Category Archives: Families and Communities

Weather Wednesday — The Week That Was

It’s been an eventful week on the weather front, so let’s highlight a few points.

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-Damage near Van, TX — KSFY

What started out as a very quiet first quarter of the year as regards the number of tornadoes has become much more active since mid-April. There have been several widespread, damaging and deadly outbreaks, especially over the last ten days or so.

The organization U.S. Tornadoes has begun to compile a rolling list of the highest incidence of tornadoes in 2015. One can see that May is headed toward reversing the early year trend of below normal activity.

storm-thumb-051015In addition, the storms over the past weekend (May 9 and 10) included extremely high rainfall rates in some areas which led to flash flooding and necessitated swift water rescues. Some of the rescues were broadcast live by television stations in Dallas and retransmitted to the entire country via The Weather Channel.

2015-05-09_10-snowfall
— NWS

And if that wasn’t enough, a late season snowstorm on the same weekend buried parts of the Rocky Mountains into the Dakotas. The heavy, wet snow damaged buildings and had to be shoveled out of Coors Field before the Colorado Rockies could host their Sunday afternoon game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

tropical-storm-anaAnd to top it all off, Tropical Storm Ana, brought gusty winds and copious amounts of rain to the Southeast.

Weather Wednesday – May through July Outlook

The Climate Prediction Center recently issued its 90-day outlook for temperature and precipitation for the U.S. It also updated the drought monitor tool.

off01_tempIn general the outlook calls for the next three months to feature above normal temperatures in the western third of the country and in the far southeastern states. Alaska and the Pacific Northwest will also be warmer than usual. Below normal temperatures are confined to much of Texas and areas of adjoining states. Most of the country will see an equal chance for above or below normal temperatures.

 

off01_prcpMuch of the nation may experience above normal precipitation from the southeast through the gulf states to the western plains and Rockies along with a good portion of Alaska. The above normal rainfall may bring drought relief to Texas and the four corners area. The Great Lakes states will see below normal precipitation and the potential of a developing drought. Lake levels and fire danger may be impacted.

 

drought 90The drought monitor shows little change in the near term for the hardest hit areas of the west, parts of Texas, and parts of the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Over the 90 day period of the outlook, the drought may ease in Texas and areas northwest of there. However, drought conditions may expand in the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, little or no relief is seen for California.  Just this week water use restrictions of from 8% to 36% were enacted for some municipalities.

Late breaking news.  Tornadoes in Germany!

There was a fairly broad outbreak of severe weather including tornadoes in Germany on Tuesday, May 5.  Here’s coverage from the British newspaper, The Guardian.

Weather Wednesday – First Tornado Captured by Radar

62 years ago this month, April 9, 1953, about 3 miles from where I am sitting, a tornado was caught by radar for the first time. Scientists and electrical engineers at the Illinois State Water Survey at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had modified a former WWII airborne radar for use in estimating amounts of precipitation falling from storms.

Don Staggs, an electrical engineer, was preparing the radar for later field tests. He started to notice what we now call “hook echo” returns in the scans of the storm. As afternoon turned to evening, a strong thunderstorm developed just north of Champaign, about ten miles from the radar site at the university-owned Willard Airport. The storm image included a pronounced hook on the bottom rear flank much as we see hook echoes on modern Doppler radar.

first radar image of a tornado
Illinois State Water Survey via The News Gazette

Still photos and a 16mm film of the images on the scope captured that moment. A team of meteorologists and technicians were able to study the image capture. Later, Dr. Ted Fujita the creator of the tornado strength measurement scale that bears his name, sketched over 200 of the frames of the film in his own hand. All of this can be seen in a terrific article from Colorado State University.  Note especially the photos of the tornado and the well-developed wall cloud.

We now know that the radar captured the early stages of an F3 tornado that eventually traveled about 160 miles and dissipated near Albany, IN. There were two fatalities and about $4-million in property damage in Illinois. The path of the storm took it across mostly rural areas.

Next week, we’ll discuss current use of radar and what may be the next generation of this important forecast tool.

Weather Wednesday — April 9, 2015 Illinois Tornado Outbreak

On this Tax Day edition of Weather Wednesday, we’ll revisit last week’s tornado outbreak in Illinois. Statewide, 11 tornadoes have been confirmed in the April 9th event. The earliest, which caused very little damage, was reported just northwest of Peoria in the afternoon hours. By early evening, strong thunderstorms were crossing far northern Illinois and eventually spawned the first EF-4 tornadoes ever reported in DeKalb and Ogle Counties (records kept since 1950) and the strongest tornado in the National Weather Service Chicago Office County Warning Area since an EF-5 devastated Plainfield, in the southwest suburbs, in 1990.

AP_fairdale_tornado_14_sk_150410_16x9_1600
AP

Two people were killed in the unincorporated town of Fairdale where nearly every structure, more than 70 in all counting outbuildings, was either damaged or destroyed. 22 injuries were reported in the outbreak. The tornadoes eventually approached the far western suburbs of Chicago but missed three population centers near their path. Damage was widely scattered in a multi-county area.

PBrooksPhotography_Ashton
PBrooks Photography

This outbreak was well forecast and there is general agreement there was plenty of warning. The Storm Prediction Center (SPC), as it did with the EF-3 and 4 tornadoes in Illinois on November 17, 2013, mentioned possibly tornadic storms at least four days in advance.

The National Weather Service Chicago Office updated their summary of the tornadoes just this morning. This is one of the most complete such documents I’ve ever read and includes some of the few satellite images of a tornado’s path I’ve ever seen. Read it all the way to the bottom and you’ll see the SPC guidance in the week leading up to the storms.

LarissaSebree_HillcrestIL
Wedge tornado and wall cloud near Hillcrest, Illinois. Larissa Sebree via NOAA.

A couple of these tornadoes were extremely well documented via video (note:  Strong language toward end) and live streaming and some of the visuals of the rotating wall clouds were just about textbook. The low sun angle contributed how well the tornadoes were captured.

There was also a significant side issue involving a motorist by the name of Sam Smith who was shooting video. That footage was widely shown on television and the driver was taken to task for getting too close to the storm, even if accidentally.  (There are now licensing issues with the video so we won’t link to it here.  However, it is widely available on You Tube.)

There were a couple of takeaways from his experience which are good reminders to all of us who may encounter storms. First, if a funnel cloud or tornado does not appear to be moving, it is either headed straight for the observer or dead away from the observer. To be safe, get out of that area immediately by driving at right angles to the storm. Second, this motorist backed up to take shelter in his vehicle under a bridge. Although many people have done that and survived, experts say that is a bad idea because wind speed may actually be amplified as it is compressed into that confined space.  There have been fatalities of people under overpasses.

Weather Wednesday –New Definitions from the Storm Prediction Center

There’s been much talk in recent weeks of a more detailed method of describing the potential for severe weather now being employed by the Storm Prediction Center in its Convective Outlooks. The SPC worked with National Weather Service offices, communications experts and consumers of its products to expand its long time use of the “Slight, Moderate and High” risk categories to “Marginal, Slight, Enhanced, Moderate and High.”

In addition, the chart below describes what the storms might look like under each newly-defined category and what the main threats would be.

Understanding Categories
The Storm Prediction Center has many products that can be used by broadcast meteorologists, emergency managers and the general public to look as far as 8 days ahead. These tools are especially valuable for planning purposes and should never supplant your detailed local forecast.

The Mesoscale Discussions are particularly helpful on days when severe weather is expected. The discussions are issued on an “as needed” basis as storm threats develop. Other tools are updated as often as four times a day. If you’ve never visited the site at spc.noaa.gov, now would be a good time to familiarize yourself with the offerings.

 

Weather Wednesday – Hail

On this April Fools Day, we’ll be discussing hail. Hail is widespread throughout the world, but doesn’t often have the top of mind awareness of other storm-related topics…unless, that is, you’re growing crops or insuring buildings or vehicles. According to the National Weather Service’s hail page, the average loss from hail each year is about a billion dollars. However, in 2001 there was one storm event that eventually stretched from Kansas City to Illinois that caused $2-billion damage on a single day.

Hail is not normally considered a major threat to human life. The last reported fatality in the United States was in 2000 when a Texas man died after being struck by a softball sized hail stone. Two children reportedly perished in Russia in 2014. Livestock losses are reported from time to time.

The National Weather Service rates hail from less than a quarter inch or pea sized to over 4 inches or softball sized. The preferred references are actual measurements or approximations based on fixed sizes such as a quarter or a regulation sized softball. “Grapefruit sized” is a far less precise term. One of the reasons for using common objects as references is it allows storm spotters and others to report the size without venturing out into a storm with its associated risks to take actual measurements.

vivian_hailThe largest hail stone reported in the U.S was over 8 inches in diameter with a circumference of over 18 inches.

corn_field_hail_6-24-14
Phil Katz-MSU Extension

Crop loss from hail is a significant risk to producers. Depending on where crops are in the growth cycle and the extent of the damage, growers are often cautioned to have a little patience to determine if the crops can bounce back. Many state extension services can provide more information.

 

hail carDamage to vehicles is usually pretty obvious in terms of dents and broken glass. There are some DIY fixes for smaller dents including letting the vehicle sit in the hot sun so the metal expands a bit. The best advice though is to contact your insurance carrier and/or a competent body shop. A worst case scenario is when a new car dealer’s lot or other parking lot is hit. Damage can easily escalate into six figures or more. Several years ago here in the Champaign-Urbana area, dozens and dozens of cars parked at the local airport were badly damaged.

thHail can also damage roofs constructed of various materials. Again, working with your insurance carrier to arrange for an inspection by a qualified roofer is always a good idea. Some damage may be hard for the untrained eye to see and ladder work is often best left to professionals anyway.

Siding on homes also can be easily damaged. Steel or aluminum siding can be dented and still maintain its structural and weatherproof integrity.Bad_Siding_Hail_Damage Hail can absolutely shred vinyl siding and immediate action to cover exposed underlayment or insulation is necessary to avoid more widespread water damage.

 

 

howhail
NOAA Graphic

One question that is often asked is, does the presence of hail, especially large hail, tell us anything about the structure of a thunderstorm? Since hail is formed when water droplets freeze as they are lifted above the 32-degree line by updrafts, it stands to reason that the presence of ever larger hail stones in a storm reflects the strength of that updraft so it can be an indicator of both the strength and height of a thunderstorm cell. Hail is easily seen on radar because of its dense mass. Many videos shot by storm chasers show large hail as part of some tornadic thunderstorms.

Spring 2015 EDEN Newsletter

In This Issue

Cappadocia Balloons Thinkstock2015 EDEN Annual Meeting
Call for Proposals Deadline April 10

 

From the Chair

Greetings,

March 2-4, the EDEN Executive Committee conducted its mid-winter meeting in Saint Dr. Mike YoderAugustine, Florida.  This meeting is an opportunity for the committee to evaluate EDEN’s progress towards the fulfillment of current projects, evaluate partnerships, membership and any other ships that may be appropriate.

As EDEN begins assess its role for the next 20 years, the primary topic of discussion was development of a new strategic plan.  Plans were developed to conduct this strategic plan during the summer and fall of 2015.  To conduct this plan, we have asked Dr. Nick Place, EDEN’s representative to ECOP, to bring a number of State Extension Directors to the table, to meet with the EDEN Executive Committee and our NIFA representative.  Since the Directors have been major supporters of EDEN, it is imperative that we have an understanding of their vision for EDEN’s relationship with Extension.  Once the strategic plan has been developed, it will be presented to the membership for approval at the EDEN Annual Meeting in October, in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

A number of agenda items were discussed at this year’s mid-winter meeting including but not limited to:

  • Use of “Response Notes” during a disaster to inform not only our Federal partners but EDEN delegates and State Directors.
  • EDEN’s response to “climate variability.” As Extension seeks to determine it’s proper role in addressing the issues of climate variability, what can EDEN bring to the table?
  • Inviting greater participation in EDEN by our 1994 sister institutions.
  • Re-writing our “standard operating procedures” to help direct operations and guide new officers.
  • Strengthening support for EDEN delegates at the state level. Being sure delegates receive needed support for participation in EDEN activities, including the annual meeting

As EDEN prepares for the next 20 years, it is important that we remember our roots, an integrate lessons learned into the strategic planning process.  We look forward to this process and to sharing the results with all delegates at the 2015 Annual Meeting.

Best wishes,

Mike Yoder

EDEN Chair

America’s PrepareAthon!

Disasters can happen at any time and take us all by surprise, so the time to prepare is now. America’s PrepareAthon! is working to help people, just like you, prepare ahead of time.

National PrepareAthon! Day is April 30, 2015 and there will multiple ways to prepare for six specific disasters: earthquake, flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire, and winter storm. The purpose of America’s PrepareAthon! is to help people understand what type of disasters can happen in their community, how to prepare for those disasters, how to recover from damage from those disasters, to increase their preparedness in general, and to prepare as a community.

Preparing for disaster is extremely important so America’s PrepareAthon! makes it easy to join. Just go to their website and join a group, then begin telling others about what you are planning. Participants can plan an event for themselves, their families, or their communities whatever they are comfortable doing. There are discussion forums for participants to share event ideas, along with disaster preparedness tips.

If you are interested in finding out more information, see their fact sheet and frequently asked questions. Don’t forget to join a group, follow the conversation at #PreparAthon, and be prepared to get prepared on April 30! —  Written by Michelle Buffkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant.

 

Webinars and Events

Upcoming Webinars & Events
Webinar Archives

Featured Resources

  •  Flooding: The Big Picture describes the phases of disaster response on the context of floods. Each phase links to additional information. Brought to you by the EDEN flood NEIL and CoP.
  • America’s PrepareAthon! also has flood resources, including a playbook for an organizational tabletop exercise.
  • Need a resource on basic disaster preparedness? Check out these two courses from EDEN. One is for families and the other for businesses.
  • Grant opportunities
    • State Farm Service Learning Grant. Closing date is May 1. Steve Cain is coordinating discussions.
    • Strengthening the Public’s and/or K-12 Students’ Environmental Literacy for Community Resilience to Extreme Weather Events and Environmental Changes. Contact Keith Tidball if you’re interested in this opportunity.
    • Specialty Crop and Organic Agriculture Research and Extension. Steve Cain is coordinating discussion on applicability of drought education to specialty and organic crops. Contact Steve for more information.

Weather Wednesday – Lightning

This is Severe Weather Preparedness Week in several states. Others may have just observed the week and still others may be doing so soon. Over the next several posts, we’ll cover several topics related to severe weather in greater depth.

NOAA
NOAA

As outdoor baseball and soccer practice, along other activities such as golf, gardening, boating will be on the upswing in coming weeks, we’ll start our coverage with lightning. Of course, the threat of being struck by lightning has been known for centuries. The History Channel recounts a particularly devastating lightning strike that killed 300 people.

The National Weather Service has a very good lightning resource page including actions you should take to protect yourself and others.

As our understanding of how lightning works, the different kinds of lightning and other aspects of the science involved improves, best practices have been refined and much more attention is being given to protecting participants and fans at outdoor sporting events.

NOAA
NOAA

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has developed some guidelines for when to clear the practice field and when to ask fans to leave a stadium. Some institutions have modified these to be even more conservative based on estimates of how long it would take to empty a stadium of fans and where the closest safer shelter is. During the 2014 football season lightning delays and even suspensions were fairly common.

Many states require the installation of lightning alarms at recreational facilities and sports venues. Participants and fans should follow the local guidelines when those alarms are triggered. However, as always, alarms are never a substitute for personal responsibility. There are a variety of smartphone apps that link to databases of recent lightning strikes. They can be a good tool, but be aware that there may be a delay in the process of detecting the strikes, assembling the data and posting in the app. So it is best to assume that the data may be a few minutes old and act accordingly.

As mentioned in the content in the links above, a good rule of thumb is that a 30-second lag between sighting the lightning bolt and hearing the thunder means the bolt was roughly six miles away. And at six miles, you should be headed to a safer place immediately.

Additional resources from eXtension.org are good reads.

Meet A Delegate Monday: Conne Burnham

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Conne Burnham.

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?

I came to work for the University of Missouri disasters education recovery preparednessExtension in January 2004 and because I’m in an emergency management program in extension I was asked to join EDEN as a delegate. But I really did not get involved with EDEN for several years, about five years ago I became much more engaged. Currently I am a member of the Exercise Group and Agrosecurity Committee. I have also been working on a COAD Guidance Manual update that involves University of Illinois and Purdue University, and has been shared with the EDEN membership.

2. What is your role of disaster preparedness in your state?

I work for two different programs in extension, one of them is a continuing education program. With that I manage training exercises that are specifically emergency management focused. On the other side I manage the community emergency management program, where regional teams throughout the state focus on assisting their communities in phases of the emergency management system. I coordinate that program and provide them with training and resources. On the state level I am a representative for the University of Missouri extension to the state emergency management agency. I am on three of their state committees. I am also on call in case they need additional assistance at the state emergency management agency.

3. Can you tell us a little about the work you are doing with the COAD manual?

I received a grant to work on the COAD Guidance Manual several years ago. Currently I am working to add an agriculture annex to the manual. I hope this will be helpful to people across the nation because when we have disasters in rural areas it seems that they seem to have the least amount of ability to recover. This is because they are living in a sparse area, and sometimes it is difficult to get them assistance. So this manual will cover how a community can help our rural areas more easily recover from some kind of disaster. I’m hoping the agriculture annex we are putting into the COAD manual will benefit a lot of people.

4. What has been your favorite disaster preparedness exercise and why?

My favorite exercises are the 12 exercises associated with Part 2 of the COAD Guidance Manual Project. Twelve local COADs signed up for the exercise and devoted several hours discussing their capabilities to assist their communities during a disaster. It was very fascinating to see the difference in organizational structures, what they had to offer, and how they would use the COADs. I think it gave me a much better idea about how COADs can really fit into a community. Before this I did not see how communities had engaged COADs as much as possible. I think this project really started getting more of them engaged.

5. What is your biggest piece of advice to other EDEN delegates?

Become engaged with the organization! If you just sit on the sidelines you get emails with all kinds of opportunities. Once you get more known in the organization you gain some credibility and validity. They are always looking for someone that has expertise in certain areas. I believe that if we are going to be a part of an organization we need to be able to offer the expertise and experiences we have, so we can help the organization as a whole. It helps educate all of our members, get engaged!

 

Weather Wednesday: When the Great Lakes Freeze

Satellite image of Great Lakes February 2015. NOAA.

 

As of February 25, 2015, the Great Lakes are over 85% ice covered and the coverage is growing weekly.  glsea_curOther than the obvious impact to shipping, what does this really mean?

When the Great Lakes experience heavy ice cover as they have in the winters of 2014 and 2015 there are a multitude of impacts.  Some are beneficial and some are problematic and some are both.

For example, evaporation takes place over open water even in the winter time.  At least partially because evaporation was inhibited in the winter of 2014-15, Lake Michigan water levels last summer increased dramatically over the summer of 2013.  Some of the impacts included reduced usable recreational beach areas. On the positive side, the higher water levels mitigated some of the need to dredge channels and harbor entrances especially along the eastern shore of the lake.  As of February 25, the water level on Lake Michigan was a whopping 21-inches higher than a year earlier and was 8 inches higher than the long term average.  Snow melt and rainfall also are a factor, but the reduced evaporation plays a role. lighthouse

Snowfall amounts are also affected when the lakes freeze.  Lake Effect Snow basically shuts down once the lakes freeze over, a welcomed break for motorists in the Great Lakes snow belt areas.

Heavy ice cover also tends to influence spring and even summer weather in areas close to the lakes.  The temperatures in communities near Lake Michigan were noticeably cooler than inland communities in the spring and summer of 2014, far cooler than the usually welcomed moderating effect of the lake.  One benefit of the late spring is to fruit growers.  The cooler weather delays the blossoming of fruit trees to the extent that the threat of frost damage from isolated cold snaps is mitigated.  And the normal micro-climate of shoreline communities is more pronounced in years when the lakes are ice-covered.

Arcadia, MI. Cool summer of 2014. Author.

Long lasting ice cover also affects the water temperature of the Great Lakes.   Even the normally more moderate lakes remained quite cool for swimming and other warm weather recreation in the summer of 2014.  It is worth noting that there was still visible ice on Lake Superior into June of 2014 and some water temperatures in Lake Michigan were still in the upper-30 degree range on Memorial Day weekend!!  The reduced water temperatures impact how anglers approach their prey.  And the development of algae can also be affected.

It is likely that the ice cover of the lakes will continue to expand for at least a few more weeks this year.