorological in orientation. For days I had warned of severe weather. At the time I had several thousands of follows of my page that heeded my warnings, but this is Illinois where you have to see the weather to believe it.
One of those men to see the weather would soon become my boss. He and his wife had listened to my weather reports for the days leading up to the event. On that fateful day, April 9th, the sky was murky and overcast. Definitely not a tell tale tornado day by any standard. This man believed in my forecast and stayed aware even though the current weather wouldn’t beg anyone’s attention. That was until just after 6:00 P.M. A violent supercell erupted across Lee County, Illinois and dropped a violent EF-4 tornado. This tornado moved directly through my future boss’s property while he and his family huddled safely in the basement. I didn’t know it at the time, but he sent me a long thank you message commending me on saving his family’s life. I had no idea who this man was other than one of the very loyal residents of the state of Illinois that follow me for their weather. It wasn’t until late Fall that this man came to my aid when I asked if anyone was hiring. That man’s name was Jim Karales, District Manager – USIC.
Of more immediate impact to my life was the aftermath of the tornadoes across the region. I was invited by Matt Friedlein and Ricky Castro from the NWS to help survey the aftermath. Being that I couldn’t afford to lose my job, I had to decline. Over the next several months, severe weather pummeled northern Illinois and I would be at the side of the forecasters at the weather service getting more and more involved with their operations. I still was not an employee or had any official capacities, but nearly everyone made me feel welcome there and like they needed my help as much as I needed their approval to be there. I was truly happy after the tumultuous times I had in the years prior. I was allowed to do many things such as help with forecast AFD’s, storm surveys, and even revamped the spotter training courses that the NWS offers every spring. I one hundred percent credit these series of events on my decision to not chase a day that I expertly forecasted. My chase target city was a mere five miles away from the tornado touchdown in Lee County that day. As a storm chaser it bothers me I wasn’t there to witness history on my home turf, but I realized that day that I wasn’t going to get anywhere in life by dedicating my life chasing the great plains in search of a phenomenon I had witnessed hundreds of times before.
From 2015 to this very second I have dedicated my time and efforts into making a better life for myself. Step one was committing my life to the woman that I love and that I would do anything to see happy. She has always supported my storm chasing habits, but I realized the storm chasing lifestyle was never one that would foster a family life. Half way through 2015 we found out we would be having a child. Let me tell you, you can never be prepared to be told you are about to be a father and that your partner was just as excited as you were about it. This little boy changed everything about my life. My focus was now on getting a career to support mom and baby. That’s where USIC stepped in and really propelled my life from one that lived pay check to pay check and penny to penny to one of comfortable living in a nice home with my little one never needing anything in his life. I spent all of 2016 working my ass off to build up a nest egg and building contacts in my new career while keeping contacts with the weather service. That work paid off as in just eight months I was promoted to one of the least tenured supervisors in the region’s history. An accomplishment I hold dear to my heart and cherish every single day. This promotion coupled with my wife’s job has really set our budding family up for success. Many people struggle with their first born child, but I can honestly say we have never felt overwhelmed with the experience. That is in large part to both of our commitment to our family and the help of a very strong circle of friends and family. All of which I feel I would have never achieved had I still embraced the chasing lifestyle.
We are now expecting our second child this June. My career has taken off and I run one of the highest functioning crews at my work place. My wife is back in school trying to get higher up the nursing food chain. The prospects look even higher once that happens as we will be able to move into a bigger home, buy new vehicles, and mold our lives just as we like. The weather still consumes my life in a different way. I co-own a successful business called Illinois Storm Chasers. We have nearly a quarter of a million followers and travel all over the state providing live weather support and education/training courses to human of all ages. This is directly possible due to my disconnect from making storm chasing my sole purpose in life.
For those still reading this, please heed this message. Do not waste your lives storm chasing. Make no mistake, those will be some of the best times of your life. You won’t think life gets much better to be exact. Take it from someone who has been there and walked in your shoes. Get an education, get a good stable career. Learn how to accept failure and make sacrifices. Sometimes you have to sit out that loaded gun set up, some times you have to go with intuition and sit out a chase. You never know what opportunity choosing option B will open for you. Your success working seasonal jobs, transition from job to job, or simply living off a trust fund like I did will only last so long. You have to learn how to and educate yourself to survive. Otherwise this cruel world is going to eat you alive like it almost did me. I did not quit storm chasing. I still find the time to do it, but the difference is I am completely past the point where the urge to storm chase controls me. I now am able to dictate when, where, and how I storm chase and do so without consequence to my career, personal, or recreational life. I hope all of you out there can find the success and acceptance that I have over the past several years. I am happy to talk about any experience so please feel free to contact me as I know first hand how difficult it is.
I did not give up storm chasing, I just gave up the poisonous life style that tried to consume my life forever.
Can lightning hit the same spot twice? What are the odds that a tornado hits your house one time in your lifetime? What about twice? The weather is one giant puzzle with patterns that meteorologists can sometimes decipher. What happens when a familiar pattern resurfaces? The event of June 22nd, 2016 across northern and central Illinois can best be described as deja vu part two. A hybrid of two significant events in our history. The event itself evolved like June 5th, 2010, but followed virtually the same paths as June 22nd, 2015. No, that is not a typo. Exactly one year to the date another severe weather outbreak struck the state of Illinois. This one was every bit as significant as it’s aforementioned relatives.
*18 tornadoes touched down across northern and central Illinois
*Top twenty tornado event in state history (#16 on the all time list)
*No deaths occurred with this outbreak
*Same areas affected by this event as the one a year prior
Severe weather and June have become synonymous across the state of Illinois. Recently June has become Illinois’ top month for reported tornadoes. Events like June 5th, 2010 and June 22nd, 2015 have cemented their places into Illinois tornado infamy. As the forecast for June 22nd, 2016 was becoming more clear, it appeared that it would also join the ranks of Illinois infamy. For days it looked like portions of the state would be under the gun for severe weather. As a forecaster, I zeroed in on recent history and one date came to mind. June 5th, 2010. Synoptically it had some differences, but on the mesoscale there were a ton of similarities. We’ll take a step by step look at some of the features that evolved to make this event noteworthy.
These images (click to enlarge) are depicting the vast amount of wind shear in the environment across northern and central Illinois. From left to right we see the H3, H5, H85, and surface flow. One thing to note just on models alone is the amount of directional shear present. Most forecasters that don’t have too much experience with northwest flow events will be quick to write off southerly surface flow and southwest h85 winds. They see this and my think “linear”, “upscale growth”, “unidirectional.” Taking a look at the soundings from ILX and DVN, we clearly see a primed environment for severe weather. (below)
While CAPE values were not overly impressive, the turning in wind with height across both balloon sites depict a volatile environment for rotating updrafts. Enough dry air was working into the mid levels which is a good thing and there was bit of a cap. Some caveats with the system was the lack of oppressive instability across northern Illinois. Early morning thunderstorms moved across the area and acted to stabilize the atmosphere for a good amount of the day.
Themodynamically speaking, it’s about as classic as it gets when looking for a sharp instability gradient and axis for supercells to ride along. Storms would develop on the northern edge of the instability axis and ride southeast along the effective warm front. Taking a look below at a few critical values that I look for when forecasting, we see an impressive environment conducive for violent thunderstorms.
We see on the far left a plot of low level lapse rates at 23z (6:00 P.M). This is when the first discernible echos popped up on radar. Initially these were not surface based due to the relatively stable low level lapse rates at around 6.0. These storms started producing hail, but didn’t have enough low level instability at the time. If you look at the next image, you will see a steep area of near 8.5 in the mid levels. When better lapse rates became realized at the surface, the effective storm relative helicity (third image) was very conducive to tornadoes across northern and central Illinois. The last image is a plot of the “significant tornado parameter” which show very high values along and south of the warm front. This was nearly juxtaposed with the majority of tornado reports. The last image below shows 50-60 kt bulk shear across the region. When you have April level shear combined with June level instability, you are primed for a severe weather event that will be talked about for years to come.
June 19th, 4:00 A.M. – The Storm Prediction Center highlights northern and central Illinois under a risk for severe thunderstorms as early as Sunday morning. Cite all weather hazards possible.
June 20th, 3:30 A.M. – The Storm Prediction Center upgrades most of northern and central Illinois to an enhanced risk on their day three outlook. Cite severe weather outbreak possible with all hazards possible.
June 21st, 1:00 A,M. & 12:30 P.M. – The Storm Prediction Center upgrades northern and central Illinois to a moderate risk for severe thunderstorms. A day two moderate is rare across the region and concern grows for violent supercells with tornadoes, high winds, and hail being the threats.
June 21st, 12:00 P.M. – The National Weather Service in Chicago and Illinois Storm Chasers issue threat updates regarding the situation for the evening of the 22nd.
June 22nd, 1:00 A.M. & 3:00 P.M. – Storm Prediction Center continues moderate risk across the region with 10% hatched tornado probabilities. This means that the area is primed for supercells and tornadoes with a few significant tornadoes possible across the area.
June 22nd, 12:05 P.M. – The National Weather Service office in Chicago issues a graphic outlining the significant risk that the area will be under and highlights the specific threat level.
June 22nd, 1:00 P.M. – Showers and thunderstorms have developed and moved across northern Illinois. This acts to stabilize the atmosphere and reinforce the warm front to the I-80 corridor. These thunderstorms played a key factor in limiting the overall severe threat north of I 88 and east of I 39. While thunderstorms did develop later on, the overall severe threat was much lower than areas to the south and west. Photo credit below: Kelly Standfield (top) Tracey Rees (bottom)
June 22nd, 3:39 P.M. – The Storm Prediction Center has issued a mesoscale discussion for all of northern Illinois highlighting the probable issuance of a tornado watch. The talk of a few stronger tornadoes is noted.
June 22nd, 5:00 P.M. – Activity has been slow to develop across the region. A strato-cumulus deck has evolved over much of the region and some doubt has seeped into the minds of the locals whether or not a severe weather event will be likely this evening. On radar some festering showers signal a slowly evolving uptick in convection across eastern Iowa.
June 22nd, 6:00 P.M. – Radar echoes are rapidly deepening across eastern Iowa and northern Illinois. No watch has been issued after nearly two and a half hours since the mesoscale discussion. Activity has been slow to develop, a look at mesoscale analysis shows low level lapse rates barely up to 6.0. This says a stable boundary layer is still present.
June 22nd, 6:09 P.M. – Tornado watch #286 has been issued across northern and central Illinois until 1:00 A.M. CDT. Strong tornadoes mentioned as well as eventual upscale growth.
June 22nd, 6:25 P.M – DVN issues A STRONG THUNDERSTORM WILL AFFECT LOCATIONS NEAR THE WAPSIPINICON RIVER AND WHITESIDE COUNTY for Clinton, Scott [IA] and Rock Island, Whiteside [IL] till 7:00 PM CDT
June 22nd, 6:28 P.M. – Storm Chaser Joel Wright pulls up to Tampico, IL and snaps a photo of the developing base of the supercell as it was off to his northwest (photo below)
June 22nd, 6:30 P.M. – DVN issues Severe Thunderstorm Warning [wind: 60 MPH, hail: 1.00 IN] for Whiteside [IL] till 7:30 PM CDT
June 22nd, 6:34 P.M. – LOT issues Severe Thunderstorm Warning [tornado: POSSIBLE, wind: 70 MPH, hail: <.75 IN] for Lee [IL]
June 22nd, 6:36 P.M. – Mid-level rotation is increasing with supercell over Lee County. Storm is very near Dixon and has recently gained severe characteristics for wind. Storm spotters and chasers are moving into positions as this storm takes an eerily similar path to a year ago.
June 22nd, 6:38 P.M. – National Weather Service Chicago issues mesoscale discussion (below)
638 PM CDT
Storms are showing a quick upward progression early this evening
across northwest/north central Illinois and expect that trend to
continue. Mode has already appeared supercellular as storms ride a
sharp wind shift boundary that is becoming the dominant warm
front from near Dixon to the far southwest Chicago metro at
present. Given the growth of the storms, it is likely they are
becoming rooted lower and a surface-based threat may develop. In
the next hour, just based on radar trends, one of two of the
storms across Lee and Whiteside Counties may become a more
dominant supercell with a tornado threat. Environmental
parameters and the rate they are changing are at the level of
concern for a significant tornado threat along this corridor of
Lee County into northern LaSalle County and southern DeKalb
Given the amount of storms that have already fired, it is possible
multi-cell clusters may try to develop somewhat quickly. That
said, the tornado threat will remain further east given an
increasing low-level jet...strong helicity...and high dew point
air keeping low-level CAPE present as well as low LCLs.
June 22nd, 6:47 P.M. – Mid-level rotation has increased in the Whiteside County supercell as it passes near Prophetstown. The storm is severe warned, but have received no reports of rotation or significant wind/hail.
June 22nd, 6:55 P.M. – Supercell is rapidly evolving near Tampico in southeastern Whiteside County. Radar shows an astounding bounded weak echo region and weak rotation. Video below from Winston Wells shows how this supercell has evolved in both definition as well as rotation!
June 22nd, 6:56 P.M. – Storm Chaser Joel Wright finishes his time lapse of the supercell as it approaches his location near Tampico. Video below.
June 22nd, 7:00 P.M. – Several supercells have formed across northern and northwest Illinois. A couple of severe thunderstorm warnings, a handful of rotating wall cloud reports, but no tornadoes. As the low level jet kicks in and the storms latch onto the warm front, the supercell quickly begin to show low level rotation.
June 22nd, 7:08 P.M. – Storm Chaser Taylor Wright documents the first tornado from the day as the rotation near Amboy tightened up and planted a brief multiple vortex tornado. Very few chasers witnessed this tornado. The tornado was reported into the National Weather Service Chicago office. Video below.
*Note – This tornado has not been surveyed and was not rated so it will not be counted in the official records at this time
June 22nd, 7:16 P.M. – NWS Chicago issues the first tornado warning of the day for Lee County until 7:45 P.M. AT 715 PM CDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR AMBOY…OR 11 MILES EAST OF WALTON…MOVING EAST AT 20 MPH.
June 22nd, 7:19 P.M. – An EF-1 tornado touches down 1.1 miles west-northwest of West Brooklyn. Video below from JWSevereWeather
June 22nd, 7:21 P.M. – LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: <.75 IN] for Lee [IL] till 7:45 PM CDT …AT 721 PM CDT…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED 8 MILES EAST OF AMBOY…OR 10 MILES NORTH OF MENDOTA…MOVING EAST AT 25 MPH.
June 22nd. 7:27 P.M. – High end EF-1 tornado continues to move along Shaw Road northeast of West Brooklyn, storm chaser Max Olson snapped the picture of the tornado below at this time.
June 22nd, 7:29 P.M. – LOT issues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 0.00 IN] for De Kalb, La Salle, Lee [IL] till 8:15 PM CDT …AT 729 PM CDT…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED 7 MILES WEST OF PAW PAW…OR 10 MILES NORTH OF MENDOTA…MOVING EAST AT 20 MPH.
June 22nd, 7:30 P.M. – DVN issues Severe Thunderstorm Warning [wind: <50 MPH, hail: 1.25 IN] for Henry [IL] till 8:30 PM CDT
June 22nd, 7:31 P.M. – Satellite tornado touches down northwest of Compton. Two tornadoes in progress at once in Lee County. Photo credit: Ethan Schisler
June 22nd, 7:32 P.M. – Satellite tornado lifts 1.8 miles northeast of West Brooklyn
June 22nd, 7:33 P.M. – Storm spotters report a funnel cloud near Ohio in Bureau County
June 22nd, 7:34 P.M. – DVN issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Bureau [IL] till 8:00 PM CDT …AT 733 PM CDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED 7 MILES WEST OF LA MOILLE…OR 11 MILES SOUTH OF WALTON…MOVING EAST AT 30 MPH.
June 22nd, 7:35 P.M. – West Brooklyn tornado dissipates 2.6 east-northeast of West Brooklyn. Tornado was rated EF-1 with 110 MPH winds and a 4.1 mile long path, max width 300 yards.
June 22nd, 7:38 P.M. – DVN issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Bureau, Whiteside [IL] till 8:30 PM CDT …AT 738 PM CDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR HOOPPOLE…OR 17 MILES SOUTH OF MORRISON… MOVING EAST AT 35 MPH.
June 22nd, 7:40 P.M. – An EF-0 tornado touched down near La Moille in Bureau County. Photo below by Robin Tanamachi
June 22nd, 7:43 P.M. – La Moille EF-0 tornado lifts. Tornado was on the ground for half a mile was 25 yards wide.
June 22nd, 7:48 P.M. – LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: <.75 IN] for De Kalb, La Salle, Lee [IL] till 8:15 PM CDT …AT 747 PM CDT…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED SOUTH OF PAW PAW…OR 9 MILES SOUTHWEST OF SHABBONA…MOVING EAST AT 30 MPH.
June 22nd, 7:51 P.M. – LOT issues Severe Thunderstorm Warning [tornado: POSSIBLE, wind: 70 MPH, hail: 1.00 IN] for La Salle [IL] till 8:30 PM CDT
June 22nd, 7:52 P.M. – DVN continues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Bureau [IL] till 8:30 PM CDT …AT 752 PM CDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR HOOPPOLE…OR 17 MILES SOUTH OF ROCK FALLS…MOVING SOUTHEAST AT 30 MPH
June 22nd, 7:56 P.M. – DVN continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: <.75 IN] for Henry [IL] till 8:15 PM CDT …AT 754 PM CDT…THE PUBLIC REPORTED TWO FUNNEL CLOUDS EAST OF HOOPPOLE…OR 19 MILES NORTH OF KEWANEE…MOVING SOUTHEAST AT 30 MPH.
June 22nd, 7:58 P.M. – DVN continues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Bureau [IL] till 8:30 PM CDT …AT 757 PM CDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR THOMAS…OR 18 MILES NORTHWEST OF PRINCETON… MOVING SOUTHEAST AT 30 MPH.
June 22nd, 7:58 P.M. – LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: <.75 IN] for De Kalb, La Salle, Lee [IL] till 8:15 PM CDT …AT 757 PM CDT…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED OVER EARLVILLE…OR 9 MILES SOUTH OF SHABBONA…MOVING EAST AT 20 MPH.
June 22nd, 7:58 P.M. – Earlville EF-1 tornado touches down 0.7 northeast of Earlville. Video below by Alec Scholten
June 22nd, 7:59 P.M. – Second Earlville tornado touches down briefly, an EF-0 with 80 MPH winds.
June 22nd, 8:00 P.M. – LOT issues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 1.00 IN] for La Salle [IL] till 8:45 PM CDT …AT 759 PM CDT…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR LA MOILLE…OR NEAR MENDOTA…MOVING EAST AT 25 MPH.
June 22nd, 8:01 P.M. –
800 PM CDT
Localized tornado threat along the warm front continues with
supercell storms training along or near this feature from just
east of the Quad Cities to southern DeKalb County/northern LaSalle
County. With the storm that had tracked now into far southwestern
DeKalb / far northern LaSalle County we have received multiple
reports of a tornado with /most recent north of Earlville/ and
has had a more persistent mesocyclone with it. This storm has
taken on a much more HP nature and spotter reports have confirmed
rain-wrapped nature of this low-level mesocyclone.
Other supercell storms to the west-southwest have shown signs of
tornado producers as well. Overall the warm sector winds have
become a bit less gusty and the boundary appears to have become
stationary across northern LaSalle County toward Morris. With
increasing flow on the LOT VWP /25 kt now at 2000 ft/ and
continued turning profiles along the boundary...the tornado
potential should continue in this corridor near the boundary
especially if the storms can maintain a semi-discrete mode.
Parameters remain in place for the possibility of a briefly
Further to the north, elevated storms have shown an increase and
are approaching the heart of the Chicago area. These look to move
into the city starting 8:25-8:50 pm. Some of these storms are
starting to congeal and may bring gradually increasing wind gust
potential higher than 35 mph. Certainly lightning and heavy
downpours look like a given.
June 22nd, 8:02 P.M. – Third Earlville tornado touches down near town. Rated EF-1 with 95 MPH winds.
June 22nd, 8:04 P.M. – An EF-0 tornado touches down near Manilus. This tornado was documented by storm chasers and lasted only a few minutes. Photos below by Andrew Pritchard and Victor Gensini
June 22nd, 8:05 P.M. – LOT issues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 1.00 IN] for De Kalb, La Salle [IL] till 9:00 PM CDT …AT 804 PM CDT…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED OVER EARLVILLE…OR 10 MILES SOUTH OF SHABBONA…MOVING EAST AT 20 MPH
June 22nd, 8:07 P.M. – Tornado #1 and #3 from Earlville have both lifted at this time. Widespread wind damage is evident around the mesocyclone of this supercell.
June 22nd, 8:10 P.M. – LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for La Salle [IL] till 8:45 PM CDT …AT 809 PM CDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR TROY GROVE…MOVING EAST AT 30 MPH.
June 22nd, 8:11 P.M. – An EF-1 tornado touches down near Troy Grove in La Salle County. Tornado lasted one minute and had winds up to 110 MPH. Videos below of the supercell approaching Troy Grove with intense lightning and tornado
June 22nd, 8:11 P.M. – LOT issues Severe Thunderstorm Warning [wind: 60 MPH, hail: 0.75 IN] for Cook, DuPage [IL] till 9:15 PM CDT
June 22nd, 8:12 P.M. – Troy Grove tornado lifts.
June 22nd, 8:17 P.M. – LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 1.00 IN] for La Salle [IL] till 9:00 PM CDT …AT 816 PM CDT…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED JUST SOUTH OF LELAND…OR 7 MILES NORTHWEST OF SERENA…MOVING EAST AT 25 MPH.
June 22nd, 8:19 P.M, – DVN issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 0.00 IN] for Bureau, Putnam [IL] till 9:15 PM CDT …AT 817 PM CDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR WALNUT…OR 8 MILES NORTHWEST OF PRINCETON…MOVING EAST AT 30 MPH.
June 22nd, 8:21 P.M. – LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for La Salle [IL] till 8:45 PM CDT …AT 820 PM CDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED JUST EAST OF TROY GROVE…OR 8 MILES NORTHEAST OF LA SALLE… MOVING SOUTHEAST AT 25 MPH. THIS STORM HAS A HISTORY OF PRODUCING A TORNADO.
June 22nd, 8:22 P.M. – Sheridan EF-1 tornado touches down and does damage to several farmsteads.
June 22nd, 8:26 P.M. – DVN continues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Bureau, Putnam [IL] till 9:15 PM CDT …AT 824 PM CDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR PRINCETON…MOVING EAST AT 30 MPH.
June 22nd, 8:27 P.M. – Sheridan tornado dissipates after a 1.7 mile long path. Max width 250 yards.
June 22nd, 8:28 P.M. – LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 1.00 IN] for La Salle [IL] till 9:00 PM CDT …AT 826 PM CDT…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED NORTHWEST OF SHERIDAN…OR NEAR SERENA…MOVING EAST AT 20 MPH.
June 22nd, 8:31 P.M. – LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for La Salle [IL] till 8:45 PM CDT …AT 830 PM CDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED 1 MILE EAST OF TROY GROVE..OR 8 MILES NORTHWEST OF OTTAWA…MOVING EAST AT 20 MPH.
June 22nd, 8:33 P.M. – An EF-1 tornado touched down northwest of Ottawa. This tornado was very brief, with winds to 95 MPH and a tenth of a mile long path.
June 22nd, 8:33 P.M. – An EF-0 tornado touches down near Malden and lasts half a mile with a 100 yard wide path
June 22nd, 8:34 P.M. – DVN continues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Bureau, Putnam [IL] till 9:15 PM CDT …AT 833 PM CDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR PRINCETON…MOVING EAST AT 30 MPH.
June 22nd, 8:35 P.M. – LOT issues Severe Thunderstorm Warning [tornado: POSSIBLE, wind: 60 MPH, hail: 1.00 IN] for La Salle [IL] till 9:15 PM CDT
June 22nd, 8:37 P.M. – Malden tornado lifts and dissipates.
June 22nd, 8:38 P.M. – LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for La Salle [IL] till 9:00 PM CDT …AT 838 PM CDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED OVER SHERIDAN…OR NEAR SERENA…MOVING SOUTHEAST AT 20 MPH.
June 22nd, 8:43 P.M. – DVN continues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Bureau, Putnam [IL] till 9:15 PM CDT …AT 841 PM CDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR LADD…OR 7 MILES EAST OF PRINCETON…MOVING EAST AT 30 MPH.
June 22nd, 8:47 P.M. – LOT issues Severe Thunderstorm Warning [wind: 60 MPH, hail: 1.00 IN] for Cook, DuPage [IL] and Lake [IN] till 9:45 PM CDT
June 22nd, 8:48 P.M. – An EF-1 tornado developed near Ottawa and traveled 4.5 miles and had wind speeds of 90 MPH.
HAIL: Quarter size or larger – Report the largest size hailstone
WIND GUSTS: 58 mph or higher – Specify estimate or measurement
FLOODING: Flooding that impacts roads, homes or businesses.
Damage to structures (roof, siding, windows, etc)
Damage to vehicles (from hail or wind)
Trees or large limbs down
Power/telephone poles or lines down
Damage to farm equipment, machinery, etc
Again, reports should provide as much detail as possible to describe the where, when, how, etc of the event.
Some commonly used hail reporting sizes:
Pea .25 inch
Half-inch .50 inch
Dime .75 inch
Nickel .88 inch
Quarter 1.00 inch
Half Dollar 1.25 inch
Ping Pong Ball 1.50 inch
Golf Ball 1.75 inch
Hen Egg 2.00 inch
Tennis Ball 2.50 inch
Baseball 2.75 inch
Tea Cup 3.00 inch
Grapefruit 4.00 inch
Softball 4.50 inch
General Guidelines for Estimating Wind Speeds
30-44 mph (26-39 kt) Whole trees in motion. Inconvenient walking into the wind. Light-weight loose objects (e.g., lawn furniture) tossed or toppled.
45-57 mph (39-49 kt) Large trees bend; twigs, small limbs break and a few larger dead or weak branches may break. Old/weak structures (e.g., sheds, barns) may sustain minor damage (roof, doors). Buildings partially under construction may be damaged. A few loose shingles removed from houses.
58-74 mph (50-64 kt) Large limbs break; shallow rooted trees pushed over. Semi-trucks overturned. More significant damage to old/weak structures. Shingles, awnings removed from houses; damage to chimneys and antennas.
75-89 mph (65-77 kt) Widespread damage to trees with large limbs down or trees broken/uprooted. Mobile homes may be pushed off foundation or overturned. Roof may be partially peeled off industrial/commercial/ warehouse buildings. Some minor roof damage to homes. Weak structures (e.g., farm buildings, airplane hangars) may be severely damaged.
90+ mph (78+ kt) Many large trees broken and uprooted. Mobile homes damaged. Roofs partially peeled off homes and buildings. Moving automobiles pushed off the road. Barns, sheds demolished.
HOW TO REPORT
Your severe weather report should be detailed but concise, and should address the following questions:
WHAT did you see?
WHERE did you see it? Report the location/approximate location of the event. Be sure to distinguish clearly between where you are and where the event is thought to be happening (“I’m 5 miles north of Mayberry. The tornado looks to be about 5 miles to my northwest”).
WHEN did you see it? Be sure that reports that are relayed through multiple sources carry the time of the event, NOT the report time.
Any other details that are important – How long did it last? Direction of travel? Was there damage? etc.
Having a partnership with NOAA’s “Weather-Ready Nation”, I am more inclined to look at ways to help counties, communities, and individuals become prepared and “weather ready.” Over the past couple of years, I have gone out and conducted basic weather safety classes and training to people of all ages. Recently I have decided to elevate my efforts and branch out into ensuring communities are “Storm Ready.” Some may ask what being “Storm Ready” entails. The purpose of the program is to prepare for and lessen the effects of high impact weather events. As demonstrated by the five statistics below, Illinois has a plethora of widely ranging weather conditions. Each of which brings it’s own set of hazards and preparedness. It is essential that your community attempts to become Storm Ready.
During a typical year Illinois has:
51 reported tornadoes [4th highest in the nation]
>500 severe wind [58+ MPH] reports
>350 large hail [1.00″+] reports
150+ flash flooding reports
+/- 5 winter storms
I will give a little background on what “Storm Ready” is and the benefits of applying. First and foremost there is no fee to apply or be recognized as a “Storm Ready” county, community, or organization. There may be some cost involved to upgrade siren systems, distributing weather radios, and other preparation methods such as buying weather stations and installing them. You cannot receive funding from the National Weather Service, but can lobby the financial support from private sector or local government entities. This would fall under siren system upgrades, dispatch centers, net control radio towers, etc. When your entity applies for “Storm Ready”, you’re given a list of criteria that it must meet. These criteria or centered on ongoing practices and also coordinating better planning, awareness, and education. With this added planning, awareness, and education, local planners have a great concept on high impact weather events and how to deal with adverse situations by strengthening safety programs already in place. From a public standpoint, being a “Storm Ready” community should ensure you the confidence in knowing the local government leaders and emergency management has the proper plans and tools to implement should the unthinkable event occur. There are currently 107 “Storm Ready” designations across the State of Illinois. 66 of those designations are communities and 25 of them are counties. You can see a listing below of the counties and communities with those designations.
What are some of the guidelines that an entity would need to be considered “Storm Ready”?
#1: An established communication center is a must. Whether it is a county law enforcement dispatch center or local emergency operating center. You must have that point of communication for when/if severe weather strikes. Not only do you need this established center, but it must be manned 24 hours a day and have a way of receiving watches, warnings, and advisories around the clock.
#2: You must have ways to receive critical, time sensitive products. Not only one way, but multiple ways. I always believe you should have at least three different methods at receiving watches, warnings, or advisories. I will list some below that your organization, county, or village should look into having.
NOAA Weather Radio
National Weather Service Webpage URL
News Media [television or radio]
Cell Phone Apps [iMap Weather Radio]
LEADS [Law Enforcement Agencies Data System]
#3: You should a way to monitor the weather as it evolves. Examples of this would be a rain gauge to document active rainfall, snow board to accurately document snow, and an anemometer to document wind speed and direction. Your community should also have multiple weather reporting sites with internet access. Weather stations can be linked to from WeatherBug or other live data resources. Theoretically a county should a full network of weather stations that a forecaster can get live observations from. Not only do you want stationary/fixed weather stations, you want to ensure that your community dispatch center is armed with weather radar to track when storms threaten the area. Relying solely on NWS text will not help you prepare ahead of time unless you can see the storms developing downstream.
#4: A very important guideline! You MUST have several ways to disseminate severe weather information. It does your jurisdiction no good if you collect all of the data, but cannot distribute to all the residents. I am going to list several different ways you can distribute information below:
Cable TV override – No matter what providers are prevalent in your local area, you should have the power to override their service with an EAS message when severe weather strikes. Most communities have partnerships with major internet providers as is.
NOAA Weather Radios – Every public place should have a weather radio on hand. Schools and hospitals especially! Having raffles and giveaways for weather radios is highly encouraged to ensure that each individual has one in their home.
Outdoor Warning Siren System – Sirens should not be a primary method in alerting of an incoming tornado, but they do still hold their value. Your county or community would be wise to install a network of sirens that will give outdoor workers, farmers, or travelers a clue that severe weather is approaching.
Standard Operating Procedures For Police/Fire – When warning sirens fail or are not an option; many times emergency vehicles will go up and down the roads blaring a warning over their PA systems. It would be a good idea to designate routes and a script to convey a call to action statement.
Telephone Services – Telephone trees or reverse 911 systems are a very basic, but worthy implementation. If you utilize your 911 center correctly, you can send out phone calls for vital weather information.
#5: A Storm Ready Community has an active hand in education. Hosting regular spotter training courses bi yearly is a great way to complete this step. Weather radio giveaways are the idea here!
#6: Having preparations on an internal basis. Your community leaders and emergency management should have plans in place before, during, and after severe weather. During severe weather, your communication center will need a way to report conditions and damage to the NWS in real time. That could be via ham radio, telephone, or NWSchat. There should be guidelines when to activate storm spotters and sirens. Emergency Managers should actively communicate with the NWS on a monthly basis.
How does the application process work?
Community applies in writing to the National Weather Service
Storm Ready Board reviews the application
Board performs a site-wide visit to verify all claims on application
Should criteria NOT be met, the board will recommend actions to improve and also assist with planning
Should criteria be met, board will host a recognition ceremony pictured below.
Over the past couple of years I have submitted my video to the National Weather Service to use in their spotter training. Beginning last summer I ,also, began to go out on my own and teach civilians, public safety, and children on the ins and outs of severe weather. In this video I will outline what we are looking at and explain the key components of it. This video was shot from perfect position to illustrate where you, as a spotter, should be located when viewing a classic supercell. Hopefully you are able to apply some of these things to the knowledge you have already accrued.
First what I want all of you to do is to click play on the video above and watch the evolution a couple of times. What sorts of things do you notice? As an experienced spotter there are several storm features that should jump out at you. There should also be no question in your mind as to what is occurring. The experienced spotter should view this video and recognize every element that is occurring and be able to tell in real time what is about to occur. For the inexperienced spotter or novice, I will go into detail below using video captures and references to the video. Please feel free to use this in your presentations or leave comments and questions below. The following slides will cover a THREE MINUTE span and be labeled with the original photo along with a diagrammed image. Video sped up to 4x. 3:20 seconds down to :54 seconds.
Slide 1 and 1a – Slide 1: Real image – Slide 1a: Diagram
The first slide slows a standard wall cloud filmed from 1-2 miles away. Currently we are positioned in the inflow region of the storm where there is no precipitation falling and our visibility is unaltered. This is where you generally want to spot from. If you were viewing this from behind or in the core, you’re more than likely going to have impaired visuals due to heavy precipitation. The biggest danger to you right here would be lightning as it is very common throughout the storm. One way to tell how potent the storm is by the level of inflow you feel going into it. As you stand here, you’re likely to feel a brisk, warm wind at your back. This is what is known as inflow. Inflow is what feeds the storm. Many times it is warm and moist. As you look at the wall cloud at this point, you notice this long ragged looking cloud to the right. In the video it is feeding from right to left into the wall cloud. This is essentially a boundary between the warm, moist inflow and the cool, wet downdraft. Typically a lot of erratic cloud motions and rising will occur in this region. This in itself is NOT tornadic, but will signal the strength of the updraft. At this stage of the storm’s evolution, only broad cyclonic rotation is evident. The whole supercell is rotating, because by definition that is what supercells are. A long-lived rotating updraft. It is not uncommon to see the cloud base exhibiting rotation. In the case of this video capture, the areas marked with arrows is slowly rotating around a fixed point. At that fixed point, a lot of rising scud is evident. If you reference back to the video from 00:00 to 00:20, you notice a broad rotation, but nothing that has really tightened up.
What you are observing: Broadly rotating wall cloud
What you should report: Wall cloud with broad rotation, strong inflow, rising scud into the tail cloud and underneath the base
Slide 2 & 2a:
If you reference 00:24 – 00:40 in the video, you will see the next set of features that I am going to explain. We noticed in the first slide that inflow, tail cloud, and rotation were present. If you watched the video between the times posted above, you begin to notice a close point to this rotation now. Before it was very broadly rotating, but it was at 180 to 270 degrees. Now you notice that to left edge of the wall cloud there is a full 360 degree rotation. It is this area that we should be most concerned with. Also notice how clear it is behind the wall cloud. What happens is the supercell will ingest this warm, rain free, air and wrap itself around it. In the video you see the rain curtains behind the rotation moving in opposite direction. This is caused by dry air slamming down to the surface and essentially “parting the sea.” As the dry air wraps back around the circulation, it rises and eats away at the cloud base causing a clear slot. A clear slot is a big indicator that tornadogenesis is occurring or about to occur.
What you are observing: Rapidly rotating wall cloud, clear slot developing
What you should report: Strong rotation in the wall cloud, strong inflow. Optional to report clear slot.
Slide 3 & 3a:
If you reference between 00:41-00:48 in the video above. As you are observing, this is when the most dynamic action takes place with this wall cloud. Remember, the video is sped up 4x speed. So we more or less went 2:00 minutes from broad rotation to violent rotation. The first thing we notice about this image is that there is no longer that clear air around the wall cloud. This phenomenon is known as “core-dumping.” There are many theories revolving around why this happens. There was a study done that says cloud tops will collapse above a tornado. As they collapse, their precipitation crashes down to earth (ex: microburst) which makes sense to me as rear flank downdraft winds are generally very strong like a microburst. The difference is these winds are rotating cyclonically around the wall cloud and not just slamming to earth and spreading outwards. Another theory is that as the clear slot develops from the rising dry air, cold moist air comes crashing down. What goes up, must come down. As the rotation tightens around a point, that downward traveling air gives that extra “push” needed to allow the funnel cloud and tornado to descend toward earth. Quite frankly I do not know the definitive answer as to why this occurs, but I do know it does occur on many of the tornadoes I have witnessed. Usually when you see a rapid descending of precipitation around the backside of the wall cloud, tornado time is not too far off. With that big clue set aside, we also notice the development of a funnel cloud. The most tell-tale sign a tornado is likely to occur.
What you are observing: Violently rotating wall cloud, funnel cloud, focused rain curtains wrapping around the wall cloud
What you should report: Funnel cloud
Slide 4 &4a:
The last four seconds of the video are of the tornado itself. Very obvious what you are seeing here. Classic tornadogenesis. Now your focus should be on movement and safety. I will get into that on another article at a later date. This, however, is your guide into recognizing storm features and what is actually going on in a microscale environment. As a storm spotter, safety and storm recognition should be your number one priority. If you observing a storm like this and are looking at anything other than this area, then you should not be out there spotting!
What you are observing: Tornado
What you should report: Tornado, it’s movement, your location, it’s estimated location. You can even estimate it’s speed.