Thursday, May 7, 2009

I Love Weather

Living in the heart of Tornado Alley is definitely not boring, although I do find clear, sunny days a little dull.

If you think that all the weather-related links and posts on my blog indicate that weather is a major focus in my life, you are right. I have suffered from college degree-remorse for many years, having obtained a degree in mathematics instead of meteorology; so weather has become an avid hobby a freakish obsession instead of a vocation.

In March, I completed an evening of training to become a storm spotter for the National Weather Service. According to the Spotter page on the NWS website:
The training lasts about 2 1/2 hours and includes instruction on how to safely observe severe storms, how to identify important features, and how to make accurate and timely reports. In our area, storm spotters are a resource of each local community, and work with local emergency management officials to help protect their community from dangerous storms.
Very capably taught by Norman, Oklahoma NWS Office Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Rick Smith, the training was informative and fun. Such a diverse group was gathered, including newbies (like me) as well as people that had "spotted" for years. There is always something new to learn about weather. My favorite part of the evening was the discussion of how to differentiate between SLC, or Scary Looking Clouds, and a rotating wall cloud, which usually precedes a tornado.

Armed with my newly acquired spotter knowledge, a weather alert radio, an official rain gauge, and my camera, I can't wait to "spot" those storms.

This week is memorable for many Oklahomans, as Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of the May 3, 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak. Incredibly, almost 60 tornadoes occurred that day, along with the highest recorded tornado wind speeds (300+ mph), during the mile-wide F5 tornado that hit Moore and Bridge Creek, southwest of Oklahoma City. Sadly, forty people lost their lives in the state that day and over 600 were injured. However, thousands more lives were saved due to warnings from media personnel such as Gary England, Chief Meteorologist for KWTV Channel 9, who continuously urged viewers and listeners to "get below ground now". Credit also goes to live video coverage by storm chasers, spotters, and helicopter pilots.

Here is the classic hook echo of the F5 tornado:

And here is a map showing the path of the tornadoes:

The reason for the difference in these two radars of the same storm is phenomenal:

The radar on the left is of the tornado on open land. In the radar on the right, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory,

The bright red colors at the tornado location represent not rain or hail -- but the aggregate signature of car parts, pieces of houses, shredded tree branches, dirt and other debris, hoisted thousands of feet skyward by the tornado vortex!
I highly recommend Storm Warning, a very readable account of that terrible day by Oklahoma native Nancy Mathis, not only for its riveting personal stories and interviews, but also for the scientific data on the devastating storm and a well-researched account of the evolution of storm prediction.


  1. Granny, I think you have a "cool obsession" - and probably because I live where we suffer ice storms and blizzards, tornado's scare me! I admire you! :o)

  2. Granny, just read this blog after reading the media's reports of the damage in this last round. Sure hope Emily is okay... Very interesting and informative, thanks, Kathye

  3. I live in SW Oklahoma & I freakishly love tornadoes & bad weather too. I blame it on the excitement in my parent's face & voice as they would whisk me to the neighbor's cellar in the middle of the night. What child wouldn't love that? I am still waiting on someone to buy me an "I love Tornadoes" t-shirt.


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