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.