February 2010 Newsletter

The next SKYWARN meeting is 16-Feb @ 7:00 PM, the third Tuesday of the month.

About 24 members attended the 19-Jan meeting. Discussion continued from the December meeting about the "behind the scene" activities for SKYWARN. At the end of the discussion, several individuals stepped up to accept responsibility for many of the items on the list:

  • Recruiting new members - Deuel P
  • Training of new members - Chris G
  • Mentoring of new members - Deuel P
  • Tracking skill sets of members - Juliette B
  • Training material development - Chris G
  • Maintaining call out records - Mike C
  • Spotter tool development (e.g. maps) - Marv N, Brian D
  • Standardize processes. (How do we do things?) - Drew M
  • Miscellaneous record keeping - Drew M
  • Public relations, Media contact - Dave P
  • Public relations, Educational material - Open
  • Public outreach, Presentations to the general public - Carl H
  • Champion special events. (e.g. WX Radio programming) - Deuel P
  • Coordination with other groups.(e.g. CAER) - Chris G
  • Finances (not that we have any) - Jerold I, Juliette B
  • Maintaining the web site - Tom K
  • Newsletter editor - Open
The SKYWARN membership appreciates the roles all of the individuals agreed to take on. Be sure to let these individuals know if you are willing to help.

Spotter Classes
Classes are starting to be scheduled across the area. An attempt is being made to update the Calendar page with area classes as they become known. The Owatonna class is tentatively scheduled for 09-Mar. Mower County is scheduled for 23-MAr, and will include information on the 2009 tornado that hit Austin.

Punxsutawney Phil From Multiple Sources
German tradition holds that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2 — the Christian holiday of Candlemas — winter would last another six weeks. If no shadow was seen, legend said spring would come early. The world's most famous groundhog calls Punxsutawney, PA home. Every year thousands gather at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.Since 1887, Phil has seen his shadow 98 times, hasn't seen it 15 times, and there are no records for nine years, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

It all started in Europe, centuries ago, when February 2 was a holiday called Candlemas. On Candlemas, people prayed for mild weather for the remainder of winter. The superstition arose that if a hibernating badger woke up and saw its shadow on Candlemas, there would be six more weeks of severe winter weather. When Europeans settled the New World, they didn't find any badgers. So, instead of building wooden badgers, they decided to use native groundhogs (aka the woodchuck, land beaver, or whistlepig) as their prognosticating rodent.

Not to be outdone, MN also has a prognosticator. Toucan Harry is the mascot for Treasure Island Resort & Casino. Instead of waiting to see if Phil sees his shadow and sentences everyone to an extended winter, Toucan Harry will be looking for his own shadow.

Super Tuesday Report From Science Daily
It is never too early to start thinking about tornadoes. The Super Tuesday Tornado Outbreak of February 5-6, 2008 resulted in 82 tornadoes raked nine states throughout the South, killing 57 people, injuring 350 others and causing $400 million in property damage. The NWS routinely conducts assessments of agency performance during severe weather events in an effort to improve operations and determine best practices. A report for the Super Tuesday events analyzed forecasting performance and public response during the outbreak.

In reviewing the public response, the team found:

  • Local communities received the warnings and were aware of the dangerous weather threat.
  • Two-thirds of the victims were in mobile homes.
  • 60 percent did not have access to safe shelter (i.e., a basement or storm cellar).
  • Some thought the threat was minimal because February is not within traditional tornado season.
  • Others went to a safe location only after they saw a tornado.

Recommendations included improve wording and call-to-action statements to more effectively convey the urgency and danger of the message. The agency also will conduct research to further understand people’s interpretation of and response to severe weather situations.

Leo The Lion From Earth Sky
The moon, planets and stars – like the sun – rise in the east and set in the west. Unlike the sun, however, the stars return to the same place in the sky in 23 hours and 56 minutes – not 24 hours. This 4-minute difference between the stars (sidereal day) and the sun (solar day) may seem insignificant, but this discrepancy adds up over time. In middle February – the stars of Leo the Lion will rise 2 hours earlier than they did in January. In middle March – Leo’s stars will rise 4 hours earlier. Every March, Leo faithfully shines in the east right at nightfall, a sure sign that springtime is about to return to the northern hemisphere.

Term For The Month From Minnesota WeatherTalk
Sierra Cement
This term is used by meteorologists and hydrologists in the western states to refer to extremely dense snowpack that is left on mountain slopes and valleys after the winter snows have aged and been rained on. This leaves an extremely dense snow layer that may contain as much as an inch of water for every two inches of snow. The snowpack hardens so firmly that it feels like cement when skiers fall on it. This type of snowpack does however yield a great deal of water for California's reservoir system. With the freezing rain in January on top of all of the snow earlier in the month may have produced some of it here.

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Steele County SKYWARN
Owatonna, MN