May 212 Newsletter

The next SKYWARN meeting is 15-May @ 7:00 PM, the third Tuesday of the month.

The Owatonna People's Press provided some SKYWARN coverage:
The 17-Apr edition started out with an article on preparation for severe weather.
There was a nice Opinion piece on Wed (18-Apr).

NWS Experimental Warnings From Multiple Sources
During our SKYWARN classes, we often remind everyone the outdoor warning sirens sound does not mean go outside and look. One weakness with most severe weather warnings is not being able to express how severe the potential storm is. A tornado warning is a tornado warning, whether the expected tornado is an F-0 or an F-5. To try and emphasize the potential of an extreme storm, the NWS is experimenting with adjectives to describe the potential. Words that will be used include "mass devastation," "unsurvivable" and "catastrophic". A new warning might read:

There are two tiers of warnings for thunderstorms and three tiers for tornadoes. The new warnings were used in advance of the rash of tornadoes in mid-April. Based on the minimal deaths, they may have helped save lives.

Flower Moon From Multiple Sources
A Flower moon is a traditional name for the first full moon of May. It is this time of the year when nature is full of flowers.

Wind Map From Multiple Sources
This artistic wind map depicts near real-time wind patterns across the continental USA. Animated streamlines (trajectory and velocity) from NOAA's National Digital Forecast Database are portayed. The web site recommends the Chrome browser, but Mozilla seems to work also. Snapshots of previous wind patterns can be viewed in black and white using other browsers.

MN SKYWARN Workshop From Autumn Gangelhoff
The workshop was held at the University of St. Thomas on 14-Apr. There weren't as many people there in general as last year in attendance, as it was a high risk day in the plains, and many decided to go that route.

We had speakers representing NWS in Chanhassen, Sioux Falls, Duluth, and Grand Forks. Greg Gust, from Grand Forks, talked about fire torndoes, and other non-supercell events. We learned about the new Dual-Pole Radar that will be coming. There are many more things we'll be able to see with this new radar, including more information about the type of precipitation, the melting point of snow/ice within the atmosphere, and about debris balls created by tornadoes from Jeff Chapman in Sioux Falls.

Dr. Kenny Blumenfeld was a fun speaker, in that he not only talked about the influence of population on damage, and casualties related to this. And then his funny side came out... he talked about the coorilation between cities with good chicken names and the probability of a tornado hitting that city. For instance, Seattle doesn't need to worry about a tornado hitting their town, not because of their proximity to the ocean or mountains, but because it's not a good chicken name! If you live in a town with a good chicken name, consider moving or renaming the town, like adding "New" before it. People got a big kick out of it, and called him the chicken man the rest of the day.

The keynote speaker, Greg Carbin from the SPC, talked about the record breaking year in 2011, and, while not rare, usually occurs every 10-20 years. He compared it to the 1974 tornado outbreak. 2011 started off as a slow to normal year for severe weather, until we hit April, when we had the outbreak across Dixie Alley. May was also very intense, with the Joplin tornado.

The panel discussion got very intense, in talking about the issue with the people going out chasing tornadoes and weather without training, just so they can put a picture of themselves on youtube or facebook. People don't realize the dangers they're putting themselves in. The media doesn't always help, but it was mentioned that during Hurricane Irene, that there was someone on camera shooting live from a TV station out east, standing in the surf, telling people to stay away from the ocean. And the Mayor called him on it on live telivision. More officials need to do this, so that the media, and the general public, will learn to take things more seriously. There was also a big discussion about how/who to contact if you do see a something (tornado/rotating wall cloud, etc). It was easy to see how different we are from Metro Skywarn, in that we contact our EOC, where Metro Skywarn just contact NWS in Chanhassen, but some of the Skywarn people in Metro Skywarn are unsure how to contact the NWS (phone, ham, spotternetwork).

John Wetter talked about new things to come to assist with Skywarn, like the new Google Glass ( We watched this clip during the convention. John also told us about this new thing that will be used on all smart phones, coming this month. You will automatically be set up with alerts for severe weather, amber alerts, and Presidental alerts. You will have the option to opt out of the amber and severe weather alerts, but not the Presidental alerts. Hopefully people will not choose to opt out of them, so they can be notified about severe weather.

Group picture of Steele County SKYWARN members attending the workshop.

Term For The Month From Multiple Sources
Barber Pole
These iconic signs seen in front of barber store fronts normally have a helix of colored stripes (red, white, and blue). They date back to the Middle Ages to indicate the craft. Severe weather can be a hair raising experience, but not something that would be corrected by the local barber. Clouds formations with a strong rotating updraft might take on the appearance of a twisted pole. The structure typically is most pronounced on the leading edge of the updraft. It is one indicator of a large amount of instability aloft.

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Steele County SKYWARN
Owatonna, MN