By Bill Coady
Those of you who know me and who have followed the blog for a while know that I am a bit (OK, maybe more than a bit) of a weather geek. No expert by any means, but do keep advised of things and help out the local amateur radio club with storm spotting when I can.
So, like everyone else, I was a bit concerned when I checked out the forecast this morning and saw that conditions were setting up as a virtual certainty for severe weather today. Frankly, anyone who thinks that weather forecasting is so inaccurate as to be useless can learn from today. Several days ago the long term models showed conditions were going to be ripe here for severe weather today — and those predictions were perfect. Yesterday and this morning the National Weather Service was again saying that conditions would be almost certain for severe weather. Which in fact did happen.
Tornado warnings were issued all over Central Wisconsin this afternoon and preliminary reports indicate that one or possibly two tornadoes touched down east of Wausau near Ringle. For this time of year, this was in fact a pretty significant “outbreak” of severe weather. So, the Weather Service got their part right.
That being said, I do have to wonder out loud and denizens of the blog can certainly discuss whether cancelling schools on the basis of the forecast was wise. Of course this is a two edge sword. A tornado warning was issued for the Stevens Point area (where schools were cancelled for the day) but it came around 4:30 when schools would not have been in session anyway. Merrill area schools had an early dismissal (which I think made more sense) but bascially no storms were reported in the Merrill area, although tornado warnings for areas north of Merrill were issued during the day.
I think it is very worthwhile to continue to talk about the appropriate level of warning and caution in regard to the weather, especially when it comes to schools.
At one severe weather training someone who works for the weather service (who does not want to be quoted) said that he personally feels the threat from torndoes is over rated. He feels the other threats from thunderstorms — high winds, hail, lightning, and especially flash flooding — being more common, actually pose a bigger threat to life and property. But, he said, if the attention to tornadoes got people to pay attention to thunderstorms, he was all for it.
So, although today’s severe weather event seems to be over, keep your eyes on the skies and let us know what you think about what kind of weather warnings we need — and when schools, businesses, and other organizations should change their schedules and behaviors based on those weather warnings.