Friday, March 28, 2008

A few random thoughts on a Friday morning

I hope you're enjoying your week! I'm back in the office today filling in for Mark as he enjoys some time off. If you are watching me and Kim tomorrow morning, be kind: I'll be short on sleep thanks to the late KU game (and hoping like crazy the Davidson-Wisconsin game just before that doesn't go into overtime!) Go Hawks!

Can you believe it's almost April? Just a few more days and we'll enter what is typically our 3 most active severe weather months of the year: April, May and June (May is the worst usually). You'll notice in our extended forecast that we do have some storm chances late Saturday night through Monday as a front will stall out over the area. In addition to some rough weather, locally heavy rainfall will be a concern too, especially south and east of the Turnpike. Most important to all of this will be the eventual position of the front. We'll have a better idea tomorrow...even with little sleep!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A short little road trip to Omaha

It's nice to have slept in my own bed last night after spending a couple of days out of town. My family and I traveled to Omaha for the first day of NCAA tourney there at the Qwest Center. We were fortunate enough to get tickets from my wife's uncle, who lives up there. Not only did we get to visit them...we saw lots of basketball too! It was the first time I'd watched a tournament game in person. The atmosphere was great with lots of school colors and pride and most importantly, KU won. I hope that streak continues today.

During the breaks in the action on Thursday, the scoreboard displayed trivia for the crowd to answer, with topics covering past athletes and school fight songs, just to name a couple of examples. During one of those breaks in the KSU-USC game, a school fight song played over the PA system and the crowd had to figure out whose school it belonged to. I don't know if there was a KU grad running the scoreboard or if was just dumb luck but they played the KU fight song "I'm a Jayhawk." It took the K-State fans, oh about 2 seconds to figure it out and the chorus of boos filled the arena. Meanwhile, the rest of the KU crowd (me included) clapped through the song, smiling and enjoying the irony. To be fair, had they played K-State's fight song during KU's game, we would have given it the same treatment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Atlanta tornado: some thoughts

By now, I'm sure you heard about the tornado that touched down in Atlanta Friday night. Ross mentioned it in his latest blog but I also wanted to touch on it. The National Weather Service rated the tornado as EF-2 and estimated the winds were near 130mph at its strongest point. It passed 100 yards to the north of the Georgia Dome where over 18,000 people were watching the SEC men's basketball tournament game between Alabama and Mississippi State. If you haven't seen it, here's a link to a clip of the game as it was interrupted. In addition, it hit nearby Phillips Arena where a NBA game was being played (over 16,000 people there).

The National Weather Service issued the Tornado Warning at 9:30pm and the tornado first touched down at 9:38pm. It affected the Georgia Dome around 9:40pm. At the Dome and the arena, none of the participating fans were informed in advance of the tornado. From what I've read, the officials said they got notice of the warning pretty much as the tornado struck. However, the most troubling aspect of all: it appears that both facilities didn't use or perhaps didn't even have a plan of action for severe weather.

Ironically, just 2 weeks ago when I was in Norman for the National Severe Weather Workshop, I heard a talk on this very subject: Proactive or Reactive? The Severe Storm Threat to Large Event Venues. As Les Lemon, one of the co-authors of the paper, stated during his talk: "it's not a matter of if, but when." Sometime in the future at some big event, severe weather will strike. Mr. Lemon believes that if the folks in charge of these events don't have a severe weather plan to get the attendees to shelter, people will die and the death toll could be in the hundreds, perhaps in the thousands.

We're lucky so far...there have been several close calls at events like this.

I still don't understand why it took so long for the Dome officials to receive the warning. I don't know what technology they have in place to monitor the weather. Do they have a weather radio? Do they monitor local TV or radio broadcasts? All I can say is that if they didn't use their plan, they should have and if they don't have one, they need one. Every large venue (NASCAR tracks, football and baseball stadiums, arenas) needs to have some kind of plan of action to protect the people attending. Had the tornado made a direct strike on the Dome and the roof collapsed, who knows how high the death toll would have been.

Friday, March 14, 2008

We're on Storm Watch

Are you ready for a little March Madness? The second day of the Big 12 tourney is underway and it should be another exciting day of play. I hope to watch the KU game tonight if storms don't get in the way of that.

Yep, storms will be possible late this afternoon and into the evening, especially along the Kansas/Oklahoma border and south. Large hail and high winds will be the main threats. I've been watching the moisture to our southeast and I have to tell you, the moisture doesn't look that impressive so far. It's not very deep (200m deep at Norman, OK and 700m deep at Shreveport, LA) and not very rich (dewpoints in the low 50's). I have a feeling that the best moisture won't get up here to Wichita in time. In any event, all of the KWCH Storm Chasers have been alerted! We'll be keeping a close eye on that through the evening.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eye on the Storm

I hope you enjoyed our severe weather special last night, "Eye on the Storm". I was really happy with how the program turned out.

It's another nice day I'm going to stop typing and go outside! See you on Friday!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Report from Sooner Land

I hope you enjoyed the pleasant weather yesterday! I know my family enjoyed spending a lot of time outdoors.

I spent last Thursday, Friday and most of Saturday in Norman at the National Severe Weather Workshop. This workshop is a gathering of meteorologists, emergency managers, media, storm chasers and other folks with an interest in the weather. This is my third year in a row in going to the workshop and once again they presented a lot of great information. In addition, I got to catch up with some old college friends and weather colleagues.

Here's a couple of pictures of my trip. The first one is the National Weather Center on the OU Campus, where the talks on Saturday were held. The second picture is the last speaker of the Saturday morning session, Dr. Chuck Doswell.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Storm chase: Update 3:16pm

Two of our chasers are heading west from Harper, KS heading toward a storm that was previously tornado-warned east of Buffalo, OK. It appears the storm has crossed north of the cold front into more stable air. While the rotation is still strong, I think for now the tornado potential has diminished. Hail is certainly a concern though and we'll continue to watch it.

Storms this afternoon

Yesterday I wasn't overly concerned about severe weather as we expected a cold front to reach Wichita by lunchtime. Well, that thinking has changed a bit today!! The front is now forecast to get here around 4-5pm...right at peak heating.

Does it look like a huge severe weather event? The good news is no. Some large hail and high winds will be possible from around 2-7PM today. The KWCH Storm Chasers have been put on alert!

Right now, I'm looking at satellite trends and the data we get from the weather balloons the National Weather Service sends up twice a day (upper air data). There's a decent weather disturbance moving out of eastern New Mexico and into west Texas currently and that will move our way later this afternoon. This is all out ahead of the bigger system that's in the central and northern Rockies, which is already spreading snow to Denver. After the severe weather chance today we'll concern ourselves with some wintry weather tonight and tomorrow. I know, that's not what you want to hear!