Mon, 25 Jul 2016 15:37:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 32542906 Distant Flickers Mon, 25 Jul 2016 15:37:22 +0000 ↓ Read the rest of this entry...]]> I don’t recall the first time I saw it, but I remember it being called “heat lightning”.

It was late at night.

The horizon was flickering.

The light was a sort or orange color.

At the time, as a young kid, I thought this was some sort of magical lightning that appeared sometimes when it was warm out.

But I quickly learned it was merely a distant storm.

It was a storm that was far enough away that you couldn’t hear any thunder despiteĀ all the lightning.

Keep in mind that sometimes storms can grow to 5o or 60 thousand feet or more into the atmosphere.

And that means there are occasions where you can see the lightning from these storms from great distances away.

I’ve seen lightning from storms that were over 100 miles away.

The bottom line is, there is no such thing as heat lightning.

It’s just too far away for you to hear the thunder.

But once you can hear thunder, that’s when you should really pay attention.

Because once you can hear it, you’re close enough to be hit by lightning.

And trust me, you don’t want that.

So now when you see distant lightning, it’s alright to call it “heat lightning” if you wish.

But just remember it’s not some magical phenomenon like I once thought.

It’s an actual storm in the distance.

Cookies On The Dashboard Mon, 18 Jul 2016 16:11:54 +0000 ↓ Read the rest of this entry...]]> So far, this summer has been relatively mild.

We’ve had a few bouts of some higher temperatures, but all in all, not too bad.

But later this week, the heat is really going to crank up.

Parts of the area will soar to over 100 degrees, and the heat index in most areas will be over the century mark, even if the mercury doesn’t hit 100.

It’s this kind of heat I really don’t like.

You sweat what seems like gallons of liquid and your clothes stick to you.

Your sunglasses (or glasses) fog up as soon as you walk out of the AC and into the sauna.

Even a breeze feels more like a hair dryer than anything even remotely refreshing.

And forget even trying to wear shorts if you have leather seats…ouch!

But it’s not all bad.

I’ve seen people bake cookies in their cars.

They don’t turn out quite as good as oven baked, but still pretty good.

I’ve also seen people fry an egg on the sidewalk.

I’ve never tried one of those to see how they taste, though.

And ice cold drinks are just so darn refreshing when it’s hot out.

Ice water is awesome.

Lemonade is delectable.

Tea is terrific.

Ooh, I almost forgot about ice cream.

Nothing better on a hot day than a nice ice cream cone.

But you better eat it fast before it melts down all over your fingers.

A Little Independent Story Mon, 04 Jul 2016 17:57:32 +0000 ↓ Read the rest of this entry...]]> When I was a kid, the 4th of July was the same for me as it was for many kids.

It was a time when family gathered and there were hot dogs and burgers to be had…fresh off the grill.

I remember the cucumber salad my mom made that was a nice cool side dish.

But there was one 4th of July that stands out.

And it wasn’t because of the food.

It was 1976, the 200 year mark from the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The town I grew up in had a 4th of July parade.

And that year, me and my brothers were going to be in it.

My mom had the task of getting our little outfits made.

We were clothes that were from the colonial period.

Puffy shirt, knickers and high socks…even the little colonial hats with three points.

From what I recall, mom also dressed the part in a Betsy Ross-esque outfit.

I remember it was a typical hot summer day that day.

Lots of sunshine and lots of squints from all the brightness.

I’m pretty sure there are photos of us dressed in period garb somewhere in a box.

That was a long time ago, but I remember it fairly well.

I didn’t realize the importance of the bicentennial being only 6 years old, but I do now.

While this country may not be the same as it was then, I still love this land.

I am so very thankful for the founding fathers who broke from tyranny and started this country.

I am even more thankful for the men and women of this country who serve and have served and gave their lives to protect our freedoms.

For a few hours back in 1976 I donned that period costume to look the part.

It was those who wore those same clothes 200 years prior that made it possible for me to live the life I live.

To work at a job I love.

To be, in my opinion, a citizen of the best nation on earth.

Happy 4th of July everyone!

Needles And Haystacks Mon, 13 Jun 2016 15:56:32 +0000 ↓ Read the rest of this entry...]]> I got to go storm chasing with Eric Whitehill yesterday once again.

There is nothing quite like the thrill of seeking out a storm and seeing what, if anything, it will do.

Sometimes it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Will it turn severe?

Will it give us a nice shelf cloud to look at?

Or a wall cloud?

Or a funnel or tornado?

We didn’t see much of anything yesterday other than some nice green clouds producing lots of hail and some ragged wall clouds.

But I’m cool with that.

Because if we’re not seeing big time severe storms, then that means it’s not impacting lives and property.

Yes, I’d love to see awesome storm structure.

I’d like to see another tornado.

My desire is to have this happen out in the middle of an open field, affecting no one.

But should it happen otherwise, that’s why we chase.

We follow the storms to warn folks of what we’re seeing.

So my mixed feelings will always be there when I chase.

I want to see some cool things, but I don’t want them to impact people.

But if the latter happens, we’ll be there to let you know.

Dude With The Red Legs Mon, 06 Jun 2016 16:29:36 +0000 ↓ Read the rest of this entry...]]> By the end of the week, we’ll be getting into a stretch of more summer-like weather.

That means some very warm temperatures and at least some sunshine.

It reminds me of a time back in high school.

I was on the golf team, and we were asked to keep score for a local golf tournament.

So, for me, that meant sitting next to a green on a par 3, and tallying the strokes of the players.

It was a hot, sunny day.

And I was able to sit in the shade of a small tree…at least at first.

As the day wore on (I was out there for many hours) I chased the shade of the tree until it wasn’t helping any longer.

It was about this point, I realized I didn’t have any sunscreen.

I remembered my hat and my lunch and plenty of water.

But I forgot perhaps the most important thing needed on a sunny day.

By the time the tournament was over, I knew I got a pretty bad sunburn, especially on my legs since I was wearing shorts.

Later that evening, it was angry red and some big blisters starting popping up, and it hurt pretty bad.

But I wanted to play some playground basketball.

So I doctored it up (with Noxzema I believe) and went to play.

It wasn’t too bad…at first.

But as I began to sweat, it really made things uncomfortable.

I think I lasted about an hour and then went home.

Getting cleaned up was no small chore either with the sunburn.

But over the next few days, it finally subsided and eventually went away.

I bear no scars from it.

But what it did do is stick in my mind so I rarely, if ever, forget sunscreen when I know I’m going to spend time out in the sun.

Dust In The Wind Mon, 23 May 2016 15:56:50 +0000 ↓ Read the rest of this entry...]]> I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in weather.

It’s pretty much always been a fascination to me, even at a very early age.

My first love was snow, since it meant the possibility of school being cancelled.

But that was replaced by my love of severe weather.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the destruction it can cause nor the impact to lives and property.

I’m talking about the storms themselves.

I used to watch them all the time as a kid, even mentioning a few of those instances in previous blogs.

And now I’m in a job where I not only get to predict weather, but also get to be part of the warning process in severe weather.

Sometimes, I am in studio covering the storms with radar and satellite and warning maps and video and pictures.

But other times, I get to tag along with our storm chaser, Eric Whitehill.

Yesterday was one of those times.

Now it wasn’t a big severe day, but the threat was there.

Not long into the chase, I caught this beauty of sun peeking through some cumulus clouds.


It gave off some nice crepuscular rays.

Later on, we got to a storm that was eventually warned on as a severe storm.

It was kicking up a lot of dust.


At times, it seemed as though the dust had some rotation to it.

But since we were quickly approaching dusk and losing daylight, it was hard to definitively make out those features.

Another shot of what could have been a very weak funnel or spin-up along the leading edge of the storm:


It looks like a weak funnel with some dust swirling below.

Was it a spin-up?


But whatever it was, it lasted only a few seconds.

What I do know, is the storm looked pretty nice in terms of structure.


Despite it being a bit grainy, you can see the striations along the side of the storm.

It’s stuff like this I will always find fascinating.

So while it wasn’t a big severe weather event and epic chase day, it was another instance where I got to see some storms that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen.

Sure, I could have been home or in the studio watching the radars and Eric’s video feed, which would have been cool.

But instead, I got to be up close and personal with the thing I love most about weather.

Not Far From The Tree Mon, 16 May 2016 16:17:51 +0000 ↓ Read the rest of this entry...]]> Severe weather season in this part of the country will be starting soon.

Now, this always gives me mixed feelings.

Part of me hopes we avoid severe weather, or at least severe weather that impacts lives and property.

But the other part of me is looking forward to it.

I think I was born with my zeal for weather…and weather watching.

Sure, watching a nice snowstorm move through is cool, but there is nothing like watching severe weather.

Better yet, there is nothing like chasingĀ severe weather.

I’ve always had a knack for watching severe weather.

I’ve always been fascinated with it.

And I think I got that fascination from my dad.

He has always been a weather watcher too.

I’ll even get updates from him from his home in South Carolina when big weather is rolling through.

One specific instance of our shared excitement for weather sticks out in my mind.

I think I was maybe 15 or 16 years old.

Some severe weather was moving towards our town, and then a tornado warning was issued for our county.

So me, being the weather nerd, headed outside to peer west.

Dad quickly followed to watch as well.

As we went out the door, mom asked where we were going.

“To look for the tornado,” we said nearly in unison.

It was at that point, the sirens started going off, which likely drowned out her protests to our wackiness.

The sound of tornado sirens always gets my adrenaline going by the way.

We looked and looked, but there was nothing to see.

The tornado had lifted.

Then the rain started pouring down, and we went inside.

While we didn’t see anything, it was kinda cool to be a co-storm spotter with my dad.

They say the apple sometimes doesn’t fall far from the tree.

And in this case, it’s true.

Both of us always have, and always will, dig the weather.

Except when it’s cold.

Dad (and mom for that matter) doesn’t like the cold so much.


Everything’s Eventual Mon, 09 May 2016 15:56:47 +0000 ↓ Read the rest of this entry...]]> Over the weekend, I found myself watching severe weather unfold over the southern Plains.

It was fascinating to watch the storms develop, and quickly become severe.

What was more interesting was watching the various storms via live storm chasers.

I even got to see a tornado develop…and then dissipate a minute or so later…on live television.

This got me thinking more about our upcoming severe weather season.

Part of me always gets excited with any prospect of severe weather.

But another part of me also dreads severe weather because of its potential impact on lives and property.

So, while I want to see severe weather, especially on those days I can chase, I always prefer it happen over open country.

That way, I can be like a kid in a candy store without the storms impacting folks.

It will be interesting to see how our severe weather season pans out.

Will it be an average season?

Will it be a quiet season?

Will we have any big tornadoes?

As always, there are a lot of questions leading into severe weather season.

My gut is leaning towards an average to slightly above average severe weather season.

There will be hail.

There will be damaging winds.

There will be some tornadoes.

But how significant these things could be is impossible to predict this far out.

Part of how significant they are is how much population gets impacted.

Baseball sized hail in a fallow field is far less impactful than the same hail falling in Jamestown or Fargo or Fergus Falls.

I guess what I’m saying is the time is almost here when we’ll potentially have to deal with severe weather.

And while we don’t get as many severe weather outbreaks up here that other parts of the country get, we do get them.

Most of you recall the Wadena tornado.

And many probably also recall the Northwood tornado.

Historically, the Fargo tornado in 1957 ranks up there as a rare EF-5 tornado.

So we can get big events.

But don’t cancel your summer plans.

Just have a plan in place if severe weather is possible.

Have a plan for when you’re home.

Have a plan for when you’re at work.

And have a plan if you’re out at the lake, or the park, or wherever.

Know where to go if severe weather moves in.

Otherwise, let’s enjoy the late spring and summer because winter never seems too far away, does it?

Soapbox Derby Mon, 02 May 2016 16:27:38 +0000 ↓ Read the rest of this entry...]]> Throughout the year, there are various times when a significant weather event is forecast for various parts of the country.

Whether it be a big snowstorm or a severe weather outbreak, there are times to pay a little more attention to impending weather.

Snowstorms can be a big impact, but they evolve over time and the snow usually last for hours, if not days.

My post is more about severe weather episodes.

I am talking, in particular, about the big events with potential far-reaching effects in many areas as opposed to a pop-up storm that might be marginally severe.

Severe weather, for me, is perhaps the most exciting weather of all.

I say exciting because it is amazing to see the atmosphere become so volatile in such a short period of time.

Skies can go from clear to holding a tornadic storm in less than half an hour.

This happens when all the right things (temperature, moisture, wind shear, triggering mechanism, etc.) all come together just right.

When it looks like these things might come together, the Storm Prediction Center starts issuing outlooks for the possibility of severe weather.

In some cases, this can be as far as 8 days out.

As more data comes in, the areas under the gun are fine-tuned and depending on the “ingredients”, some folks could be placed in (from least potential impact to highest potential impact) a marginal risk, slight risk, enhanced risk, moderate risk, or high risk.

Those are more explained here:


And if you want more than a general explanation, you can read more here:

Today’s post isn’t about the categories, it’s about what people hear from us weather folk and how they (mis)interpret what may or may not unfold.

As mentioned earlier, for a big severe weather event to unfold, a lot of things need to come together just right.

That scenario unfolded last week in the southern Plains.

The Storm Prediction Center started issuing outlooks for that area 7 days out!

In the days leading up to the day of the event, the forecast was still calling for significant severe weather…and a moderate risk was issued for many areas.

Leading up to the event, many meteorologists, both in that area and in other parts of the country (including me), were mentioning the severe weather risk.

A lot of folks seem to think this is “hyping” the weather.

Other folks think we talk about severe weather “to get ratings”.

Neither one of these is true…at least in general terms.

Are there a scant few individuals who hype the weather?

Sure. But the vast majority are like me and just tell it like it is.

I have thought about this a lot, and perhaps folks who watch the weather every day maybe interpret talking about severe weather chances for a particular day in the days leading up to it as hype.

No, it’s called making people aware of a potential weather situation in which life and property may be in danger.

Just because you one person may watch the weather every day doesn’t mean everyone does.

Some folks may catch one of my forecasts, and they get that information on a potential outbreak in that singular forecast.

And making a forecast just “to get ratings” is just ridiculous.

What does that even mean?

Do people really think we control the weather?

Now, back to the situation last week in the southern Plains.

A lot of folks (primarily on social media) spouted off claiming the forecast was “a bust” because the weather just wasn’t “that severe”.

Hmm…let’s see.

There were nearly 500 severe weather reports that day.

Of those, 25 were tornadoes.

Some hail that fell was LARGER than softballs!

Some wind gusts were measured over 90 MPH.

So I guess since there were no wedge tornadoes going through a populated area, then the forecast was a bust?

This is the uphill climb we, as meteorologists, face all the time.

The forecast verified based on the number of severe weather reports.

But the public doesn’t see that because there just wasn’t enough carnage.

I’ll bet the folks who are still cleaning up storm damage even a week later would argue it wasn’t a bust forecast.

Look, I don’t get the forecast right every time.

Nobody does.

And you know what?

Nobody is more annoyed at me getting a forecast wrong…than me.

I got into weather because I would watch a forecast and then wonder why, in some cases, we got rain instead of snow, or vice versa.

I always try and be as accurate as possible.

I am always learning more and more about weather.

But I’ll never know it all.

And if you want to let me know how annoyed you are that I was off by 2 degrees, or it didn’t rain at your house when we had a 40% chance of rain, please do.

I can take it…I’m a big boy.

The bottom line is: I don’t hype the weather.

I don’t give particular forecasts “to get ratings”.

Severe weather is something to be taken seriously, and if this guy is on your TV talking about it, it’s not because I’m trying to drum up business.

I’m just trying to keep you and your family safe.

The Ups and the Downs Mon, 04 Apr 2016 17:22:39 +0000 ↓ Read the rest of this entry...]]> I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved roller coasters.

I think, perhaps, part of the thrill is how high they go.

And since I have a fear of heights, this just adds to the thrill.

Now, once the ride starts and you scream (literally and figuratively) down that first hill, man what a rush!

After that, it’s more hills and twists and turns and finally the ride slows and comes to an end.

Sometimes the weather is a bit of a roller coaster.

We were 70 degrees early last week and then we saw snow falling on Friday.

Today, we’re struggling to get out of the 30s…and tomorrow we’ll soar into the 50s.

We could see flakes of snow in the morning and beautiful sunshine by afternoon.

Then we cool down into the 40s again for the middle of the week.

Then it’s right back up into the 60s for Saturday.

What a ride!

Now, the roller coaster ride of temperatures is nowhere near as thrilling as the real thing.

But it’s kinda cool to experience so many types of weather in such a short period of time.

I’m just glad the weather doesn’t give us any corkscrews or loop-the-loops.