Thursday, March 29, 2007

Storm Chasing Teaches Patience

Well I made it back from western Kansas in one piece and what an active night it turned out to be. I learned something on my trek across the Sunflower state; storm chasing teaches patience.

I didn't leave Wichita until 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and I arrived at my stopping place, Garden City, at about 4:45 p.m. SatCam 12 has some great tools on board and I was able to do an analysis of the weather setup in Garden City. I waited there for about an hour before deciding to move further west toward Lakin. Now I'm 230 miles from home thinking to myself "I better see something or my co-workers will give me a bunch of grief tomorrow".

I was 15 - 20 miles north of Lakin when I spotted the tornado to my west, near the Hamilton/Greeley county line. That's the one you may have seen live from SatCam, but I have to say, it looked much more impressive in person than through a camera. I followed that storm for almost 2 hours and it did produce other ropelike tornadoes. It was dark by that time, so video from SatCam would not have been impressive. I did have access to Doppler radar from SatCam, so I used that as my guide once the sun had finally set. Chasing at night can be very dangerous and I don't recommend it if you don't have radar available to you.

The storm north of Goodland produced a large tornado, but fortunately no major damage was reported. My night ended at 2 a.m. at the family ranch in southern Ellsworth county.

By the way, dogs make great storm chasing partners. I'll explain why in another posting. Have a great day.

Monday, March 26, 2007

What do you call a group of 250 meteorologists getting together for the weekend to learn more about severe weather?

Okay, so it isn't actually a joke and I probably know what you are thinking already. I just returned from Des Moines, IA where we spent a great deal of time learning more about severe weather and how to better identify areas where storms develop. New research on severe storms continue and we are learning more about tornadoes and what processes are involved in bringing them to the ground. I like to think new research in meteorology is similar to the medical field; new medicines and discoveries will help fight sickness and could lead to a longer, more healthy life. New discoveries in meteorology will not only lead to better forecasts but also help us pinpoint exactly where severe weather and tornadoes might occur and help save lives.

I wish I had a picture, but Thursday and Friday night when the severe weather was occurring here in Kansas and in New Mexico, there were about 40 people gathered around a 17 inch monitor trying to see what was happening in their home state.

People laugh and think we are total geeks (and maybe at times we are), but weather is very interesting and when you love it as much as some of us do, it's hard to not think about it, even when you are 400 miles from home.

I hope you had a nice weekend and spring break (for those that had one).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spring Break!

This is spring break for most area schools and the weather, well, it could be better for some. Even though we've been seeing some rain, at least it's not a blizzard or really cold, right?

I didn't have many spring breaks in college because I was working at Channel 6 in Lawrence. It didn't bother me because after all, it is severe weather season in March and what better place to spend spring break than in the weather office tracking storms. I did enjoy some good college trips in the summer months though. One of the trips took us down the Niangua River in southern Missouri on canoes. If you've ever been on a float trip in a canoe then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. They are relaxing and fun to say the least. I really should go back sometime. The camping was nice too.

If you are on spring break, what are you doing with your time? (Please keep it clean)
If you are like me and you don't get spring breaks anymore, perhaps you can share one from your college days.

I know the rain puts a damper on outside activities, but we need the moisture.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I've had a few calls this week regarding the frost free date here in Kansas. Some of us are itching to put some plants in the ground and have them safe from sub-freezing temperatures.

The latest spring freeze in Wichita was May 13, 1966. The earliest last spring freeze was March 10, 1946.

Some say the frost free date is April 1st, but I've always been told April 15th. Either way, I think our sub-freezing days are just about behind us. We could see lows in the upper 30s late next week, but after that, it looks like we will be okay. Of course there is never a 100% guarantee on something like this, but the weather pattern the next several days looks warm and we don't see any bitter cold air coming back this far south.

My best advice, for what's it's worth, would be to wait just one more week, and then go for it. The sooner the plants go into the ground, the sooner we can reap the benefits of the garden.
Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What did you think of the weather special this year? Eye on the Storm was a ton of work but well worth it, so we hope you enjoyed it. All kinds of good information in the show and if you missed it, I think it will air again on KWCH 12, but I don't know when. I'll find out from someone that knows something (usually not me) and post the date and time when I get the details.

The statewide tornado drill was a success. I hope you had a chance to practice and review safety procedures with your family. We just never know where we will be or what we will be doing when the actual thing occurs. There have been a number of phone calls in recent days from people wanting to know about weather radios. You can pick one up at any electronic store or order one online. Most of them can be programmed for one specific county and a specific warning. That way you won't be bothered when the storm isn't in your area. If you need the county codes or help setting one up, I'll try my best but it is hard to do without actually seeing the radio itself. It is a great piece of equipment to have, especially when severe weather hits during the overnight hours.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I survived a week of blogging and thanks everyone for sending comments and feedback. It's always nice to establish communication with our audience.

This is an important week in weather and I'll try to update my blog as much as possible. It is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Kansas and it is a prime opportunity to go over severe weather precautions. The National Weather Service will issue statements on different topics throughout the week, including lightning, hail, winds, flash flooding, and tornadoes.

Don't forget the statewide tornado drill will take place Tuesday at 1:30. There will not be severe weather on that day, so don't panic when you hear the sirens. However, we should treat it as an actual warning as a way to practice our tornado safety procedures.

When was the last time you had to take shelter from an actual tornado?
If you've lived in Tornado Alley for any amount of time, I know you'll have some stories to share. Have a great week.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Storm Team has been really busy lately, not with severe weather but with our severe weather special that will air Tuesday night at 6:30 on KWCH (of course). It is a show that we put together every spring to get you thinking about the season ahead and each year we feature something different. The show is complete and we are excited for it to hit the air. Let me know what you think of it and if there are topics you would like to see covered in future shows.

Topics that will get covered this year include storm chasing past and present; tornado survival tips from those who have been through it themselves; a behind the scenes look at how we cover severe weather, and the new EF tornado strength scale. The new scale is already being put to the test with the recent tornado outbreak in southeastern part of the country.

In addition to getting ready for our weather show, we are also busy with school talks and severe weather safety visits. If you have a group or organization getting together soon and would like for a meteorologist to come talk about severe weather, let me know and I'll try and organize something that fits the schedule in the weather office.

If you like spring... the weather has been hard to beat lately. Now we just need to get some rain in here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The buzz around Wichita on Tuesday was a hole that showed up in the clouds. If you missed it, here is just one of several pictures that we received in the weather office.
It is very rare for something like this to show up, but you can't miss it when you see it. There is some question as to how it forms, but the way we understand it is ice crystals fall from above, maybe from airplane exhaust or from ice in another cloud. The ice falls into a cloud layer which contain super-cooled water droplets (basically they are droplets of water that exist at temperatures below freezing). As soon as the ice encounters the water droplets, they absorb water from the air. The moisture that is lost forms the hole in the cloud. So now, you have ice crystals that are heavier than before and continue to fall, which create the angel-like wings in the middle of the hole. Did you see it Tuesday and what do you think it looks like in the center of the hole?
I hope my explanation made sense. The science behind meteorology can be rather intense sometimes, but no doubt very interesting.

Thanks everyone for sending your pictures to the station and thanks to my friend Dave for calling my attention to this cloud feature. I would have missed it otherwise.

Monday, March 5, 2007

The current temperature as I write this blog is 65 degrees and it is definitely one of those days when I would prefer to be outside in the weather rather than forecasting it.

I'm always wondering how people define perfect weather. My definition is 75 degrees, sunny, and very little wind, which is hard to come by when you live in Kansas. I would like to know what your perfect weather conditions are. Cloudy, rainy days are ideal for some, while for others, it's sunny and 95 degrees.

We see it all here in Kansas, which makes it a fun place to forecast weather.
Hope your week is off to a great start and I'd like to know how you define perfect weather in Kansas.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Welcome to this new edition of the weather blog. We will cover many topics on here and if you have a question or topic you would like me to write about, please send me an email or a letter.

It is only fitting that we talk about the tornado outbreak that occurred Thursday afternoon in the southeastern part of the country. It is a sure reminder that the season is now here and we should be reviewing our safety procedures. The outbreak of severe weather was nothing short of amazing and it is something meteorologists saw coming early in the week. The strength of the jet stream combined with an intense low pressure system and rich Gulf of Mexico moisture contributed to the outbreak. The numbers are preliminary but in all, there were 38 reports of tornadoes, 114 high wind reports, and 54 hail reports. The severe weather was just one side of this storm system. Blizzard conditions in the Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota resulted in several highway closings.

Fortunately this storm system is out of here and the weather pattern settles down for the next several days.

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