Thursday, April 23, 2015

Average last spring freeze

Temperatures Thursday morning fell into the upper 20's and low 30's area wide, with some locations dropping into the middle 20's.  There were a few reports of frost this morning, but frost could be more widespread Friday morning with a lighter wind.

The weather this week has been cold, no question about that, but it's not unheard of to get freezing temperatures towards the end of April.  According to Illinois State Climatologists, the median date of the last freeze, 32 degrees, is between the 21st and 29th of April in Northern Illinois.  The median date of the last 28 degree freeze is usually within the first week and a half, to two weeks, in April.

While it's possible temperatures will fall to freezing again this Spring, we've likely got a few more possible nights of frost.  Northern Illinois has seen freezing temperatures as late as the 27th of May!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Freeze Warning and some Frost

While it is the end of April, it hasn't quite felt like it the past few days. Last week we had back to back 70s, this week we're barely making it into the 50s. Some even saw some snow flurries this morning! As for tonight the flurries will be gone but there is a freeze warning in effect for northern Illinois. That goes into effect at 2:00am and lasts through 8:00am Thursday morning, with overnight lows falling into the low 30s and even upper-20s across the Stateline.

Along with that, we could even wake up to frost the next couple of mornings. The best chance for the frost will be Thursday night into Friday because winds will become more light, with lows right around the freezing mark. You'll want to either bring in or cover any sensitive plant! Overnight temperatures will warm up closer to the weekend!

Winds an issue again today

Wind gusts Tuesday afternoon topped out near 45 mph for a time during the afternoon, and while we won't have that strong of a wind today, wind gusts near 30 mph will be very common in Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.

Strong low pressure in the northern Great Lakes, while slowly shifting further east, will still have an impact on our winds today and tonight.  Each day the wind will ease, but gusts near 20 mph will be possible through Thursday afternoon.

Tuesday's wind gusts were definitely the strongest we'll feel this week, but lose objects and even garbage cans could still fly around today.  And, watch out for those shopping carts in parking lots!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Belvidere Tornado: 48 years later

It was the worst tornado outbreak in Northern Illinois, with 10 tornadoes in north-central and northeast Illinois, three of those considered violent, F4 tornadoes.  From the outbreak, there were 58 fatalities with more than 1,000 people injured!

Many of us have vivid memories of that afternoon, as we were still young children, or knew someone who had either been injured or killed.  The tornado that went through Belvidere, killing 24 and injuring hundreds, was rated an F4 (at that time) with winds over 200 mph.  The tornado was on the ground for nearly 28 miles and up to half a mile wide. 

Back in 2006, Jim Allsopp - who was Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the Chicago National Weather Service - put together a complete summary of the tornadoes that touched down throughout Illinois.  Click here for that complete summary, including a weather synopsis and photos from that afternoon.

Wind Advisory: Hold On

Hold on to your hats, steering wheel and garbage cans today! 

A Wind Advisory will go into effect at 11am this morning for Northern Illinois.  Wind gusts this afternoon could reach 40 mph under mostly cloudy skies.

North/south roads will experience the greatest impact with the west wind, so be careful on the roads today!  Winds will remain strong through Wednesday afternoon.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Another Windy Day

If you stepped outside today, you felt how windy it was, and tomorrow will be a lot like today. That's because the current pattern won't change much in the next couple of days. There is a strong low pressure system that is spinning to the northeast near the upper great lakes, combined with a high pressure across the plains. This creates a tight pressure gradient, or a big change in pressure in a short distance, and in turn creates windy conditions in between the two systems.

That tight gradient created wind gusts close to 40mph, and sustained winds near 30mph. This will also be the case fore tomorrow, winds will continue to increase through the afternoon, with gusts up to 40mph possible in the afternoon. The low is also bringing in colder Canadian air, so temperatures this week will be about ten degrees below were we should be. Overnight lows will be chilly as well, falling very close to, if not below freezing. The low pressure system will slowly lift to the northeast in the next few days, so temperatures will warm to the 60s with more sun by the end of the week.

Getting a little too close. Was the tornado from April 9th too well documented?

It seems like hundreds of videos and photos of the EF-4 tornado that struck Northern Illinois on April 9th have surfaced on social media, as well as on YouTube.  Some photos show people were a safe distance away, while other videos show there was likely a greater threat to that person taking the video or photo than they realize.

Over the weekend, Meteorologist Kristin Cwynar and myself went to the Media workshop held at the Chicago National Weather Service office in Romeoville.  It's something we do every spring and fall, to discuss new topics and upcoming forecasts for the summer and winter.  But this meeting had a different agenda - the deadly tornado outbreak of April 9th.

In all that day, there were 19 tornadoes across the U.S. with 11 of those occurring in Northern Illinois, making that day the largest tornado outbreak so far of the severe weather season.  During the meeting, Meteorologists from both Chicago and Rockford TV stations, along with those from the National Weather Service, discussed what caused such a volatile atmosphere that afternoon and evening, and some of the challenges that forecasters faced even the morning of. 

One of the topics discussed was the fact that the EF-4 tornado could have been the most documented tornado in a very long time.  Not only were numerous experienced storm chasers following that storm, but also many photos and videos surfaced from people who witnessed the tornado move right through their back yard.  While we all are in awe of the strength, destruction and mystery surrounding tornadoes, the question that came up during the meeting was whether or not people put themselves at harms way when they should have been taking shelter.  And to us, the answer is simple, Yes.

I'm sure by now we've all seen the video of Mr. Sam Smith.  The man who got dangerously close to the tornado as it passed over I-39.  While many colleagues have refused to re-post the video, many others have.  While the video shows how dangerous of a situation Sam Smith was in, it can also be a teaching tool for Meteorologists to use.  Mr. Smith is not from the area, and was traveling back from a business trip from Minnesota.  He noted that not being from the area, he wasn't completely aware of the weather situation, nor did he know which direction the tornado was traveling once he saw it.  As a result, he ended up stopping on the Interstate, and backing up under an overpass where many other vehicles were for protection from the large hail.  Thankfully, and likely by pure luck, his car didn't get picked up or have debris tossed into it.  Now, could that situation have been avoided?  Quite possibly.  Had Mr. Smith been aware of the possibility of severe weather that afternoon, he may have had more 'situational awareness'.  Knowing what the weather will be like wherever you are traveling could help save your life.  Know your line of travel, and should severe weather occur, have a plan.  That's the most important thing.  Also, an overpass is not the safest place to be when there is a tornado.  Many believed that it was after a video back in the early 90's surfaced as a Kansas TV crew, a father and daughters took shelter under an overpass as a tornado was coming.  In reality, wind speeds can increase and the threat for flying debris is great under an overpass, especially because you're exposed to the elements.

Now, the next video came from someone who was also a little too close to the tornado.  It appears that maybe only a mile, or less, separate him and the debris the tornado is picking up.  This video was discussed because one, the tornado could have shifted its track and two, debris could have been dropped very close to his house, either hitting his house, or him - as seen as the tornado tore through a farmstead. 

I've heard a few stories come from those impacted by the tornado that they only had a couple seconds to react before being blown down their basement stairs.  Or a farmer who said he's watched numerous tornadoes go through the field between his house and his neighbors house, but never directly at him.  By the time he realized it wasn't going to pass, the tornado was already on top of him.

The message both myself and Kristin want to get across, along with the Meteorologists at the National Weather Service is this:  Leave the video and picture gathering to those who have the experience.  There will also be storm spotters and experienced storm chasers who will document what they see very well.  Don't put yourself in danger trying to get that video - leave it to the professionals.  When you hear that a tornado warning has been issued for your area, take shelter.  Don't take that time to get your phone and try to snap photos.  Those minutes you spend trying to get that 'it' picture could mean the difference between life and death.