Monday, October 29, 2007

Past Halloween weather history

I was going through some weather stats yesterday as I was preparing the "Ask Merril" column for the Wichita Eagle. I'm a big geek when it comes to weather stats! I don't know why, I've always liked numbers. Of course, you can come up with any conclusion it seems when working with stats but I digress.

Here are some of the tidbits that you can use at the water cooler today...

Record high in Wichita on Halloween: 85 in 1950
Coolest high: 33 in 1991 (also that year was the snowiest: 1.5"!!)
Record low: 18 in 1993
Warmest low: 63 in 2000
Wettest: 5.79" in 1998 (Halloween floods)
Average high/low: 63/40

Here's how the last 10 years have faired:

Year Hi/Lo Precip

1997 70/40 0
1998 52/46 5.79"
1999 68/52 0
2000 76/63 Trace
2001 74/56 0
2002 39/35 0
2003 50/38 0
2004 64/43 .01"
2005 61/35 .65"
2006 47/31 0

Thanks to the National Weather Service here in Wichita for the stats (via their webpage).

It looks like an average Halloween coming up. As I write this, our forecast high for Wednesday is 63.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 22, 2007

King for a Day

My wife really surprised me a few months ago. For Father's Day, she bought me a reservation for the Richard Petty Driving Experience. There, an average guy like me can get behind the wheel of a stock car. I was kind of in disbelief immediately after she gave me the letter as my mind, pardon the pun, raced. Me? A stock car? High speed? Me? (gulp)

My wife and I have followed NASCAR for the last 7 years. (Go Junior!) For the last 5 years, she and I, along with my brother and his wife, have gone to Qualifying Day at the Kansas Speedway. So, I'd been to the track a handful of times, have even made it down to the infield, but never actually ON the track. That changed last Sunday as my brother and I and our families pulled into the 1.5 mile speedway. After signing in, we donned our official race suits and, along with 30 other guys and gals, went through the basics of operating a stock car and the safety procedures.

After our driver's meeting, it was time for the most famous words in motor sports: "Drivers- start your engines!!" One by one, the participants took their laps. My brother was 17th in line while I was near the back: 29th! Let me just say this: when you're waiting for your turn in an experience like this, there's plenty of time for thought. Honestly, I wasn't too nervous. My biggest fear was killing the engine upon leaving pit lane (manual transmission).

Finally, it was my turn! I crawled into the car and waited until my instructor pulled up in the pace car ahead of me. The car was started, I (finally) found 1st gear, revved the engine to 2000 rpm and let out on the clutch and....

Away I went! (Whew, I didn't kill it!) Once you hit 3500-4000 rpm, it's time to shift. 2nd gear. We're on the apron in turn one and going a little faster now. 3rd gear. Up off the apron and on the track! Finally 4th gear and we're picking up a little more speed. As we come down the front stretch, I see the green flag waving and we're off! As I enter turn 1, I let out on the gas and let it ride through the corner about mid-way then accelerate again. Down the back stretch I go but I'm lagging behind the pace car a little bit. As I approach the start/finish line, I see the wadded up green flag, which basically means: catch up!

Our instructors told us, as you get more comfortable in the car, the lap times will get faster. That was certainly true for me as my fastest lap was my last lap. I wanted to go faster but you are not allowed to pass the pace car, which sets your speed limit at around 140 mph. In retrospect, it's probably a good thing. I wouldn't give the keys to a newbie and let them go 180 mph either!

After pulling up to a stop and climbing out of the car, I had a big smile on my face. What a tremendous experience! No, I didn't set a track record or anything but had an awesome time behind the wheel! My best lap: Lap 8: 136.71 mph; time: 46.27 seconds. My brother? Nearly identical: 136.00 mph, 46.47 seconds. No, I don't expect Richard Petty to call me anytime soon to drive for him but that's OK. I was King for a day.

Thank you sweetie!!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Catching my breath

It's been non-stop action here the last 24 hours! Of course, we had the round of severe weather and heavy rainfall yesterday. This morning, it was a quick turnaround to fill in for Mark, who is taking a couple of well-deserved days off. He filled in for me on Sunday morning as my family and I made a short trip up to Kansas City for some weekend fun. More on that in a future blog.

If you were watching the AM show, I hope I didn't come across as too sleepy! Honestly, I don't know how Mark does it 5 days a week. I'm told he has some stock in Starbucks although I have not been able to confirm it. That would be a great Fact Finder 12 story I guess.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Busy day wrapping up

The worst of the weather is now northeast of Wichita and continuing into east central Kansas. The air up that way is less unstable thanks to all of the clouds and rain today. Storms will continue to weaken this evening.

KWCH Storm Chaser Lance Ferguson has reported wind damage in Andover, near US-54 and Andover Road and even more significant damage at 13th and Andover Road. It appears this was the result of straight line winds. Information continues to come in so we may have more this evening on our 10pm news.

If you have any storm shots, please send them to

Enjoy the quieter weather tomorrow!

Afternoon update

Storms continue to fire to the southwest of Wichita. We've had reports of tennis ball size hail north of Medicine Lodge. One of our storm chasers near there also reported some very brief funnel clouds but that storm has now fallen apart. Now we have a long line of storms from Kingman county through Harper County then into Grant County, Oklahoma.

At this point, it's looking more like a wind and hail threat here. These storms may even weaken a little more the closer they get to Wichita. Time will tell.

This afternoon...

I'm watching very closely the area out to the west of Pratt and Medicine Lodge where clear skies are found and the area is heating up. Dodge City is already in the mid-70s but their wind is southwesterly. The dryline (a boundary separating moist air to the east from very dry air west) is located just east of Dodge. This dryline would be an ideal area for storms to develop. In fact, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK is watching this area closely too.

The cold rain in Wichita not only is putting a damper on the day but may very well keep us from getting the worst of the severe weather.

Wow...I'm growing increasingly concerned about western Oklahoma. Yeah, that's out of our viewing area. They are clearing out, there is plenty of moisture...they could have a very busy day down there this afternoon/evening.

Some of our chasers are already out.

Welcome to my Blog!

Greetings! Thanks for taking time to stop by my new blog. I hope it's a little entertaining and a little informative too. If I can put a smile on your face from time to time, even better!

Here at KWCH, I wear a couple of hats. In addition to my on-air duties, I am the Storm Coordinator for our chase efforts. What is a Storm Coordinator? I'm responsible for directing the storm chasers we have (8 highly motivated, well-trained chasers by the way!). On busy storm days, I'll send out a morning advisory to our newsroom, chasers and our radio partners at KFDI to let them know about the weather threat. Usually, the storm chasers are already on top of things...looking at weather information a few days ahead of time!

As the storm chasers deploy, I'll continue to pour over the latest weather information. I want to be sure that every chaser is in a position to safely report on those storms. If one of them sees a tornado, you'll hear their eyewitness report on the air.

It's ironic that I've started my blog today on what could be a busy weather day. We have 6 of the 8 eight chasers available today to help us keep an eye on the storms. Check back in frequently for updates here on my blog and to for weather coverage you can count on!