Mainstreet Radio: St. Peter, one year after the tornado: Severe weather & tornadoes

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A Mainstreet Radio special broadcast from lobby of Nicollet Hotel in St Peter. A discussion on tornados and weather with Rich Naistat, of the National Weather Service; Mark Seeley, of the U of M and MPR; and Paul Douglas, of WCCO-TV.

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(00:00:00) NPR's Main Street radio coverage of rural issues is supported by the blandin foundation committed to strengthening communities through grant-making leadership training and convening. I'm Rachel Reba and you're listening to a special Main Street broadcast from the lobby of the historic Nicollet Hotel in Downtown. St. Peter. We're now going to turn our attention to one of Minnesota's favorite topics the weather. My guests are rich neistat from the National Weather Service WCCO meteorologist, Paul Douglas and marks Seeley professor of meteorology and climatology with the University of Minnesota extension service. They are standing by to answer your whether questions at one eight hundred five three 75252. Good afternoon. Gentlemen, (00:00:48) good afternoon. Hello. (00:00:50) Let's start out talking about the tornadoes that ripped across this part of southern Minnesota a year ago today marks Ely. You've said March 29th, 1998 will go down in the record books. Why (00:01:02) number of reasons Rachel it was only the sixth episode of tornadoes that's documented in State history in Minnesota, and it was by far. (00:01:12) You mean in the month of (00:01:13) March in the month of March and it was by far the most intense outbreak with 14 confirmed tornadoes and it was also unique for having both an F3 and an F4 tornado. None of those characteristics appear in the history of the state in the month of (00:01:28) March translate an F3 and F4 tornado for the rest of (00:01:31) us. Well, those are on the in the Fujita damage scale. Those are getting up there where there are very few structures that can withstand the force of an F4 for example, so they're they're very unusual F3 F4 is more associated with the peak of the tornado season, which tends to run June into July. (00:01:53) So unusual from that standpoint. I understand it was also a huge tornado. Some of the newspaper accounts said that it was three miles high. Is that possible? (00:02:00) Well, I saw the reports half a mile wide and that would be consistent with an F3 F4. These are these Arkansas size texas-sized tornadoes here in Minnesota were used to seeing F0 s F1 They last 5-10 minutes, maybe the size of a football field and they dissipate one of these was on the ground Mark and Rich. I think for what 67 miles the the F4 you would expect that in Wichita, Oklahoma City outside of Dallas. You don't expect the size and duration and ferocity of tornadoes like that here in Minnesota. So I think that was eye opening for for all all of the (00:02:35) meteorologists. Perhaps the only good thing that could be said about these tornadoes. Mr. Nye said is that you predicted them. They were easy to predict they were very well predicted the National Weather Service and media course we use them to disseminate this on the Saturday before on March 28th was already eluding strongly to the strut threat of severe weather 3:45 a.m. Sunday morning on March 29th. Bill talks Dead one of our lead forecasters put in his State forecast discussion that we're looking for f three tornadoes this afternoon and as Paul just alluded to and I concur with that they're very rare in Minnesota and That forecast the rare event is a spectacular success in the warnings were equally is successful and lots of lead time getting back to your previous question that I just like to say that at one point. The tornado was one and a quarter miles wide, which is absolutely phenomenal in, Minnesota. Our phone number this afternoon is one eight hundred five three 75252. If you have a question about tornadoes or anything else about Minnesota weather feel free to call because we have the experts here to respond to your questions this afternoon one eight hundred five three 75252. I've heard people in st. Peter say it's not a surprise that the tornado hit here. We're in Tornado Alley. What is it Tornado Alley? And are we in one here in St. Peter? (00:03:59) I guess I'll take a stab the historical documentation of tornado tracks in the central part of the United States goes back. Oh gosh, I think over a century Rachel and they look at zones of high relatively high frequency. So I think most of the time when you talk about a tornado alley or something like that you're talking about an area that relative to the surrounding landscape has a little higher frequency of occurrence of tornadoes, but bear in mind too that historically around Nicollet and and brown and Sibley and Scott and this kind of South Central Minnesota County area. It's nothing whatsoever in frequency compared to what it is in the Central and Southern Plains. The numbers are very miniscule compared to what they have down there. (00:04:51) Although Minnesota's sounds like they're moving up in the rankings and some of the things you faxed me. We were in the top 10 we were in the top five. At one (00:04:59) point, right? We did have 57 in the year 1998 57 confirmed tornadoes, which was a annual record. However, I think part of that is one point. Maybe we should discuss among the three of us today is the fact that our detection technologies have improved so much that probably you could safely say we don't miss tornadoes anymore and a lot of what's been documented historically back many decades about tornado activity in the state of Minnesota May. In fact have been multiple tornadoes rather than just one singular (00:05:35) tornado gentlemen, would you agree with that? I (00:05:38) would agree with that. I mean, we certainly don't live in Tornado Alley. I tell people we live in tornado cul-de-sac we get a fair number. I think the long-term average in mark back me up at its isn't it give or take 20? Yes, it is want to give or take but since 1991, I think every year we've had at least 31 observed tornadoes and three of those years we've had Or more and of course culminating at last year's record 57. I think it's a fair question. Are are there in fact more tornadoes forming or are we just doing a better job of observing them do we have spotters that are more cognizant with Nexrad the new generation of Doppler radar. We're seeing circulations and thunderstorms that we simply didn't see 5 10 15 years (00:06:19) ago. Well in January of 1999 more tornadoes reported in this country than ever before it's right on record. So what's your opinion my are there more or we're just reporting (00:06:29) them or I will hedge my bets and I think it's both I think that you know, I've gone on record as saying I think that there are some things taking place climate wise and we could spend hours on that topic but my hunch is that our detection technology is better. We have better trained law enforcement and and Skywarn spotters, but I think there are things happening climatologically that perhaps increase the odds of tornado formation. (00:06:57) Which how would you respond to that? I'd agree. Paul I think what we have to keep in mind is the National Weather Service deployed in Minnesota Doppler Radars beginning in 1994, and when we at the Weather Service issued tornado warnings or any type of warning we make a concerted effort to try to verify that warning both in terms of our own use for research and verification, but also for the users to say, you know, what is a false alarm rate are we doing a good probability of detection? So when we issue a tornado warning after the fact we make a lot of follow-up calls and so would probably able to detect or find some of these tornadoes that verify the warnings that in the past might have gone unnoticed fide, especially the f-zero is and half ones that hit an open country that do very little damage. Nobody really cares about except for the the record Keepers. Now the big ones such as the F3 and F4 s I'm sure those haven't been undetected in the past because they caused incredible amount of (00:07:54) damage and I think it's important to point out that Doppler the you know, LG will not save us but in this case the technology worked and Technology works best on the big tornadoes on the f-22s the f3s the f-4s the Weather Service did a masterful job of getting the word out ahead of time 45 minutes Advanced time. I think the siren sounded three times here in St. Peter. So nobody can come forward and say there was no warning that simply wasn't the case. The problem that I see is that it almost sends out a false sense of security that Nexrad is going to catch every Tornado from here on out. And again the small brief tornadoes, especially the ones that are fifty sixty a hundred miles away from Chanhassen where the Doppler radar is located. Those are still going to be very very difficult to observe and we need spotters in the field. We need trained professionals who can provide ground to truth stand there and point and say there's a wall cloud. There's a descending tornado we do. In fact have a tornado on the ground and so I'm a little concerned that there's a almost a false sense of security. The Doppler worked well in this case and it's going to catch everyone. It's (00:09:03) not our phone number this afternoon one eight hundred five three seven 52 52 in our phone lines are full. Let's go to the phones George from Lakeland is on the phone with us. (00:09:14) Hello good afternoon question related to critical sort of a basic question. But I'm just curious why the newscasters don't generally give you the four basic record temperatures though the high high the high low the low low and the high low and that's one and we're if it's not we're person might be able to Avail himself of that type of Statistics easily. (00:09:38) You would like those George on a regular basis. (00:09:40) Where would be wonderful? Yes, the record high the record low the record low high low and low (00:09:46) high Who is anyone else having a hard time finding that gentleman? You know what he's talking about. The low high the low low the high low light. (00:09:53) I understand what he's talking about. The Minnesota State climatology office produces those for most communities in the state of Minnesota and I would suggest that you call or check their website among other things. There's also published versions of that on some of the weather calendars. Now, I don't know that we can cover all communities in the state of Minnesota but sooner or later as I said a starting point by might be the Minnesota State climatology office website, but sooner or later you're going to be able to find those kinds of historical numbers for most communities in the state of (00:10:28) Minnesota and I understood what he was saying that the high on this date historically, but what's a high in a (00:10:35) high-low? A high as the maximum temperature recorded for a given date. The high low is simply the highest overnight minimum recorded for a given date and it's not always an overnight minimum, but that's how it's inferred. So typically for example and see Peter today. You might have a an all-time high minimum for today's date of say 43 degrees. It's just never been warmer than that as a minimum temperature on this. That's a high-low. Yeah. Okay. I'm going to lobby for more time though with with my boss. See if I can I mean if you throw out a hundred bits of information and I understand his frustration, I'd like to go into more depth in terms of pollen information and people that suffer from allergies. You know, where do you draw that line? We get people who say that we're discriminating against Canada and Mexico and why don't you show European temperatures. So there's really no limit and I guess the answer I would give is that all we can do is sort of At least on the on the broadcast side at 5 6 and 10 we can sort of get the headlines and I point I showed the web frequently almost every weathercast. I'll show a web graphic of some sort. And that is the mother load of information if you want personalized information the web is where it's at right now. (00:11:56) We're going to lend now who is standing by in Duluth? Good (00:11:59) afternoon. Good afternoon. Great topic. I'm glad that you're covering it today. My question has to deal with this winter that we just just live through living here in Duluth. I've been pretty used to some pretty strong Winters, but from what I understand it was the fifth warmest winter on record. I thought that listening to some of the weather forecasts and weather predictions in September through November that it was supposed to be a cold winter and quite a bit of snow. So I'm just kind of wondering if the experts there could give an explanation on why at least in the Duluth area Northeastern Minnesota was quite warm and didn't have a lot of snow and I don't know if that was the trend all across the state or not. We should point out that the term weather expert is an oxymoron. So a little like airline food (00:12:55) who would like to To that question II can give it a try. We actually did a little study as your listeners probably aware of and many of your listeners that this is a la niño winter that we've had which is the opposite of El Nino. You're going to El Nino, but in much of the information that was put out on the web through the media through different sorts of information. He's right what a lot of it said was we would have a snowy winter and colder than normal temperatures. I was actually invited to give a talk back in October and I looked back through the records and cooperation with the State Department of Natural Resources, the climatologist over their gyms and low and Greg's Boden and what we found is that in Minnesota since 1975 during every one of the LA Nina's the temperatures have averaged either normal or above normal that prior to 1975 they by and large average below normal. So what To be a little bit careful in these long-range forecast where we don't have really good statistics and we don't have them in La Nina's and why there was a switch or change in the temperature departures from normal starting in the mid 70s is certainly open to question and I suspect some time during this hour Paul will probably elaborate on how he feels about that because I did see an article that he wrote on (00:14:21) that I prefer to dwell on the past. (00:14:23) Actually. It's a lot easier watching you're looking (00:14:26) backwards than looking forward and you know, the public wants to know and we want very much to try to please the public and give them whatever shreds of information we have. Even if it's tenuous at best and you can go back and say well statistically odds favor colder than normal. What are the normal drier than normal you can paint broad brush strokes, but I've seen no skill. Really Beyond eight nine ten days trying to predict specific temperatures specific moisture for a specific location. It becomes Chaos Theory. So I think you know a word to the wise buyer beware any forecast, you know, even though you know, the five-day forecast can be a farce the tomorrow forecast we have problems with depending on the situation. So I think the lesson to be learned is yes, we all want to know what's going to happen in the summer. Will it be a dry summer a wet summer? How will it affect farming how will it affect my weekend plans? But be very wary of any forecast. Will it be on five six seven days it just the state of the science. The state-of-the-art just hasn't progressed to the point where where we can predict with any accuracy out that far and yet we try, you know, we it's a slippery slope and when people ask us well, you know take your best stab at it and we do and many times. I think we regret doing it. (00:15:48) Our phone number today one eight hundred five hundred 75252 were broadcasting live from st. Peter and we have a trio of meteorologists standing by with us to answer your whether questions rich nice and from the National Weather Service Paul Douglas from WCCO and Mark Seeley professor of meteorology and climatology with the University of Minnesota we go now to perm where Jonas standing by good afternoon Joan good afternoon. (00:16:13) I'm one of those people who would like to know if it's going to be a dry or wet summer. I live on a lake in northern Minnesota and there's many people who live on lakes around here with the water levels are rising year by year since 1993. Particularly. We've had a succession of wet Summers and I'd like to know in the spirit of looking back rather than looking forward to what extent this kind of wetness is cyclical and something that we can look for an end to or if you think that maybe things are changing so fast that we don't know if it's going to (00:16:42) end. I would like to respond to that. (00:16:47) I'll take a try Mark Seeley Otter Tail County. You guys got about two inches of rain on Saturday. Didn't you at least are Fergus Falls site reported that but yes, it's been wet. And of course it's wreaked havoc on the agriculture up there in recent years. It's been wits really since about 86 if you look at a time course or a (00:17:12) trend and you're talking Statewide Mark Utah that part of (00:17:15) the sea that yeah, Northwestern Minnesota since 1986. Has it been in a wet Trend even despite the 1988 drought but on the other hand you can find a trend if you go back. Sometimes we tend to be too short-sighted. We think that think things that occur in our lifetime should therefore be extrapolated to multiple generations and that's not the case. For example, if you go back to late 19th century, you can find some rather long term wet patterns in the Red River Valley as well beginning in the late 1860's and persisting well into the 1890s. So it's hard getting back to support what Paul and rich said it's hard to project that ahead. Truthfully. We don't really have a good handle on how long a cycle is going to last how long a Trends going to last some of them end rather abruptly. And so it's real hard to say. I know the ground water levels of shallow aquifers and Otter Tail County have come up lake levels have come up. Certainly discharged from tile line Fields has been substantial in recent Years thank goodness in some respects for agriculture that some of the landscape is drained up there, but it's hard to project when this wet Trend that I see has gone on since about 1986 went when that's going to taper off. (00:18:42) I really because when the 13th year of it and you've talked about historically there have been some that have last 30 years. Right? Right. Let's go to st. Paul where Gary is standing by with the question. Good afternoon, (00:18:53) Gary. Yes, good afternoon. I had a question regarding the long range forecast and some historical things regarding the Farmers Almanac Canada. I don't have a copy in front of me right now. But do you know we call reading them and and sort of getting a feel for what the seasons may bring and I wanted to know if any of your guests have looked at the accuracy of the Farmers Almanac over the years or If they had any insight in how those those those predictions were derived given that they didn't have a lot of Technology available to (00:19:28) them. Great question the Farmers Almanac Paul. Do you use that when you put together your (00:19:33) forecast, I would never publicly admit it. I think I have a bootleg copy. Yeah under lock and key in my drawer and and I look at it and it and it's interesting and and sometimes they hit it and sometimes they don't I tell people I think at one of the major Eastern universities did a study looking into that very topic and I think they found that it's about 50/50. And so, you know when they hit people tend to remember when they don't hit well, never mind. I think you have to be a little careful there again anytime you get into into a long range forecasting situation. I guess they keep it a secret its proprietary actually how they come up with the forecast and it's been that way I think for what a couple of hundred (00:20:20) years one of the things that when I spoke to the editor the Farmers Almanac in the last week in one of the trends he talked about his getting into a more violent period of weather and he was talking about decades. It was quiet decade. It was a turbulent decade. It's we're going into a more violent decade. Would you agree gentlemen that the weather in Minnesota is getting more violent more turbulent. Are we in a guy supposed to call it an exciting phase in your line of work? (00:20:50) It would certainly seem I mean I saw statistics last year that Minnesota perhaps had more damage and Mark. I don't know if you saw this, but we were at or near the top of the list in terms of state-by-state breakouts of damage estimates. I saw between 1 and 2 billion dollars worth of insured losses most of that hail certainly some of that wind damage from the March 29th outbreak, but it would certainly appear. I saw a staggering statistic. I was in Des Moines for a severe weather conference this past weekend Nationwide. There's now an average of 700. Billion dollars worth of damage every year it's roughly ten percent of America's seven trillion dollar economy 10% of a seven trillion dollar economy has impacted on average every year 10 billion on average for agriculture. These numbers are just unbelievable. And I think the numbers are on the increase. So certainly the data that I've seen I think suggests that yes since about 1980 give or take we certainly seem to be seeing more outbreaks of severe weather not just live here in Minnesota. But globally (00:21:57) which nice I would you agree with that. I would agree. It is almost cyclical. I've been in the Twin Cities since 1974. We had some Lulu's back in the 70s and early 80's and then it seemed to get relatively quiet isn't for about five or 10 years and since 1994. It's gone gangbusters again. Those years Paul Douglas was out of town and I picked up when he came back. Let's go to st. Paul Doris is on the phone. Good afternoon. (00:22:21) Finally recognized Paul's. Boys, he is one of my favorites. My question is whether I'm in a wheelchair and this is the first year in 10 years that I have not had to put a ground wire on my wheelchair to avoid static shock now. I'm blaming the weather is it because it's been a damper weather hot outside? Why am I getting with static electricity? (00:22:52) Well, that would that (00:22:53) would be that would be tied directly to lanina ma'am. Thank you for your nice words. I appreciate that. I don't know Mark. You want to help me with this Rich anybody? I certainly can't see that we've had moisture more moist air. In fact, we've had extraordinarily dry in recent weeks. We've had unbelievably dry air right? So maybe something local he's going on there to diminish the static electricity. I don't know we have have you are you still on the line? No, she's not. I wonder if oh if you have you changed any have you changed anything locally? You put more plastic on the floor or everything is the same and I asked I've asked several people if they have noticed that there's less flat static electricity this year change shoes or wardrobe or no? (00:23:50) No, I'm not the one we're talking today about Minnesota weather, which, you know is much more than tornadoes. Maybe that's why we enjoy whether as a conversational topic. It has Endless Possibilities droughts floods blizzards heatwaves, Alberta Clippers and everything in between. Our phone lines are open for your questions. You can call us at one eight hundred five three 75252 and talk to our Trio of meteorologist Paul Douglas Mark Seeley and Rich nice. Dad will be back with more of Main Street in your phone calls after a look at news and weather. (00:24:25) I'm Ira Flatow last week President Clinton Justified NATO air strikes against Serbia through various references to European history and both world wars a number of critics and historians have protested that the president was a little sloppy with his use of History join guest host Lynn Neary and a panel of historians for look at the difficulties and dangers in interpreting and explaining history on the next Talk of the Nation from NPR (00:24:48) news. Good afternoon is 12:30 with news from Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Greta Cunningham refugees by the thousands are streaming out of Kosovo officials estimate as nearly as 100,000 100,000 ethnic albanians have fled to Albania. Montenegro has absorbed 5,000 while Bosnia took in four thousand most have left their possessions behind in many have lost touch with family members. Some had their identity documents taken away by Serb authorities. Elanco suppose border with the small Yugoslav Republic of Montenegro police have been charging refugees $60 per card across International agencies have been scrambling to get Aid to refugees President Clinton is back at work and is following the crisis in Kosovo Clinton returned late in the morning from a quick trip to Camp David in Maryland. The president is meeting with his National Security advisers the navigator on the Marine jet that clipped a gondola Cable in Italy has agreed to plead guilty to obstruction of justice and conspiracy a marine. Spokesman says captive Joseph Schweitzer will enter the play this afternoon the Charges related to The Disappearance of a videotape shot during the flight 20 people died last year when a marine plane clipped a ski gondolas cable sending it plunging to the ground Schweitzer was a navigator aboard the plane. The pilot was acquitted of manslaughter charges in a verdict that outraged the victims family's new home sales fell two percent last month to a five-month low. It's the third straight decline since sales hit a record high in November, even with the decline the overall rate of sales remains historically strong in Regional news Grand Forks. Mayor Pat Owens says, she's cautiously optimistic about this year's flood plan on one says Crews meet every morning to make sure the emergency plan is working there at what's called warning level 4, which is the highest level in the city's flood plan. The city has flood protection up to 50 feet red is expected to Crest in Grand Forks at around forty four and one-half feet to 45 and 1/2 feet on Friday or Saturday the forecast for Minnesota today calls for Sunshine State wide. There is a possibility of a brief afternoon shower in the Northeast. Hi. Around 50 in the north to 60 in the southwest right now in the Twin Cities report of sunshine a temperature of 55 degrees. That's a news update. I'm Greta Cunningham. Thank you Greta and it is lovely and st. Peter. I'm Rachel rebe or listening to a special Main Street broadcast from the lobby of the historic Nicollet hotel in st. Peter. We are talking about whether today my guests are rich neistat from the National Weather Service WCCO meteorologist Paul Douglas in Mark Seeley professor of meteorology and climatology with the University of Minnesota our phone number for your questions and comments one eight hundred five hundred 75252 one eight hundred five three 75252. We are going now to a phone caller from Bloomington Zone. He's on the phone. Good afternoon. Hi (00:27:40) Mike. My question is I wanted when we were kids. We always were told to go like in the North corner of the basement when there's a tornado and I'm wondering if that is still true. If we should go the Northside when there's a tornado coming or where to go. (00:27:58) Now that's a good question. I grew up in Kansas and it was always south west south west southwest what are the instructions (00:28:05) I've heard. Now. I mean all the statistics that I've seen are under the stairs under the stairs in your basement. So he (00:28:13) was trying to figure out where you are and just get under the stairs many (00:28:16) times the debris from your house winds up in the southwest corner. So I tell kids of all ages, you know go under a table go under a desk. If you have something under the stairs in your basement statistically, even if an F3 and F4 and F5 God forbid hits that that you should be able to walk away from it. It's the people that don't have basements, you know, that's that's more of a challenge but under the stairs away from Windows away from Outer walls, and you'll you know, you may be bruised you may be cut up a little bit, but you'll probably Live to Tell your grandkids about it. (00:28:51) Growing up in Kansas. We had regular tornado drills in school every year we'd line up in the Halls sitting on the floor cross legged and put our heads down. I mean, it was just an annual sort of thing. We don't do that in Minnesota. My kids have never had a tornado drill at school and yet we are having a Statewide tornado drill coming up Mark. (00:29:08) Yes the week of the 19th through the 23rd. Next month will be severe weather Awareness Week. They'll be a lot of broadcasts on NOAA Weather Radio about severe weather take safety tips, not only for tornadoes but other kinds of severe weather and everybody might want to be aware that all the sirens will be going off on Thursday the 22nd now that's a little different than the usual monthly drill. And so people hopefully shouldn't get too upset if they hear the sirens going off on a Thursday, but that's for tornado awareness day. And that's just a way to promote it Statewide. I suspect a lot of schools and other places will probably be doing drills that day. (00:29:49) So an important thing to think about About where you're going to go in case of whatever it would be every (00:29:56) family should have a plan just like you go through a fire drill plan with your kids. I think you should you should sit down with your kids and say I don't want to scare you. I don't want to alarm you odds are we'll never have to use this information. But you know, if we were to get the warning now if you were to see threatening weather, what would you do? Where would you go? It'll let's go through the motions. Let's go to the basement where in the basement take them downstairs try to remove some of the some of the Terror from the process and and I think the more that you can do in advance, I think the better it's going to be if and when the real thing (00:30:32) strikes we're going to Duluth now. We're Thomas standing by good afternoon. (00:30:36) Tom. Good afternoon. Have a couple of questions. One regarding tornadoes up in the Duluth area around Lake Superior and what effect it has and these men know anything about the numerous Tomatoes down in Alabama. I spend the winter down there and they have hundreds of them in those Southern States. I'll listen. (00:30:54) Thank you so much. Let's talk about tornadoes over Lake Superior. Do you still call that a tornado when it's over water? That would be called a waterspout if it's actually over at over the over the water. I think with a gentleman might be referring to is whether there's any interaction whether there's Genesis or Decay simply because of the land water interface up there that the cool air near the lake obviously tends to stabilize the lower atmosphere a little bit. And so there might be a somewhat of a decrease and I don't want to say that you're safe if you're on the North Shore and there's a large tornado coming in because the tornado creates its own environment. (00:31:34) I think Cook County has seen something like two tornadoes since 1960. So the eastern part of the arrowhead. I mean, I think you could make an argument that the cooler water does negatively impact the spinning up of the the mesocyclones the severe rotating thunderstorms that go on to produce produce tornadoes. We're as you know many counties in southern Minnesota have seen 30 40, you know, 50 tornadoes over that same period so I think there's probably Only something to that (00:32:03) remember summer, we had a huge tornado which I guess you would call a waterspout over Mille Lacs Lake and people were so befuddled by it because it was not black it was white and so they couldn't quite grasp that it was just as dangerous the Blackness caused by the stuff spinning up in it. So our tornadoes are they attracted to water or they really no respecter of whether they're over land or water. (00:32:25) They're really sort of swept up by the upper lip, whatever the winds the prevailing winds Aloft whatever Direction they're blowing. There's sort of a captive to the jet stream winds and it's amazing still today 1999. There's still a mindset that well. I live in a major urban area. I live in the Twin Cities where I live in Duluth where I live in a hilly area or tornadoes can't come across the river. There's still that mindset if it's a big enough tornado. It's going to go wherever it wants to go and a hill or a river or a small lake or Pond is not going to impede the forward progress of this thing. So I think you have to keep that (00:33:04) in mind. We have Philip standing by in Edina. Good afternoon, (00:33:08) Philip. Hello. I'd like to know about the hail storm that struck this area on May 15th 1998. It was a tear it didn't last very long, but it did lots and lots of damage it struck at the worst time possible, you know late afternoon hundreds of thousands of people commuters out and it was amazing. I guess a number of people just decided to stop on the highways underneath the bridges to protect their vehicles and in the process backing up traffic stopping traffic behind them. And everybody was was just a Sitting Duck I told the store and I'm going to get in trouble for telling the story. My wife was on her way to the dentist with my two children and they were stuck on the crosstown Expressway in Edina. When these hailstones hit and I think they were they were certainly ping pong sighs at least Walnut sized hail stones. And she handled it very coolly. She gripped the steering wheel with both hands and started yelling. We're gonna die. We're gonna (00:34:15) die. So now every day my kids wake up even today they quiz me they said dad. Are we going to have (00:34:21) any weather? Is it going to turn severe? What time is it going to turn severe? Where will you be do we (00:34:25) have to go to the dentist? And he's don't make us drive with Mommy. (00:34:30) So I mean, yeah, my kids were traumatized by that that particular hailstorm and it was a wild year and statistically. I don't know what you guys think. I can't imagine. I have to hope that it's not going to be that that bad again this summer. I can't imagine it. Well, (00:34:46) it was an extreme event and I think what contributed a lot to the damage was not just what happened in with Paul's kids and wife great story was the high winds that Associated the hail. It was basically a bow Echo all a Squall line moving rapidly North it was oriented east to west moving rapidly North across the entire Twin Cities metro area and I happen to be home at the time had left some good. At the office to take care of things and you had the roof deciding it was absolutely pummeled because you're not only had these large hailstones, but they had high momentum because of the strong winds and it was the combination of the wind and hail occurring at the same time that I think damage so many roofs and cars and other things. We have bill on the phone in Bemidji. Good afternoon Bill. (00:35:33) Good afternoon. I had a question relative to the minimum maximum temperatures that we see reported every day in the newspaper. And then on television on the radio right now, it's running for this time of year. The maximum record temperature would be in the 70s record low temperature would be negative 5 or something like that. If you aggregate those absolute values that come up with some value 80 or greater. I'm wondering how that compares and I'll hang up and listen to other major metropolitan areas. We minnesotans like to believe that we see the wildest weather, but I'm wondering how that compares with other major metropolitan areas. I'll listen. Thank you. (00:36:14) Thank you Bill how extreme how varied is Minnesota weather probably because we live here we think well, this is got to be the wildest weather any place on the globe is it actually the whole central part of the country is susceptible to the Huge swings in temperatures. I've worked in Austin, Texas Fort Worth Tulsa and Bismarck as well as the Twin Cities at least in the central part of the country and every one of those places that I've lived in at least somebody will say to me if you don't like the weather wait a minute and it'll change and that's true up and down the plain states. So there are huge swings in Minnesota, but there's a lot of other areas in the center part of the country that experience wide swings as well. (00:36:56) Right and water has a moderating influence. Yummy, the closer you are to an ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. The more moderate temperate. The climate's going to be it's near the center of large continents that you tend to get the biggest extremes. I've always been under the impression of Mark. Maybe you can Maybe you can back this up that you would have to go to Siberia to find greater extremes in temperature and moisture and and we have better shopping (00:37:24) address them aren't because something you and I talked about which really surprised me (00:37:27) right? I think continentally in the northern hemisphere you to look for a place that's similar to us. You do have to go where Paul said probably to Siberia or someplace like that. They extremes that we experience are phenomenal, especially in the transition months. You'd be hard-pressed to find areas that have greater extremes. For example in the months of November or the month of March 88 degrees in March - 45 in March, you know, 20-inch blizzard in March and F4 tornado in March, you can find the same kinds of scale in the month of November and there aren't very many places. In fact that's even difficult to match in Siberia, but we don't know very well because many Of those countries don't have the same quality of historical records to go back and look at extremes as we do here. (00:38:20) So is this a dream assignment for somebody in your line of (00:38:24) work working Minnesota? (00:38:27) This is this the epicenter of the weather or world. (00:38:29) Not only and one of the things that I've really come to appreciate especially in recent years. He's that I mean not only is there a lot of weather here, but everybody in Minnesota is an armchair meteorologist. You have to be it's a matter of survival people know their weather in this state and so you can talk about the weather in ways that you couldn't do in Chicago or Boston or Los Angeles. There's an appreciation for weather here because we get so much of it. I tell people this is the Super Bowl of weather and I absolutely stand by that. (00:39:03) Our phone number one eight hundred five three 75252. Good afternoon Scott from Superior. (00:39:11) Thank you. Excellent show today, by the way, I have two quick questions here and then I'll listen one has to do with a supercell. If you would Define what that is, and the second has to do with what I believe is called a triggering mechanism sometimes in the summer time when I'm watching my local weather and they show the national satellite view and we've got a strong southerly flow of moist air coming up through the central part of the country, you know, and it's and I think I also heard the term like lighting a match where the clouds just plume up all the sudden and sometimes like cover half of State what the what are the mechanisms that cause that eruption like that if you just give me an example of that. Thanks. (00:39:50) Thank you, Scott. Let's start with a supercell supercell is really a thunderstorm that has a rotating updraft as opposed to add up updraft that is not rotating and conditions that favor that or a very unstable air mass and a lot of change of wind with height or what we call vertical wind shear. So what would that mean to me? A supercell typically produces severe weather large hail high winds sometimes tornadoes. So the supercells are the ones that typically are very well forecast in terms of maybe not a specific location, but supercells usually have severe weather tornado watches issued before them and the warnings are usually quite an advanced several potential for violence, right? I would say the Saint Peter tornado since we're here there was you know, one giant super cell that went all the way from Southwest Minnesota in East Central Minnesota producing multiple tornadoes Paul alluded to earlier. We're not always going to be able to issue tornado warnings before those are tornado. That there are a lot of tornadoes that are not produced from supercells fortunately. They're typically F0 and F1 and do much less damage. But the supercells are the are the really big ones that you say. Let's go on to triggering mechanism. (00:41:05) I think there are some telltale signs one of the things that I think you look for is a strong frontal boundary in the spring. I mean they can certainly as we found out last year. They can't occur in March much more likely April May and June likely late in the afternoon right around the dinner hours when tornadoes are most likely to spin out but usually in the vicinity of of very strong warm fronts last year. It was in the 40s and 50s in southern Minnesota. That's we got a lot of people who came up and said how on Earth can you get an F3 tornado with a temperature of 50 degrees just to the south of Iowa. It was in the 70s and 80s. The atmosphere was juicy, very moist the winds Aloft the jet stream winds were very strong and we had an area of low pressure coming in from the west from the Dakota. So all those things Urged and as rich said we had a very strong sheared environment where the winds were changing dramatically with altitude when different wind speeds different wind direction and that can cause these thunderstorms that normally form and dissipate within about 30 minutes to go on for hour after hour after hour and eventually these spinning mesocyclones can can spawn tornadoes very rare, but they do in fact happen. And again, if you're in the vicinity of a violent warm front, that's that's where you really want to watch out (00:42:23) like that whether term juicy juicy, we're going to Frank now in st. Paul. Good afternoon Frank (00:42:30) good afternoon, when I was a kid about 40 years ago growing up on my grandpa's farm before anybody in that. I knew that what a meteorologist was. I can remember my grandmother looking out the window and saying it's looks like rain or it's raining now to listen to the The weather people that meteorologists on television they talk about it never rains anymore. We have quote shower activity unquote and I think there's a so many technical terms now their maps and their radar I think to be consistent perhaps we should say today that we're having solar activity. And another thing I notice is that these warnings and alerts that are for example, the wind is 23 miles an hour gusting to 40 wind advisories have been posted. I wonder if that isn't being redundant. What's once you give the wind speed. Why do you have to say advisors are posted? Okay. (00:43:37) Well, the wind advisory is a lot of this goes back to the National Weather Service. So I'll start to answer it is that we have different advisories for different criteria for a wind advisory. The sustained wind has to be 30 miles an hour or greater, or we have to have higher wind gusts and it's really just to provide information. You know you as a user may choose to be To react to a wind advisory you might say I don't need that and that's fine. You know, we're providing the information to our customers and it's a very very base. So some people would find that useful you may not and that's perfectly. All right Paul. What about all these different words for precipitation? Is it like a sports announcer? You can't just say so-and-so beat someone they had to squash them. They had to well choke them they had to (00:44:23) directionally you know much of the challenge is trying to communicate what's in my small Cranium, you know to viewers at home and trying to try to make sure that people at home have the same understanding of the weather that I do in terms of the words that I choose, but there is a difference between showers and Rain Rain assumes that everybody is going to get wet and that it's going to be more than an hour or two it really it applies to the duration and it applies to the coverage area in the spring and in the fall and in the winter, sometimes everybody gets wet and it will rain for 10-12 hours or more. In the summer, it's more hit or miss more the popcorn convection the the showers that pop-up it rains hard in one neighborhood a mile down the road. The sun is out. That would be a shower small brief localized. So, you know, I think we do try to choose the words with care that communicate what we think the sky will look like or what percentage of the area will actually get wet. I would add one other thing Rachel. I think the expectations of the public have grown over the years that the caller referred to a generation or two ago. And I think that people are keep raising the bar of what's expected for a meteorologist because so many decisions about what to do or what to plan are based on his or her words and I think just what Paul said looking into the differentiation between showers and rain in the forecast that can mean a fairly Hefty decision for somebody so I think the Expectations by the public keep getting higher Higher (00:46:01) we go now to John and Burnsville. Good afternoon, John. (00:46:04) Good afternoon. I've been noticing. It seems like we are constantly hearing about extremes and weather around the world. Is this a trend or we also caught up in more information more data coming in. We just hear about more of it. (00:46:20) Okay record-setting weather. Has it gotten more extreme. (00:46:26) That's it. Certainly. You know, my confidence level is not a hundred percent, but just based on what I've seen it certainly would appear that there are more severe episodes of whether on a global scale. But again, you know part of me goes back and says well are we just doing a better job of isolating this and Reporting it Are we more sensitized to severe weather now than we were 20 30 50 100 years ago. My hunch is that something is taking taking place and that we do seem to be seeing more intense hurricanes more numerous hurricanes. Look at what Mitch did in Central America, you know a death toll of what 16,000 people it just it staggers the mind some of the some of the losses that we've had. It would appear Nationwide that we are seeing more tornadoes. I think even the Skeptics would acknowledge a twenty percent rise in flooding flash flooding since about 1900. That's the statistic that stands out in my mind. So I think something is going on and I think it's been accelerating since about 1980 1985 and has Rich mentioned especially in the 90s. It seems like every year is warmer than the than the preceding year 98 on a global scale was the warmest year ever observed and I tell people either it's the mother of all coincidences. Or there are some Trends here that we have to look at and (00:47:50) evaluate. Let's go back to the phone lines Gina in Elk River. Good afternoon. (00:47:55) Hello there. I have one question. I don't know if you guys remember the storm in July with the tornado warnings out in Wright County when we had straight line winds above 60 miles per hour to 70 and a knock down some like 50 year old trees. We lost about eight of them ourselves. My question is is I was sitting down with my daughter watching the warning and warning was like for about 20 minutes and technically were right on the border of Hennepin County and right Coney right on the Crow River there and what had happened was is the warning was done taken off the air and I got up to go call my mom to see how she was doing right when I did that. I saw the tree touch the ground. And my question is what does The Radars and stuff tell you at the time when you finally decide? Okay. We're in the safe Zone. There's no problem here. (00:48:43) Well, it's a very difficult situation because radar does not see the tornado what it sees is circulations that are often precursors and sometimes occurring at the same time as the tornado. So in Paul mentioned it before I mean, they having a spotter network is vital. So the warning decision is knowing what the environment is what we're seeing on radar and most of all probably is getting real-time reports from spotters. I would just incidentally go back to st. Peter. I think you were referring to July 1st in 1997. But the Saint Peter tornado which was massive that came through here and went through come free. It wasn't until after the tornado went through st. Peter that we knew that it was a massive tornado. Now, we had good spotters and we knew that there was a tornado but we had no idea that it was a mile and a quarter wide until after it had gone through st. Peter we go now to Plymouth where Hugo is waiting to talk to us. Good afternoon. Good afternoon, Hugo you're on the air. Our phone number one eight hundred five three 75252. Let's go to our next caller. Good afternoon. Okay. We'll skip a call and go down to marry in Hopkins. Are you with (00:49:57) us? Hello. I just have a quick question about the safety issues of when you're camping. When all these got between you is a little thin piece of nylon. What's a good thing to teach your kids where to go? So you get in your car? She stay out of your car. You could address those issues. I'd appreciate it (00:50:19) when the get under the stairs doesn't work then what and minnesotans. I mean, (00:50:23) we're an outdoor State, you know, we we pride ourselves on on getting out and embracing The Great Outdoors and that that's something that keeps me awake late at night that if you have a tornado coming through a campground, I guess the first thing I would do is make sure that the campground has a shelter. Preferably with a basement second thing I would do is go out to RadioShack and I'm not a stockholder and RadioShack buy yourself one of these little portable weather alert radios that they cost 30 40 50 bucks and the NOAA Weather Radio sites around the state will activate these and it sets off a tone that will wake the dead. I mean, you will be wide awake if a warning is issued for your county and I believe Rich if I don't know if this has come out here in the past couple of hours, but there's a bill right now before the state legislature 1.4 million dollars to fund 23 more of these NOAA Weather Radio transmitters around the state so that there are no gaps in coverage so that everybody in the entire state of Minnesota can get the warnings. I think the best we could hope for is layers of safety. Nets one safety. Net is the media television and radio and other safety net are the sirens another safety net. Is this NOAA Weather Radio and I think the best thing you can do for your family. Go out and buy one of these radios set it up. They're battery operated in case the power goes out and even if you're not watching TV listening to the radio if there is a warning issued you will get that information. And so I would they have them portable. Now, you can take them out just like regular radios and I would definitely take one of those while camping. (00:52:00) Any predictions for the weather this summer in our closing minutes gentlemen, tell us what we can expect (00:52:05) changeable. I think we're going to have an early spring. We're already driving the frost out of the ground and all the all the in fact, we may even have convection this next week. So all the signs are pointing towards moving into spring a little bit (00:52:23) early. Thank you, Mark. Silly Rich Nystatin Paul Douglas. Thanks for being with us today. The special Main Street radio broadcast is a production of Minnesota Public Radio. Our Engineers are Cliff Bentley and Rick hubs in ski and st. Peter Allen Strickland in st. Paul. Our producer is Sarah Mayer executive producer Mel summer site producer. Mark style would like to thank Tom blankly Nelson and Philip Friedland for allowing us to bring you this show from the lobby of the newly restored Nicollet hotel in st. Peter. Mpr's Main Street radio coverage of rural issues is supported by the blandin foundation committed to strengthening communities through grant-making leadership. Eating and convening Minnesota public radio's Main Street team consists of 12 reporters at NPR bureaus across Minnesota. I'm Rachel rebe. Monday on all things considered in the age of horse and buggy at Northfield teen was building his own automobiles are Minnesota Century series continues on Mondays All Things Considered weekdays at 3:00 on Minnesota Public Radio, KN o w FM 91.1 You're listening to Minnesota Public Radio. It's 55 degrees of canno wfm 91.1 Minneapolis st. Paul Twin Cities weather for today calls for sunny skies a high of 58 degrees clear skies tonight temperatures dropping to 32 windy and warmer for tomorrow high of 65 the time one o'clock.


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