What can we help you with?

This is our new and fully redesigned FAQ's page! This is where your most daunting questions, and most often asked questions are located. We have grouped the questions into categories which should make finding things much easlier. Still, if you don't find what you need here, you can also feel free to contact us.

Group Categories

  • General Questions

      G-1 What is a tornado anyway?
      G-2 When did your office open for business?
      G-3 Does your office issue watches and warnings?
      G-4 How has your office helped people stay safe during severe weather?
      G-5 Why does your office have a quiz on severe weather safety anyway?
      G-6 What is a waterspout? Is it really dangerous like they say it is?
      G-7 If the Storm Prediction Center issues all watches, who issues the warnings?
      G-8 How does Doppler radar increase severe storm warning lead times?
      G-9 I heard tornadoes are rare in this region. Is this really true?
      G-10 Why do they claim that opening your windows before a tornado strikes is unwise?
      G-11 I have always outran tornadoes with success. Why should I stop now?
      G-12 I heard that it's unsafe to capture video of a tornado during a warning. True?
      G-13 Is it true that flash floods can sweep a vehicle away?
      G-14 What is the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?
      G-15 I've heard tornadoes don't strike large cities due to the tall buildings. Is this true?
      G-16 What is this new "Dual Polarization" upgrade, and how will it improve severe weather prediction?
      G-17 Why do you have a tropical page being that tropical storms and hurricanes don't affect this area?
      G-18 I thought your expertise was severe weather prediction, not winter storms!
      G-19 Do you always honor requests of clients, and no-one else?
      G-20 I see you no longer have your PDS page. Why?
      G-21 Your office did have tours in the past. Do you still have office tours?
      G-22 It's one thing to take the holidays off, but why Saturday and Sunday too?
      G-23 I've always heard a person can be "sucked" up inside a tornado funnel. Is this true?
      G-24 It seems that after SPC updated and changed all their outlook products, now your office is following suite. Are you trying to mimick what SPC has done?
      G-25 I see your tropical weather page has dissappeared. What happened to it?
      G-26 You guys were talking about a replacement for the mesoscale discussion product for some time now. What's going on?

  • Statistical Questions

      ST-1 What is the average number of days with thunderstorms for this area?
      ST-2 What is the average number of tornadoes for each state in your coverage region?
      ST-3 How many "killer" tornadoes does this region have on average each year?
      ST-4 Can you tell me the average path length, path width, and intensity of tornadoes around here?
      ST-5 What is the average forward speed of a tornado?
      ST-6 Approximately, how many people are killed or injured in tornadoes around here?
      ST-7 Please tell me what was the largest hailstone reported in this region?
      ST-8 I've heard a tornado can produce winds over 300 mph. Is this really true?
      ST-9 Is it really true that lightening can strike from up to 10 miles from a thunderstorm?
      ST-10 Can you tell me if lightening kills more people then tornadoes and hurricanes?
      ST-11 Can you tell me what the average yearly tornado count is for this area?

    Answers to all questions above...

    1. Question #1

      Answer: By definition, a tornado is a violent twisting windstorm, which is characterized by a funnel shaped pendant extending from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. It is not officially classified however, as a tornado unless the funnel has contact with the ground. We have a web page devoted entirely to tornadoes, which you can get to here.
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    2. Question #2

      Answer: Our office began operations on 1 March 1996. Our office was very small back then and based out of our founder's apartment. A few years later our office moved into a new building.
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    3. Question #3

      Answer: We are frequently asked this by many people! The simple answer is "no". We are a small and private firm specializing in severe local storm analysis and prediction. We never had, nor ever will have any connections or ties with NOAA's National Weather Service. Only NWS personnel have authority to issue any such watches or warnings to the public. Whenever a watch or warning is issued, it is displayed on the warnings page.
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    4. Question #4

      Answer: Since 1999, we have mustard together many clients from a number of businesses, schools and colleges, hospitals, and others from around our coverage region. This also includes many others in the general public who also use our products. In 2003, our office was recognized and received awards from several of our clients for providing highly accurate forecast products, and timely warning of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. In 2010, our office again received high recognition and praise for providing timely notice of tornadoes and Derecho events. Our office is a "leader" in providing highly accurate forecast products, and providing sufficient time prior to a storm to take shelter, and we take pride in knowing our work saves lives. It's also part of our mission "to assist the National Weather Service, and/or other agencies in getting the word out to the people in enough time to reach safety".
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    5. Question #5

      Answer: Many people out their still have little or no idea of severe weather safety, or how to develop a plan for safe action, or even how or where suitable shelter may be located. Two lead forecasters from our office did a study on this back in 2002. The results from that study concluded that indeed, a better way to spread the word and educate the public was needed. To that end, they created the online severe weather "safety" quiz. The primary purpose for this quiz is to allow you to "examine" yourself and see what you do know about severe weather safety. This is not any kind of "pass" or "fail" quiz. It will however, score your answers, and let you know if you need to freshen up more. Best of all, only you see your results, nobody else, not even our staff will see it. Anyone can take this quiz, and as many times as you wish. We've since learned that many people who took the quiz, now have a much better understanding of severe weather safety.
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    6. Question #6

      Answer: A waterspout is basically a tornado which forms or moves over a body of water. Waterspouts are very dangerous to boaters and other marine interests alike. If you see a waterspout headed toward you, head for safe harbor at once.
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    7. Question #7

      Answer: All severe weather warnings (severe thunderstorm, tornado, and flash flood) originate from the local National Weather Service offices. The primary reason for this is because the staff at the Storm Prediction Center look at all the lower 48 states (national), and the local offices focus on their area(s) of responsibility (local). In addition, the local offices have the necessary tools to probe a developing storm and asses it's severe potential.
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    8. Question #8

      Answer: WSR-88D or "Doppler" radar has proven to be a very useful tool in determining a storms's potential to become severe, thereby allowing forecasters to issue warnings to the public much sooner then previous methods. Doppler radar can send and receive packets of data (waves), which reflect off the targets and return to the radar site. Forecasters at each National Weather Service office can then select several different modes to scan inside a thunderstorm, to view not only precipitation, but also wind circulations, hail potential, and TVS "Tornado Vorticity Signatures". Other mesoscale features allow for intensity to be determined. A recent upgrade to Doppler radar known as "Dual Pole", opens up even more features, including being able to detect debris circulating around a tornado funnel. Because forecasters can now scan storms quicker, and evaluate it's potential to become severe, warnings can be issued much sooner to the public. This gives you more time to seek shelter.
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    9. Question #9

      Answer: Except for the western states, there is no single area where tornadoes are rare across the country, much less our coverage region. So then, "no" tornadoes are not rare in our neck of the woods, but are common, especially in Iowa, southern Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana. What is rare is the strong to violent killer tornadoes (F/EF3 - F/EF5) on the Fujita/enhanced Fujita scales.
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    10. Question #10

      Answer: It was once felt that by opening the windows to your home when a tornado was approaching was a way to reduce the damage to your home by equalizing the pressure on the walls and roof. However, recent studies of tornado damage by scientists at the "National Severe Storms Laboratory" and the "Jet Propulsion Laboratory" have concluded overwhelmingly that opening your windows when a tornado is approaching has nothing to do with equalizing the pressure inside your home. In fact, if a tornado funnel actually got close enough to your home, or passed directly over it, chances are the violent winds around the funnel will have already done the most damage. This is why it is unwise to open the windows. Instead, you should use that time to seek shelter.
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    11. Question #11

      Answer: Attempting to outrun a tornado, even in areas you are well familiar with, is not only foolish, but unwise. In the first place, you don't know how fast the tornado is traveling. Sure, you may hear on the radio that it's moving at 35 miles per hour to the northeast. But, that information was for when the bulletin was issued (several minutes ago). In as little as 10 minutes, the speed and direction of a tornado can and does change, abruptly! Secondly, the same thunderstorm producing the tornado your trying to outrun, may produce another tornado nearly on top of your location leaving you nearly zero chances to escape safely. For these reasons, you should not try to outrun a tornado.
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    12. Question #12

      Answer: Here is yet another unwise and potentially fatal thing to attempt. Some of the local radio and/or TV stations run contests which require those who choose to participate, to go outside when a severe thunderstorm, or tornado is approaching, and take pictures or shoot video of the inbound storm. However, they do so at their own risk. They place themselves at great danger of being struck by lightning, pelted by large or even jumbo sized hailstones, and even blown around by the fierce winds. Just being struck by lightning alone can kill you! The wisest thing to do is avoid participating in any such contests. Your life should be of utmost value to you.
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    13. Question #13

      Answer: Good question! Yes, it is true. Flash floods are basically swift moving torrents of water which can pick up rocks, boulders, debris from buildings, uproot trees, and engulf whole homes. It only takes about six (6) inches of swift moving water to sweep you off your feet. It only takes about two (2) feet of water to float most vehicles including SUV's and pickup trucks away. If you become stranded in a flooded out section of roadway, abandon the vehicle at once, and move to higher ground. If you are unable to abandon your vehicle safely, stay inside and yell for help. This is why you should never drive your vehicle into a flooded section of roadway, even if the water appears shallow. Remember, "turn around, don't drown".
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    14. Question #14

      Answer: This is perhaps the most frequently asked question! You need to understand that there IS a difference between a watch and a warning. All tornado and severe thunderstorm watches are issued by a specialized agency of the National Weather Service known as the "Storm Prediction Center" based in Norman, Oklahoma. When a tornado "watch" is issued by the Storm Prediction Center, it means that atmospheric conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes within or near the watch area. However, this is not a warning! The watch gives people living in or near the watch area advance notice of possible severe weather over the next several hours. During the watch, review your severe weather safety plan, and if you plan any outdoor activities, keep an eye to the sky occasionally. Watch for cumulus clouds which tower up into the atmosphere. Be ready to respond quickly to a warning. The local National Weather Service offices will issue any tornado or severe thunderstorm warnings needed. Because warnings are issued on a county by county basis, it's vital to know what county you live in.
      Note: In 2009, the National Weather Service switched from county based warnings to "storm based warnings". Using storm based warnings, only those parts of individual counties which are at highest risk for severe storms are warned, leaving the remainder of the county out of the warning. This type of warning ensures only those areas of counties where the highest degree of threat exists will be under warning.
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    15. Question #15

      Answer: This has proven to be a myth and has no merit. Tall buildings, such as skyscrapers, or bodies of water in the local area have no effect on an approaching tornado. In fact, tornadoes have already occurred in larger cities like Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Chicago, Illinois, and even Detroit, Michigan.
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    16. Question #16

      Answer: This upgrade began in 2011 and was complete about a year later. This was basically a software upgrade which would improve some capabilities of the radar. For instance, it allows for a more accurate precipitation estimate plot, which is very useful in predicting heavy rain or snowfall accumulation. The heavy rainfall accumulation is useful for flash flood events. The upgrade also allows us to visualize "see" what specific precipitation is occurring within thunderstorms or areas of rain or snow. However, as to severe weather prediction, the software update don't provide any new enhancements. But, the upgrade did not really focus on severe weather prediction. It was just a basic software upgrade, with a few interesting new features.
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    17. Question #17

      Answer: Good question! But this has changed. See question #25 below.
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    18. Question #18

      Answer: That's correct. Our primary specialty focuses on severe local storms and tornadoes, and their prediction. Back in 2003, we placed online as an experimental product, which focused on winter weather, and winter storms. We felt that expanding our forecast wings out would provide more hits "visits" to our web site, as well as provide some interesting winter statistics and winter storm outlooks. That turned out to be not such a good idea, and we dropped that page a year later. But in 2010, we started to receive feedback from many of our clients who were requesting a winter weather page. The reasons given ranged from travel to recreational activity. After some debate and even running an online poll, it seemed that this request was backed up and favored. We therefore, re debuted the original winter page, with a few enhancements. This time, it stuck, and we have added a few additional pages as well.
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    19. Question #19

      Answer: Our staff is not biased to anyone, nor do we play favorites. That said, we do listen to requests, concerns, or comments made by our clients, and the general public at large. If we feel the request or issue is valid and will serve a useful purpose, it may be supported, but not always. If the request won't fit into anything useful, it will be saved for possible use at a later time. Regardless of whether or not a request or issue is supported, we listen to everyone and their ideas and suggestions. This kind of communication is very important to us and our work.
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    20. Question #20

      Answer: The primary reason that page was discontinued is really two-fold. First, widespread major outbreaks of either tornadoes or Derecho events across our coverage region is rare (less then 1 percent region wide). Second, recent trends in violent "killer" tornado outbreaks have went down to about 0.1 percent. This is down markedly from 1980, when that ratio was 3.5 percent. Since such violent outbreaks are rare, and the latest climatology trends support this rarity, it was felt that the PDS page had to be removed from the web site. PDS will however, still appear in our severe weather outlooks and special statements we issue.
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    21. Question #21

      Answer: No. We discontinued giving tours back in 2009. Plans are in the works to hoist an online "virtual" tour of our office. However, it is unknown when that project will be completed at this time. Check with our office news page to find out when this will be online.
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    22. Question #22

      Answer: Some staff members of our office live in other cities and towns beside the greater Stevens Point area, and therefore are not always able to come in to work on the weekend. In addition, many staff members make prior plans to be with family and friends over the weekend as well. As a result, it was decided to keep a five (5) day work week, and everyone takes the weekends off.
      Note: The only exception to this is if severe weather is expected or occurring over the weekend, in which case, the storm center will be staffed.
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    23. Question #23

      Answer: This was another common belief going back to the early 1970's at least. Even the late Dr. Ted Fujita, who went on to develop the original tornado intensity scale, also held the theory that the low air pressure inside the tornado vortex "funnel", created a vacuum type of lifting, thereby "sucking" up debris, animals, or even people into the funnel, then dropping them once the tornado weakened and died out. In 2010, a team of researchers and scientists from the National Severe Storms Laboratory did a study of the impacts caused by tornadoes across the central plain states. Investigated with that study, was the old theory that a vacuum was created inside the tornado vortex, causing it to not only blow, but suck debris into it. The results of that study concluded overwhelmingly that while the vortex of a tornado does contain low air pressure, there is no suction created within it. Therefore, the violent wind circulation around and near the funnel "blows" debris everywhere, and does not suck. This recent conclusion highly disputes Dr. Ted Fujita's theory as well.
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    24. Question #24

      Answer: No, we are not attempting to mimick, copy, or duplicate any content from any web- site. This is something which is forbidden practice, and will not be tolerated. Oue policies state that our products need to be evaluated every four (4) to five (5) years to ensure it is providing the necessary information, it's usefulness, and is easily understood by our clients and public at large. Many of our products were found to be out-of-date and did not provide sufficient enough information our clients needed. To that end, it was decided to revise and update our short term severe weather outlooks (day one, day two, and day three). In addition, the outlook center page was redesigned and updated. Now, we have plans to change and update our existing 4 to 8 day severe weather outlook and our heavy rainfall flood outlook products. In addition, a new experimental nowcast product is being evaluated which, if it becomes operational, will replace the former mesoscale discussion product. So in the nutshell, these product revisions and updates are all part of our commitment to provide you with the very latest and most accurate and timely driven information in the coverage region.
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    25. Question #25

      Answer: For a number of years, we had an online tropical weather page for our various clients and other users of our products. In 2013, we lost the system software used to generate the products that were on the page. Then in late 2016 (last year), our staff re-evaluated the usefulness and need for that page since the effects from tropical remnents are very rare in our coverage region. The staff reached an unamimous decision to take the page down from our web aite. That decision did spark some conflict amongst our clients. But their is little need for a page about something which does not effect our region.
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    26. Question #26

      Answer: We apologize for the delay, but continue to work out some issues related to "mapping" on the page. We are trying to incorporate "Google maps" into the image parser so that a much more detailed map image is displayed for showing the information necessary for the discussion. This product, once it comes online will be called a "Situation Report". A link already exists in the day 1 Convective Outlook. [Back to the top]

    Answers (Prediction)

    1. Question #1

      Answer: Great question! The answer to this is two-fold. The main focus over the past 30-40 years has centered around tornadoes, how destructive they are, and how we forecasted them. This led the public to become familiar with them, and to seek shelter when a tornado threatened. In the meantime, pamphlets and brochures put out by NOAA's Government Printing Office, were also emphasizing the importance of large hail and destructive straight line winds. However, the public never responded to the information contained in the brochures, so they knew little about those hazards. By 1980, the National Weather Service launched a campaign to help educate and illustrate the impacts of these elements, along with lightning safety. It wasn't until 1998 that the public began to respond to the educational efforts about large hail and damaging thunderstorm winds. While the emphasis still centers on tornadoes, the public has become much more familiar with the hail and wind factors too. This is one reason why we have severe thunderstorm watches. The other reason is because not all thunderstorms will produce a tornado. Occasionally, conditions in the atmosphere do not become conducive for tornado development, but are conducive for large hail and damaging wind events. So remember, treat all severe thunderstorm watches with the same importance you would treat tornado watches.
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    2. Question #2

      Answer: No, we can't. While great strides have been made over the past 30 year period to study the pre storm atmospheric environment which is conducive to tornadic development, including a host of new computer systems, radar and satellite products, and a wealth of new data, we still have not been able to attempt this kind of prediction. Precision scale forecasting of features very tiny on the mesoscale is going to require a lot more skill and advanced training so that this kind of forecasting can be done in the future. In the meantime, the best we can do is predict the broader areas where the potential for severe weather exists.
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    3. Question #3

      Answer: When SELS began to issue daily forecasts for severe weather in 1955, those messages were transmitted via teletype to local field and district offices of the Weather Bureau. Those offices would then incorporate the severe weather potential into the local and state forecasts. As such, the severe weather forecasts were intended for use by the local and district offices, not the public. In addition, the forecasts contained contractions of words and was explained in technical terms the public would not fully understand. It was a lot like reading a medical journal. It was written in plain language, but unless you had a good medical background, you had trouble understanding it. This forecast technique continued until 2006, when the Storm Prediction Center started using less contractions and technical lingo. This was largely due to the Internet being so popular these days, that anyone can read those discussions, and have little difficulty understanding them. But, those outlooks are still only intended for forecaster at the local National Weather Service offices.
      Note: Our Storm Center has used contractions and technical language in all our severe weather outlooks until 2011, when numerous requests flooded our office to define the discussions/synopsis. This prompted our staff to slack off on both the contractions and technical lingo. We still will occasionally use a few contractions and technical terms, but this is rare.
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    4. Question #4

      Answer: No. But, they have become a part of the convective outlooks issued by the Storm Prediction Center since 1999, when the probability was first introduced into the outlooks. The main objective with the then "new" probabilities was to enhance the forecast by taking the existing categorical risk levels, and break those down into calculated severe weather contours. Each of those contours had a numerical value. This was illustrated as a percentage. Let's take a categorical slight risk area for example. The probability contour value would be shown as 15 percent. This implies that their is a small chance for isolated to scattered severe activity across that area. So as you can see, by using the probabilities in conjunction with the legacy categorical risks, provides a much better idea of the chances for each severe element to occur. Our Storm Center did not begin the usage of these probabilities until mid 2006.
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    5. Question #5

      Answer: Good question! While it's true that our overall forecast skill has improved greatly over what it was in the mid 1980's, and even prior to that, you need to keep in mind that this applies only to short term forecasting. Accuracy with short term forecasts is now at 95 percent, give or take 5 percent either way. But, when we attempt to forecast further ahead into the future, our skill drops off markedly, especially the more ahead you go in time. As a result, the forecast accuracy suffers and you end up with essentially an educated "guess" as to what may happen. Both our Storm Center and SPC staff use medium range computer models together with climatology to compose our longer lead severe weather outlook products. The caveat with this is that we have a large number of models and ensembles, each showing a different solution. This adds even more challenges of trying to be more precise with these products. Therefore, please remember that this outlook is intended solely as guidance, so forecast errors may be large.
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    6. Question #6

      Answer: Yes we did, and there are reasons for this. While it's true, those discussions were very useful to many clients and others using our products, they really failed to generate the full usefulness as we intended them to. Further, we found that some clients were actually using computer simulations of radar, surface and upper air contours, something we don't have online right now. Given these factors, it was decided to discontinue the product effective 14 June 2014. We do plan to debut a replacement product on an experimental basis in the near future. Details of what will be included in that product are unclear at this time.
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    7. Question #7

      Answer: There are far too many parameters to mention here, and each one is vital to our forecast mission. However, a few parameters which are looked at include:

      - Temperature profiles throughout the atmosphere;
      - Atmospheric pressure throughout the atmosphere;
      - Wind direction and speed throughout the atmosphere;
      - Radar and satellite data;
      - Short range forecast information from the models;
      - Sounding data from many locations;

      These data along with other information are collected and analyzed thoroughly by our OM forecasters, who also work with lead forecasters. The data is updated almost continuously so that we can keep track on how the atmosphere is behaving. Driven by all this data and information, forecaster then write the appropriate outlook discussions, gather together the corresponding graphics, and they are placed online. We do all this on a time deadline everyday.
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    8. Question #8

      Answer: First off, this is just a phrase, or "enhanced wording" which was (and still is) used in convective outlooks put out by SPC, and our Storm Center only during a widespread significant severe thunderstorm or tornado outbreak. The term PDS means "Particularly Dangerous Situation" This enhanced wording also appears on any watches issued by the Storm Prediction Center during such severe weather outbreaks. The primary reason PDS is used like this is to help the public and other agencies realize what is at stake, and to review their severe weather safety plans. People also need to closely monitor local weather conditions, and listen for more information, including possible watch and/or warning issuances. Since PDS situations are potentionally fatal, everyone should treat this as a serious thing.
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    9. Question #9

      Answer: Great question! When a severe thunderstorm complex, or even a line of organized severe thunderstorms (squall line) begins producing widespread destructive straight-line winds of 80 mph or greater, it becomes known as a "Derecho" event. The term Derecho is Spanish, which means straight forward. Some recent Derecho events have generated wind speeds well in excess of 120 mph! A lot of work goes into the prediction of potential Derechos and where they may happen. One key factor we look for is a stationary front near the surface. This along with mid and upper level winds and other factors, help us to be able to pinpoint the general areas where they may develop. As with our job as a whole, we need to comb over tons of data and analyze many charts, to get a decent picture of the state of the atmosphere, before it all breaks loose.
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    10. Question #10

      Answer: This is one question we are asked a lot. In 1971, the late Dr. Ted Fujita, a well known scientist at the University of Chicago devised a scale for tornadoes, which ranked each tornado by it's intensity. This became known as the "Fujita" or "F" tornado intensity scale. Every surveyed tornado intensity was ranked by the amount of damage it produced. In 2000, a team of National Weather Service employees and researchers did a survey of 100 tornadoes, and the damage each tornado produced across the central plains. The results of that survey indicated the existing Fujita scale was no longer accurate. To this end, a new version of the scale was released by the NWS in 2002. This became known as the "Enhanced Fujita" tornado intensity scale. The purpose of the scale remains the same, but the wind speed estimates for each category were scaled back to more accurately reflect wind speeds. It should be noted here, that this scale was NEVER used in tornado prediction, nor ever will be.
      Below are the old and new versions of the Fujita tornado scale.

      This is the original scale developed in 1971 by the late Dr. Ted Fujita.
      Scale Wind Speed MPH Wind Speed K/HR Relative Frequency Average Damage Path Width (Meters)
      F-0 40-72 64-116 38.9% 10 to 50
      F-1 73-112 117-180 35.6% 30 to 150
      F-2 113-157 181-253 19.4% 110 to 250
      F-3 158-206 254-332 4.9% 200 to 500
      F-4 207-260 333-418 1.1% 400 to 900
      F-5 261-318 419-512 Less than 0.1% 1100+

      Now, here is the updated and enhanced version released by the NWS in 2002.
      Scale Wind Speed MPH Wind Speed K/HR Relative Frequency Potential Damage
      EF-0 65-85 105-137 53.5% Light Damage
      EF-1 86-110 138-178 31.6% Moderate Damage
      EF-2 111-135 179-218 10.7% Considerable Damage
      EF-3 136-165 219-266 3.4% Severe Damage
      EF-4 166-200 267-322 0.7% Devastating Damage
      EF-5 200+ 322+ Less than 0.1% Explosive Damage

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    11. Question #11

      Answer: Storm chasers and spotters have always proven to be very valuable for forecasters at the National Weather Service, as well as scientists and researchers at the NSSL for years and decades. One of the most important parts of this is data which is collected in the field by chasers and researchers. This data is being used to create model simulations of severe thunderstorms, showing structure, wind fields, pressure, and temperature makeup. This is helping scientists better understand the inner workings of severe thunderstorms, and their ability to generate tornadoes. The pre storm atmospheric conditions obtained from data in the field are helping us better understand those parameters coming together for severe storm formation. Finally, chasers and spotters provide the National Weather Service critical reports of real time events which helps in the warning process. Ground truth reports always have been, and still are the backbone in the warning process at the National Weather Service.
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    12. Question #12

      Answer: The first ever tornado forecast was issued on 23 March 1948 for Tinker Air Force base by two Air Force military weather forecasters, E.J. Fawbush and R.C. Miller. However, reliable severe weather prediction for all 48 states didn't happen until 1950, when the WBAN, or "Weather Bureau Army Navy" headquarters in Washington D.C., formed a small group of it's forecasters into what was referred to as their "Severe Weather Unit". This group was given the duty of forecasting areas where severe storms might develop. They began issuing discussions over the telephone to district bureau offices. On 08 September 1954, the very first public tornado bulletin was transmitted from SELS in Kansas City, Missouri. SELS, or "Severe Local Storm Warning Center" was the new name for the Severe Weather Unit of before.
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    13. Question #13

      Answer: There are many reasons why we issue those outlooks. First, heavy rainfall forecasts are used by many agricultural interests, such as farmers, forestry, and agencies such as hydro logical operations, city water and sewage plants, and others. Heavy rainfall forecasts also benefit those who frequent inland lakes, rivers, and even the Great Lakes. In other words, these outlooks have many reasons for being part of our suite of forecast products. The outlooks are issued only as needed when a potential exists for heavy rainfall and/or significant flooding. These products will detail where the potential for both, heavy rainfall and flooding, is located, timing of the event(s), and flood headlines planned, or already in affect. Special advice is always included, especially when headlines are posted.
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    Answers (Safety)

    1. Question #1

      Answer: This depends on the present condition the building is in. Many older dwellings today are still in remarkably decent shape despite their age. Others may not be in decent shape, and are ready to collapse. It's probably a good idea to check with the building owner or manager to verify the condition of the building you reside in.
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    2. Question #2

      Answer: Not only is this wise, but it could also save your own life. Just as having a plan of action of where to go in the event of a fire in your building is important, so is having a plan of action available when severe thunderstorms, and especially a tornado may threaten your area. It is very critical to know where safe shelter is located, and how to reach it quickly and safely. Everyone in your family should also review this plan of action, and know where to go if necessary. As an added precaution, you may wish to conduct monthly tornado "drills", on a fair weather day to ensure everyone knows the plan and what to do. If you don't have a safety plan of action developed yet, now is the time to create one.
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    3. Question #3

      Answer: Absolutely! Even a mobile home which is properly tied down and anchored in concrete footings is very vulnerable to being blown over and flipped apart in high winds, which say nothing about what a tornado can do. An F2 rated tornado could easily blow a mobile home to pieces! If you reside in a mobile home, and you get word of an approaching tornado, don't be a fool! Get out at once, and head for a more safer shelter area. Many mobile home parks nowadays have proper shelter areas available for residents to use. Check with the park manager to find out if there is such shelter available where you live.
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    4. Question #4

      Answer: Among many older beliefs, many people caught in the vehicles tended to shelter from an approaching tornado under a highway overpass, mainly because they could not find a suitable shelter, or had little time to do so. Overpasses were construed as "safe" because the winds and suction of the vortex could not penetrate the areas up in the rafters, where people hid for safety. In 2008, research scientists from the Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma conducted a study about this very topic. The results were a shock to many initially, and concluded that sheltering under a highway overpass is very dangerous, and can be fatal. When a tornado bears down on a highway overpass, it's winds rotating around the vortex are channelled forcibly into the narrow opening below it. This compresses the air which results in greater velocity (speed) of the winds moving through. This was thought to be how people got sucked up into the vortex. If the force of the wind becomes strong enough, it can actually pull a person out from under the rafters, and blow them away. This also disputes the earlier suction theory. Therefore, you should avoid seeking shelter under a highway overpass.
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    5. Question #5

      Answer: Prior to 1997, the safest location in your basement was in the southwest corner using a blanket or mattress for protection. In homes and other buildings without a basement, get to the lowest level of the building, then seek shelter in any interior small room or hallway. Again, take a heavy blanket or mattress to protect yourself. In May of 1997, research studies from several tornadoes by forecasters of the National Weather Service across the central and southern plains concluded that the southwest corner of the basement is actually not the safest place. Results collected from the research study showed that debris collects in the corners of the basement. Those same results also suggested the center of the basement where minimal debris was found appeared as the best place. Therefore, it's wise to crouch under a heavy table or workbench in the center of your basement. Have a heavy blanket or mattress for protection against the flying debris and glass.
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    6. Question #6

      Answer: Absolutely not! Never run out to your parked vehicle for protection against a tornado! A vehicle offerszero protection in a tornado. The wisest option would be to get into any pre-designated shelter area. In many malls and shopping centers, these shelter areas are marked for easy accessibility. If in doubt, ask any employee for assistance.
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    7. Question #7

      Answer: Yes, so long as you stay away from windows and doors, and don't use electrical items or the telephone during the storm. Make sure to unplug all electrical items, such as radios, TV's, hair driers, stereos, computers, and such before the storm arrives. Stay off the telephone during the storm unless it's an emergency. The lightning could strike the line outside. In any case, remain alert and informed.
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    8. Question #8

      Answer: Good question! To be safe in homes without a basement or storm cellar, move to the lowest level, then get into any interior small room or hallway. A closet or bathroom are two wise options. Take along a blanket or sleeping bag to protect yourself from flying debris or glass.
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    9. Question #9

      Answer: If you reside in high rise buildings, or even skyscraper buildings, you can usually be safe if you move quickly down to the lowest level, or preferably to the ground level, then seek shelter in the pre-designated locations. If there is little time, then get down as far as you can safely using the stairway, and then shelter under the stairwell. Take a thick blanket along for protection against flying debris and glass. Never use the elevator while attempting to get to the lowest level, or ground level area! The violent winds around the tornado vortex may cut off the power to the building, leaving you trapped inside the elevator.
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    10. Question #10

      Answer: If in class at school when you hear an announcement that a tornado is approaching, move at once into a hallway which is perpendicular to the tornado's path. Then crouch down with your hands shielding your head facing the lockers. Do not panic or become alarmed. If possible, help other students who may be horrified and alarmed to safety. Always listen to and obey any further instructions by your teacher. If this happens just prior to classes getting out for the day, then remain inside the building and move to a safe area. Don't board your bus to take you home, or even walk home. Remember, lightning also occurs with severe thunderstorms which produce tornadoes. Walking home, even for a short distance places you in danger of being struck by a bolt of lightning, despite the approaching tornado.
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    11. Question #11

      Answer: Vehicles can offer decent protection from lightening, so long as you don't lean against the door or touch metal surfaces. However, you should remain alert and watchful for large hail, damaging winds, or even a tornado. Should you encounter any of those elements, pull over and stop. Get out and inside a safe study building. If no building is at hand, or there is little time, again pull over and stop. Abandon the vehicle, and get into any ditch, ravine, or inside a culvert. Protect your head.
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    12. Question #12

      Answer: Good question! Some larger vessels can afford you decent protection from thunderstorms however, strong damaging winds or even an approaching waterspout are very dangerous and even life threatening. If your out on the lake and you see a thunderstorm approaching, the wisest option is to head for safe harbor at once. If however, there is little time, drop anchor and then lie down on a thick blanket or sleeping bag. Do not touch any metal surfaces. If your vessel has a cabin, drop anchor and move inside it, and stay away from metal objects or surfaces.
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    13. Question #13

      Answer: Yes. When properly hooked up, a lightening rod offers great protection to buildings and people inside. A lightening rod allows the electrical current from the lightening bolt to travel safely through the building into the ground. This prevents damage to the building or the people inside it.
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    Answers (Statistics)

    1. Question #1

      Answer: This varies across our coverage region, with more thunderstorms as you head southward, and less further north. In general though, anywhere from 30 to 40 days with thunderstorms is about average.
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    2. Question #2

      Answer: The following was compiled from our severe weather database:

      - Wisconsin averages about 21 tornadoes per year;
      - Minnesota averages about 25 tornadoes per year;
      - Iowa averages about 47 tornadoes per year;
      - Illinois averages about 34 tornadoes per year*;
      - Indiana averages about 20 tornadoes per year*;
      - Michigan averages about 16 tornadoes per year;

      These averages were computed using data from the National Weather Service. * This indicates the average tornado count is for the entire state, not for the northern halfs which are in our coverage region.
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    3. Question #3

      Answer: None. While our region may experience some occasional strong or violent tornadoes from time to time, none of those were ever dubbed as killers. This is due in large part to increased public awareness of tornadoes, and people having a plan of action developed and invoked on when those twisters struck. However, this is not to say that people were not ever killed by tornadoes in our region either. Certainly, there were people injured and killed by tornadoes. But those numbers are so scant, they don't figure even to 0.5%!
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    4. Question #4

      Answer: Good question. Most tornadoes which occur have an average width of about 121 yards, and an average path length of 5.5 miles long. The average intensity is about 1.1 on the EF scale. However, keep in mind here that every single tornado which occurs is different, and may not represent the "averages" mentioned above.
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    5. Question #5

      Answer: Tornadoes travel at different speeds, which can range from stationary to 70 mph. This foward speed is often quite variable, so it could be surprisingly high or low with each tornado.
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    6. Question #6

      Answer: According to information contained in our database, since 1844 there were at least 1457 documented tornadoes, of which there were at least 510 related deaths, and 3043 injuries in Wisconsin. Data prior to 1950 is inaccurate because only the larger stronger tornadoes were reported. Since 1980, the number of tornado related deaths and injuries for our region has been on a decline, so the average is less then 1.
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    7. Question #7

      Answer: The largest hailstone that is on record was 5.7" which fell in Wausau Wisconsin in May of 1921. There has been other reports of very large hail from Minnesota where hail to 4.25" fell near Harris on June 20th, 2007. That same year, more very large hail pelted central Wisconsin where hail to 5.5" fell in Port Edwards and Wisconsin Rapids. This is second largest hail in Wisconsin history aside from the May 1921 event, which ranks lst. Large hail has also been reported in Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan.
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    8. Question #8

      Answer: This was believed to be the "estimated" speed of winds around a tornado funnel as calculated by Dr. Ted Fujita, a professor at the University of Chicago in 1972. However, recent studies of tornado damage sites now dispute the old Fujita estimates. On the original Fujita scale, an F5 tornado winds were estimated to max out at 318 mph. On the enhanced version of the scale released in 2002, an EF5 tornado winds max out at 200+ mph. While some debate over this continues, it is believed that the winds near the funnel are well in excess of 160 mph.
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    9. Question #9

      Answer: Yes it is! While it is a rare occurrence, an occasional bolt of lightening will shoot from a thunderstorm, and strike a community up to 10 miles from the storm, and the sky overhead is blue. These rare flashes of lightening are known as "bolts from the blue".
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    10. Question #10

      Answer: Actually, lightening comes in 2nd place to flash floods, which is the number one killer. In the past 30 year period, the yearly average number of deaths from flash floods has gone up and down, with the trend being down. For example, from 1988 to 2010, there was an average of 81 deaths per year due to flash floods. By contrast, deaths from hurricanes was 58 per year, and 55 from tornadoes per year for the same period.
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    11. Question #11

      Answer: The average number of tornadoes across our coverage region is now 972. This is based on yearly totals for all states from 1980 through 2009. There were however, no documented killer tornadoes anywhere in our region.

Midwest Weather Service | Our Office | Our Staff | Address: 1942 Water Street Stevens Point, WI | Phone: Only available to clients.