And Here’s Bill With the Weather…

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.


18 responses to “And Here’s Bill With the Weather…

  1. I have since heard information that the school closure in Stevens Point was not actually related to the weather situation, but that the weather made a handy excuse. Stay tuned.

  2. I grew up in a small town in the northwoods of Wisconsin. Our head of construction grew up in a similiar situation. I don’t want to go into the whole walking to school in 2′ snowbanks against the wind, uphill, both ways… but I do think that the standards for calling school has changed.

    About two or three years ago, there was this prediction for a massive blizzard, a foot or more of snow.. heavy winds, etc. Based on this forcasts, schools were cancelled the next day because of the impending doom. We found it odd that now the weatherman could cancel school and not just weather itself. We found it interesting to say the least when the next day, the storm never really developed, but the kids must have loved the “free” snow day.

    Now, about yesterday. Yes, the storms did materialize, but I have lived in Wisconsin my entire life and I would not call yesterday’s storms out of the ordinary for things that we see here a couple of times a year, this time of year. Was it worth calling of school for.. no!

    Although not a parent, I do have to think… if there is a good chance of very severe weather, where would I want my kids… would I want them home.. alone (because I couldn’t get off work for a storm) in a stick-built house? Alone to face what could be very frightening for them? Or would I want them in a school, normally full masonry buildings, surrounded by their friends and adult supervision. Seems like an easy choice.

    A friend who is a retired teacher was of the opinion though that much has to do with PR… if 10-15 kids get injured in a city because of storm damage, that is sad.. but if 2-3 kids get injured in a school, it is a tragidy worth national news attention.

    We are Wisconsinites.. we are tough.. we laugh when southern states call classes if there is one snow flake.. please let us not turn into them.

  3. I say this…for the most part it was the last day of school yesterday. I think the kids going home early is about as relevant as my love of ribbon cutting.

    But a conspiracy sounds interesting Bill. I wonder what the real reason could have been.

  4. I will agree, John, that when severe weather comes it does look like it did yesterday, but for early June, it was a pretty significant event. Apparently too, we just dodged a bullet as there was a fairly large tornado just east and a bit north of here. Here is the summary from the NWS of yesterday’s storms:

    That is only part of the list, as it comes from the Green Bay office of the NWS and we are on the western end of their service area, here is a similar list from the La Crosse office:

    There was plenty going on yesterday, that is for sure!

  5. My daughter graduated yesterday from the 4K program at Wausau Childcare on Franklin. The ceremony, though originally schedule for 3:30 p.m., but was moved up to noon due to the weather. As I arrived they notified me that they were closing the school at 2:30. Considering they don’t have a basement, I felt much better with having her home during the storm. I’d much rather err on the side of caution and appreciate that they did too.

  6. So yesterday was a significant event sort of thing for Weather guys? Hmm.

    Thats neat. Cool links.

  7. of course it was significant for the weather guys.. they predicted severe storms a day or two out.. and severe storms came..

    they got one right… WOWSERS

  8. It might not qualify as much in Oklahoma or Kansas, but it was a pretty significant event for this area. I think it is also true that had it been just a bit warmer and more humid earlier in the week that things could have been much worse.
    And actually, John, as a bit of a weather geek, I have to stand up for the Weather Service on this one. Everyday during the “weather season” the NWS issues “convection outlooks” (you can see the latest ones, with a lot of other weather geek stuff here: If you take a look you will notice smaller circles which indicate higher probabilities of active weather for up to 3 days out. I have not done a statistical analysis on this one, so I might be fooling myself, but it seems like very, very often, the area of high probabilty of active weather which is in the forecast today has a watch box on it the next day. Almost exactly the same place and almost all the time. Long range, large scale computer modeling of the atmosphere is obviously very advanced and pretty accurate.
    Unfortunately this does not necessarily translate to accurate localized forecasts. That is to say they predict storms in “central Wisconsin” but whether it is Wausau, Merrill, Stevens Point or Wisconsin Rapids that gets them is still very hard to predict much more than an hour or two in advance.
    Which gives me another change to plug one of my favorite community groups. Here in Wausau and in communities all over the country a bunch of lunatics (I am one, so I can say this) go out when severe weather is brewing, watch the sky and relay their observations (generally over amateur radio) to the National Weather Service. And these are NOT a bunch of glory hounds looking to get some video on the Weather Channel. These people pretty much go out to the same spot somewhere in the county time after time, reporting what they see to the NWS so that more accurate and timely warnings can be given to the public.
    Even in with today’s high tech radars and computers, the NWS spends quite a bit of time and money traning and working with these spotter networks. So, it is important and necessary work, which is carried out on a totally volunteer basis by the spotters. Someone once said that the greatest symbol of “mans humanity to man” was the firetruck. A “Skywarn” sticker on the car window might rank right up there. When the sirens are going off and you are heading for the basement, somewhere someone else is sitting in their car in the middle of the storm making that warning possible so the rest of us can be safe. So, a big “thank you” should go out to all the storm spotters, both volunteer and those in law enforcement and public safety jobs.
    More and more tornadoes and severe weather events are reported every year — mostly because more eyes are looking for them. And all those eyes do save lives.

  9. I swear I just want to hold Bill in my arms and gently rock him and say, Dont worry, this too shall pass.

    Holy Weather Geek batman

  10. I am no where close to even being the worst weather geek, believe me.

  11. Hey, I know. I was a little worried about you when I found out about HAM, but thank GAWD that turned out okay.

    But for fun…

    In the dewey decimal system, where do books about weather appear? (Without looking it up)

  12. I thought maybe I knew, but I looked it up and I was wrong. 😉 Now ask me where the cycling books are, or Buddhism or cooking.

  13. Here is some fruther information from the NWS on the tornadoes in our area. First the tornado that touched down near Hatley:

    And here is the torndado that was east of us that we were very fortunate seems to have gone mostly through unpopulated areas. Had this gone through a metro area, it would have certainly been national news.

  14. So, for fun…where are the books on Buddhism in the dewey decimal system, and accordingly where are those books in the Wausau library?

  15. 294 is the call number. In the general section of the library they are in the section of shelves on the west side of the 2nd floor, I think like the third row of shelves counting from the north end.

  16. Have your read the Wausau libraries in house collection comprehensively?

  17. To dino yes bill has read them all and remembers every word someday his brain is going to explode it is so filled up!

  18. I haven’t read them all yet, no. 🙂

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