Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Severe Weather: Mobile Home Safety

The 2012 severe weather season is young. We haven't even hit May, the month the United States traditionally sees the most tornadoes each year. Already this year, twisters have claimed 63 lives and the more staggering statistic: 47 of those killed were in mobile homes. 

You read that right....75%

April is coming to an end and May-July is when Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan usually see the most severe weather each year.  If you live in a mobile home or have family living in a mobile home, there needs to be a plan in place. This post is not intended to scare, it's meant to push families to prepare.

1) Accept you'll be inconvenienced:  Severe weather doesn't fit nicely into our schedules. We've had storms in the mid-afternoon and dead of night, there are no biases. Residents of mobile homes need to be prepared to move BEFORE the storm arrives. When a watch is issued, consider moving to your place of shelter immediately. That may mean spending half an hour, an hour, or even several hours away from your mobile home. The important thing to remember is that you must stay put until the threat is over.
I'll be the first to admit, many times a threat will pass without a tornado or destructive winds wrecking havoc on your home in particular. But is it worth taking the chance? No.

If you wait for the storm to arrive, it is too late. With manufactured homes, there simply isn't the option of running to a basement or shelter. You need to be ahead of the storms.
2) Have a plan in place: Is there a neighborhood shelter at the community you live in? An available church with a basement? A neighbor or close friend with a basement or sturdy structure? Is this a place you can stay for several hours? If no one is home, do you have a back-up location? These are questions the questions you need to ask yoursel, and make sure your whole family knows where to meet in the case of severe weather.

3) Know when severe weather is possible: Preparation means nothing if you aren't tuned-in to the forecast. It's up to you to watch forecast to know when severe weather may occur. Sign up for text message  forecasts to be sent to your phone each morning or night from WTOL. Bookmark your favorite weather website. Watch the forecasts regularly on TV. However you like to catch the weather, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that you are informed. 
4) Use available tools: If you don't have a weather radio in your home, you need one. Not only do these affordable devices provide day-to-day weather information, but when severe weather is imminent, this little box can become a livesaver. NOAA Weather Radio transmits signals to all programmed radios within range to allow the owner to know where and when a severe risk exists. Lose power? No problem. With a battery back-up, you'll never be left in the dark (so to speak) again.
5) Become Educated: The best way to protect yourself from something is to learn about it. You don't need to take college courses or become a meteorologist, but you and your family should learn the basics.  Here are a few websites where you can learn more on severe weather and a few links to our forecasts/text alerts:




Myth: Tornadoes target mobile home parks

Fact: "While it may appear tornadoes target mobile home parks, they actually do not. An F1 tornado might do significant damage to a mobile home, and cause minor damage to a site built home -- looking like the tornado "skipped" the house. Mobile homes are, in general, much easier for a tornado to damage and destroy than well-built houses and office buildings. A mobile home, or manufactured home, by definition, is built at a factory and taken to the place they will occupy--so they are much more affordable than a house built on-site. Also, they are often built with lighter-weight materials, which do not hold up well in tornadic winds.
Straight-line winds can also destroy a mobile home as easily as a tornado, especially one that is not anchored. Any wind gust that is sustained for 3 seconds over 50mph can cause damage to mobile homes." -NOAA

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April 14th Severe Weather Outbreak

via Storm Chaser Peter Ciro

via Storm Chaser Jesse Risley

As expected a large outbreak of tornadoes and severe weather hit the central United States Saturday into Saturday Evening. A preliminary count shows 100 tornado reports, but many of these were long tracked tornadoes reported twice so the actual count will be lower.

One of those storms tracked into Wichita, KS during our 11pm newscast on WTOL 11. Watching the storm and listening to the reports was incredible. These storms were so strong and in the perfect environment to produce incredible destruction.

Another tornado later in the evening hit the NW Oklahoma community of Woodward. Warning sirens were unable to sound for this storm because they had been reportedly struck by lightning. Leaving those without another source for weather information and warning, completely in the dark. Sadly 5 people have been reported dead as a result of this violent storm.

Woodward, OK via OK Red Cross

You will hear this preached all year long....Please NEVER EVER rely on outdoor sirens as your only source for warning. They are only intended to alert someone outside and not you in your sleep or inside your house.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Top 5 Reasons to Buy a Weather Radio

As we have done for the past 3 years, the WTOL 11 StormTrack Weather Team will be out in full force this spring to sell and program weather radios. There are still plenty of people who don't see the need to for these radios, don't understand them or simply haven't realized how valuable these life saving decives can be. So here is a list of the Top 5 reasons you should buy yourself or family members a weather radio:

1) Always Be Alerted During Severe Weather -- Seems like a no-brainer right? It's not only the most obvious reason but the biggest one to get a weather radio. From a dead sleep or a lazy Sunday afternoon, you don't have to be constantly monitoring the weather to be alerted when severe weather is set to strike.

2) Programmable County by County -- Don't be annoyed with warnings for every county but yours. With the new generation of weather radios, we can program it so you're only alerted when your specific county is affected. Want to add more? Sure we can do that too but that's the beauty of the weather radios. It's up to you!
3) Information When Power Fails -- Ever been in a bad storm after you've lost power? It can be a struggle to find out EXACTLY what's going on with the weather around you. Is the storm severe? Could it produce a tornado? Or is it simply a weak thunderstorm? With battery back-up power on weather radios you can know everything about the storms around you with the simple push of a button.

4) No Longer Relying on Sirens -- If you have ever been caught off guard by a storm before and you're first alert was a siren sounding, you have waited too long. Sirens are a last ditch effort to warn residents who are outside, not inside. NEVER again rely on a siren to warn you about strong storms heading for your front porch.

5) Always Awake -- No matter what time of day or night, your weather radio is on standby to alert you and your family about any significant storm approaching. Many lives have been saved when an alert is issued for a storm in the middle of the night and weather radios have warned owners of an impending storm. Never be caught unaware again.

We still have many weather radios programming sessions left this year at area Kroger stores. Stop out, buy a weather radio and have it programmed for your specific county. Take safety into your hands before severe weather season ramps up in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan.

Community Track 11 Weather Programming Events:
  • April 10, 5-7:00 pm, Kroger on Woodville Road
  • April 14, 8-10 am, Kroger in Lambertville, MI
  • April 18, 5-7:00 pm, Kroger in Waterville
  • April 24, , 5-7:00 pm, Kroger in Port Clinton
  • April 26 5-7:00 pm, Kroger on Suder Ave
More Information on weather radios can be found here:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April Waterspouts?

The inbox has been filling up the past few days with people asking if any waterspouts are likely on the lake over the next few days. The simple answer is that a few water spouts are possible, especially much further east toward Cleveland but far less likely near Toledo. Here are my thoughts:

Early this week an upper level low pressure will sit over the eastern Great Lakes. Breeding grounds for waterspouts. Take a look at this picture taken back in August when a similiar set-up occured.

There is a difference this time around though. The August low (in red) was right over Lake Erie, this time around (in blue) the low will be further north. On a map that might not look like much, but that few hundred miles is critical.

The National Weather Service has a great chart as well to take a simple, quick look to guage if the atmosphere is primed for possible waterspouts. I have outlined where the western half of Lake Erie sits on Tuesday. It is right on the edge of a favorable set-up.

So why does this happen? These whirlwinds tend to occur more frequently when cold air is dumped over the warm waters during the transitional seasons (fall and spring). Below I have placed a forecast sounding for Toledo, late Tuesday.. Lake temperatures are about 8 degrees Celcius (49 F) and air temperatures a mile above the surface are expected to be 15-17 degrees C colder than the water. A significant difference that will lead to possible convection Tuesday.

This perfect set-up for lake effect precipitation but with northwest winds, the highest chance for convection will be between Cleveland and Buffalo.
Another side effect of this lake effect precipitation is the possiblity of rain and yes, snow. But again, the highest chances are from Erie County and east. This system is a strong early spring one and bears watching, but you'll likely have to head east of Toledo for any shot at a waterspout and snow!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Could pattern mean a May 4th Severe Weather Outbreak?

Okay, I need to start this post by saying this is not a forecast. Simply a pattern that I have recognized so far this year. Starting on February 1st, severe weather and 1 reported tornado struck the deep south. This was by no-means an outbreak, but severe weather none the less in early Frebruary.

One month and one day later was the largest March Tornado outbreaks in recent memory.

One month and one day later a significant tornado outbreak hit the Dallas metro head on.

If this trend continues, could May 4th be the next big tornado outbreak of the 2012 season?

Of course weather models are not useful this far in advance and the likelyhood that this pattern would continue exactly is low. But early May has played host to some big tornado days, particular in the state of Oklahoma. Only time will tell but if the first two months of the year have been an indication, this will be a long year for severe weather forecasters.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Warmest March On Record

It wasn't even a question of if, but by how much would we shatter the record for the warmest March on record.  With the month now complete the average monthly temperature was +13.3 degrees above normal and for the first time ever averaged above 50 degrees. 

The month also included  six new daily record highs.  Two days in which we saw the warmest temperature ( 85 degrees) ever in the month of March.  And a record breaking nine consecutive days above 70 degrees (March 14-22)! 

Toledo was not alone in this warmth.  An astounding 7,700 record highs were broken across the country with over 80 other cities recording the warmest month of March on record including the following cities in Ohio:






 How about my prediction for the rest of spring?  Look for near normal temperatures for April, but a cooler than normal May.  I'll call this the inevitable balance of nature!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Severe Weather Myth: Tornadoes can't cross Rivers

One single river cuts through all of northwest Ohio, the Maumee. This makes it an easy target for many local severe weather myths. On average, our area only averages 4 tornadoes per year. That makes it easy to forget storms that may have happened 20-30 years ago and become complacent.

Tornado crossing the Mississippi Tornado in 2011

The myth stems from how formidable rivers can seem to us. We have to build bridges, take boats or simple go around these natural features. The fact of the matter is – a storm is not affected by a river -- If anything a river can actually enhance a storm (albeit very rarely and to a small scale).

NW Ohio Tornado History 1950-2010

If you live near a river, don’t feel there is a special dome of protect for you. Everyone anywhere can be hit by severe weather and tornadoes.

VIDEO: Tornado crossing a large river in Springfield, Mass. --

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Severe Weather Myths: Tornadoes Avoid Valleys

Severe Weather Myth: A tornado can’t hit my town because it sits in a valley

This is one of the most dangerous severe weather myths I have heard, especially here in northwest Ohio. A lot of people honestly believe it. First…let me bust this myth by showing this video of a tornado moving through mountains and valley in Tennessee.

Although the video has proven tornadoes do cross valleys, let’s continue on the assumption that MAYBE valleys do change the path of a storm. Below is a picture from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources that shows the topography (height above sea level) of Ohio. Notice that Northwest Ohio is certainly the lowest part of Ohio but there are no significant valleys to affect storms. Severe storms that reach 40-50 thousand feet into the atmosphere will not be deterred in anyway by a 50-100 foot change in elevation on the ground.

Severe Weather Awareness Week --Lightning Safety

Lightning can be attributed to around 90 deaths and almost 300 injuries each year!   Most of these are preventable due to some commons sense safety guidelines:

Remember if you are close enough to hear thunder you are in danger of being struck by lightning.   Here is a fun (But be safe...while indoors of course!) way to estimate how far away a lightning strike is:


"Flash to Bang"


You can estimate the distance to a thunderstorm using the "Flash to Bang" (time from seeing lightning until your hear thunder) by counting the seconds between the lightning "flash" and the "bang" of thunder. Each five seconds equals one mile. If you count 15 seconds, the flash was 3 miles away and you know that you are in a high danger zone. Six miles is still in the high danger zone.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Severe Weather Myths: Overpasses

Severe Weather Myth: An Overpass is a safe place to hide from a tornado.

A famous video (click HERE to view) from the early 90s is largely to blame for this myth. The theory is that if you’re driving along the highway and find yourself in the direct path of a tornado, the best place to hide is under an overpass. Well it turns out that is actually one of the worst places to be. The bridge funnels the air currents and acts like a wind tunnel, actually increasing the wind speeds!

In the video a film crew, along with a family, hide under the girders for protection. Since this clip has been released others have attempted the same protective course of action, only to end in a much more tragic fashion. In the video, although it looks like the tornado went directly overhead, it did not. Barely missing the family/film crew and sparing them from the strongest winds.  

So what SHOULD you do if you come up to a tornado in the road? It’s a good question without a single answer. Many times you will be able to simply stop or speed away from the storm. If that is not the case, a next best step is to get out of your car and hide as low as possible in a ditch. Keep in mind you want to avoid a flooded ditch and by exiting your car, you become exposed to flying debris, hail, etc. If this moment happens to you, there is no guidebook, just instincts. But one thing is for sure, don’t use overpasses to try and protect yourself.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Weather Radio Programming Schedule

The StormTrack 11 weather radio programming schedule has just been released. We will be at the following Kroger locations to sell and program weather radios for your specific county. 

April 5 -- Jackman and Laskey

April 10 -- Woodville road

April 14 -- Lambertville

April 18 -- Waterville

April 24 -- Port Clinton

April 26 -- Suder Ave
We program the radio so it will only alert you when you specifically are under the gun for severe weather. A weather radio is one of the best tools anyone can have to be alerted any time of anyday. Want more information? Check out this story: (Please ignore the dates at the bottom)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Does a warm March mean a hot summer?

With 70s and even 80s on the 7-day forecast, the question I have been fielding more and more this week: "If it's this warm now, are we in for a hot summer?"

The answer is, how warm it is right now really doesn't tell us anything about how warm or cold we will be months down the road.

For the past 120 years, records have been kept in Toledo and warmer than average months earlier in the year have shown little to no connection to how warm the rest of the year will be. While the science of meteorology is rapidly advancing we still do not have a great understanding for long term forecasting (3-6months+). There are simply too many factors and our computing powers simply aren't fast enough yet for the complex equations to be run.

This winter was a great example of our long range forecasting downfalls as a meteorology community.

 Lets take this a week or two at a time. Enjoy the warmth and sun, mother nature doesn't spoil us too often.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Largest March Tornado Outbreak?

120302_rpts Reports Graphic

So far the National Weather Service has confirmed 45 tornadoes from Friday’s outbreak; the SPC has 121 filtered tornado reports listed on their website as of March 6th. There is still a question as to the exact number of strong to violent tornadoes but the total will likely end up in the mid 20s. The strongest of these tornadoes is the Henryville, EF4.
While damage surveys are still on-going on reported tornado paths in parts of the Midwest and Deep South, the question has been thrown out: Was this the largest March tornado outbreak in U.S. history?

The answer, yes and no.

In recent memory March 9, 2006 was a significant severe weather day across the central plains. 54 total tornadoes touched down, 22 F2 rating or stronger. It is likely that the March 2nd, 2012 outbreak will top these numbers.

Map of 060312_rpts's severe weather reports

A likely bigger and more wide reaching event occurred on Palm Sunday 1920. The March 28th event spawned 38 significant (F2+) Tornadoes. Since weaker tornadoes were not as well documented in the early 20th century a total tornado count cannot be known. Simply based on the significant tornado count, it is not likely this most recent outbreak will top 1920.

The big question becomes….is there really more severe weather occurring or is out knowledge and awareness increasing to the point of catching every storm?

Over the past few decades storm reports have increased due to an increasing population density and undoubtedly storm chasers. Tornadoes are reported and recorded that simple would not have been seen 10 years ago without these eyes on the storm.

No matter what the exact numbers end up being, this was a devastating tornado outbreak and we wish a speedy recovery for those communities affected.

What the Hail?


No that wasn’t hail you saw Sunday Afternoon. It’s called ‘Graupel’. It forms in very similar ways to hail in a thunderstorm but in a much colder environment.

One of the best things you can learn about the weather is: Warm air rises. I know it didn’t feel warm today, but our high of 36 is balmy compared to single digits just a few thousand feet above our heads. As this ‘warm’ at the surface rises, water droplets form. First creating clouds, then super cooled water droplets. The water droplets stay in a liquid form despite actually being colder than freezing. These super cooled water droplets collide with falling snowflakes and form the graupel you saw today!


So how do you tell the difference between hail and graupel?

-Hail forms during spring and summertime thunderstorms and is very hard. Like an ice cube.

-Graupel typically forms during heavy snow/wintery mixes and easily falls apart in your hand.


Friday, January 13, 2012

A Taste of Winter

The bite of winter has returned, mainly with respect to strong winds and bitter cold wind chills, but light snow and blowing snow did coat the landscape with some snow.  Driving in conditions like this still apparently still remain a mystery to some motorist as accidents and spin-outs seemed to be around every corner.  That's another issue. 

Total snow accumulations for many areas were meek (1-2") with much of that already blown to Youngstown by today's strong winds.  (Joking of course)  However a few areas did experience a nice winter blast.  Parts of Ottawa, Sandusky, Seneca, Erie and Huron counties were blasted with lake effect snow that blanketed the area with 2-4" or more by mid day on Friday.  Here is a radar image from 6 AM Friday morning.  Notice the lake effect snow band over lake Erie, which moved onshore in a southerly direction.  Here is the cool part about this.  A lake Huron connection was established in this very specific wind direction orientation which allowed an organized lake effect snow bank with heavier embedded snow squalls to develop off of lake Huron and intensify over lake Erie and then push onshore into areas east of Toledo.  Lake effect connections between two separate Great Lakes are generally rare and even more uncommon for them to impact our area.

The result through mid morning on Friday was an accumulation of 2-4" over Erie an Huron counties. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Where is the Snow!?

It's been a very mild start to the new year, and to no surprise there is no snow to be found across our area.  As we head into the middle of January, that's unusual.  The lack of Arctic air into the United States has been a dominant theme.  In fact, only 14% of the country has snow cover at this point in the month.  (If you follow my previous posts, this is due to a positive phase of the AO or Arctic Oscillation).  The result a mild beginning to January:

The warm weather and lack of snow has has some shelving the snow skis and reaching for the golf clubs.  Measured snow for Toledo so far this season has been 5.2" which is -7.2" below normal.  Toledo is not alone take a look at large cities across the lower Great Lakes that are suffering from huge snowfall deficits so far this season:

The average snowfall for a winter in Toledo is around 37".

Monday, January 2, 2012

Lower Heating Bills?

Reach into the mail box the next couple of weeks, grab the bill you see to heat your home and hold your breath...but you may be in line for a pleasant surprise.  Heating bills up to this point in the year are likely to be dramatically less compared to this point last year.  After a very harsh December of 2010, this past December was very mild.  Here's the difference:

The most recent average temperature of 35.1° for December of 2011  was an astounding 10.5° warmer than the previous December of 2010 which averaged 24.6°.

Official 2011 Precipitation Record

It was the wettest year on record-- officially broken in late December--and it pushed Toledo nearly 1" above the previous record set back in 1950. 

 Highlights of the past year include:

Second wettest April on Record (6.33")

Ninth wettest May on Record ( 5.88")

Third driest June on Record ( 0.51")

Wettest November on Record (7.14")


 Toledo was just one of several dozen cities across the Great Lakes an North East to set all time precipitation records in 2011.