July 2009 Newsletter

The next SKYWARN meeting is 21-Jul @ 7:00 PM, the third Tuesday of the month.

About 24 members attended the 16-Jun meeting. Topics discussed included:

  • Dale WBPKG provided a description of the upcoming Field Day activity for Amateur Radio.
  • Dave KCUVY provided an update on the Instant alert system.
  • Dave provided a live tutorial of GRLevel3 using the actual sever weather passing through the Dakotas at the time.

E-Mail Change
The Editor is advancing into the 20th Century (but not the 21st Century) by switching from a dial-up ISP to DSL. As a result, e-mail address changes are in process. Note the new e-mail address.

Activation From Dave KCUVY
Tornado season started very late for Minnesota. The latest date for first tornado activity in the state was in 1952, when the first one occurred on June 23rd. The live demonstration of GRLevel3 at the June SKYWARN meeting ended up being good practice for the next several days.

Spotters were paged out by Public Service a little before 7:00 PM on Wed 17-Jun. Before the evening was over with, over 30 SKYWARN members were active watching several cells pass through Steele County. Rotating funnel clouds were reported west and east of Owatonna. Brief touchdowns were reported to the west. NWS Chanhassen called in several times looking for additional information and we were able to provide accurate and timely updates. Some pictures from the field are included below. Brad Nelson provides a link to footage of the Austin tornado.

Cells coming in from the south and west also prompted an activation on 21-Jun, with 25 members responding. The very slow moving cells ended up staying south of Steele County, although tornadoes were reported in Freeborn County. Steele County experienced only rain out of both cells that were being watched.

A storm system building up all day on 22-Jun resulted in a precautionary activation as the cells moved toward Steele County. About 12 spotters were deployed around 2:00 PM to the eastern edge of the county. The cells lose their punch as they moved across Waseca County, resulting in only rain in Steele County.

Lessons Learned
We complete a review after each event to determine what worked, didn't work, or could be improved. One item that could be improved is telephone communications from the field. The EOC actually has four telephone lines. Two of the lines were originally installed some time ago and the City upgraded the phone system last year. The new phone lines include caller ID which results in a time savings when taking your reports.

The original lines are intended for back-up and outgoing calls. Spotters calling in to the old phone numbers cause unnecessary difficulty from trying to answer 4 different telephones in the EOC.

Please be sure you utilize the new phone numbers to contact the EOC:

507-774-7241 or 507-774-7242

WX Radio Programming
We have step-by-step instructions (304KB pdf) for programming the commonly available Midland WR-100. Midland also has an on-line video to help. Anyone needing additional help can drop their radio off at the Owatonna Fire Station. A SKYWARN volunteer will program the radio, usually within 24 hours.

Tom NUW wrote Midland Radio a letter about the "PC" jack on the back of the WR-100 radios. Midland followed up indicating they will provide Steele County with a cable that can be used to clone radios using the "PC" jack. During a telephone conversation, Midland indicated they noticed the sales at the Owatonna HY-Vee as a result of the events. Steele County should be proud to know that a local event has been "on the radar screen" of a national corporation like Midland Radio.

Miss Ohio From USA Today
Miss Ohio in the Miss America pageant has chosen lightning-safety awareness as her platform. She adopted NOAA's slogan: "When thunder roars, go indoors." In any given year, lightning-strike survivors far outnumber lightning-related fatalities. Miss Ohio's older sister is one survivor. She was hit by a lightning bolt after a thunderstorm passed and the sun re-emerged. Her recovery involved being in and out of hospitals for two years. Nine years later, Christina is in a wheelchair, barely able to move her arms and head, unable to speak, and continues to go to therapy five days a week.

Summer Solstice Frost From Minnesota WeatherTalk
In mid-June when the humidity gets high and the severe weather becomes more frequent, its hard to think about frost. It wasn't all that long ago there was a frost on the Summer Solstice. The one and only time widespread frost was reported on the Summer Solstice was June 21, 1992. A dry, cool, Canadian air mass descended on the state and temperatures plummeted into the 30s overnight into Monday, the 21st. Widespread frost was reported, with temperatures as low as 25 degrees F up north, and many readings of low 30s F across the south. Places like Zumbrota and Preston in SE Minnesota reported 33 degrees F, technically not a frost. But many crop producers reported frosted corn and soybeans. Most of the frosted crop recovered, but yields were low that year.

New Cloud Type? From Multiple Sources
A paralegal in Cedar Rapids, IA snapped a picture of a strange cloud formation in 2006. Similar formations were posted at the Cloud Appreciation Society. A panel is reviewing the submissions to determine if this formation should be classified as a new cloud variety. There are three main groups of clouds: cumulous, cirrus and stratus. Each has various sub-classifications built on other details of the formation. About 80 cloud varieties have been identified, with last cloud addition in 1951. This particular cloud might be caused by a moist layer of air above a dry layer without enough wind to mix the two.

You can view an interesting array of cloud pictures turn the sky into a big art gallery.

Term For The Month From Minnesota WeatherTalk
This does not refer to the CDs in the MPR music library! In meteorology this term refers to a condition of continuity in the vertical of a low pressure or high pressure system. That is, the geographic center of low pressure at the surface, tends to be the same for low pressure aloft as well. So there is little tilt or horizontal distortion in the pressure field. This may happen with large scale, slow moving low pressure systems and show up in satellite water vapor imagery as a large rotating white blob.

Pictures from the 17-June Activation

From Dave WBVAK, near Waseca.
Touchdown Near Waseca

From Marv NFJP
Touchdown Near Waseca

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Steele County SKYWARN
Owatonna, MN