Weather Wednesday – First Tornado Captured by Radar

62 years ago this month, April 9, 1953, about 3 miles from where I am sitting, a tornado was caught by radar for the first time. Scientists and electrical engineers at the Illinois State Water Survey at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had modified a former WWII airborne radar for use in estimating amounts of precipitation falling from storms.

Don Staggs, an electrical engineer, was preparing the radar for later field tests. He started to notice what we now call “hook echo” returns in the scans of the storm. As afternoon turned to evening, a strong thunderstorm developed just north of Champaign, about ten miles from the radar site at the university-owned Willard Airport. The storm image included a pronounced hook on the bottom rear flank much as we see hook echoes on modern Doppler radar.

first radar image of a tornado
Illinois State Water Survey via The News Gazette

Still photos and a 16mm film of the images on the scope captured that moment. A team of meteorologists and technicians were able to study the image capture. Later, Dr. Ted Fujita the creator of the tornado strength measurement scale that bears his name, sketched over 200 of the frames of the film in his own hand. All of this can be seen in a terrific article from Colorado State University.  Note especially the photos of the tornado and the well-developed wall cloud.

We now know that the radar captured the early stages of an F3 tornado that eventually traveled about 160 miles and dissipated near Albany, IN. There were two fatalities and about $4-million in property damage in Illinois. The path of the storm took it across mostly rural areas.

Next week, we’ll discuss current use of radar and what may be the next generation of this important forecast tool.

4 things to do during a hurricane

Post by Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant

Last week we discussed what to do to prepare, before a hurricane forms. This week we will discuss what to during a hurricane in your area. Even though there are no hurricanes on either side of the US currently, it is never too early to prepare!

Hurrican 1. Listen to a weather radio or app
The best way to stay informed during a hurricane is to listen to a weather radio. Nowadays there are apps that do the same thing, but I would be wary about using them during a storm because the power may be out and your phone can die quickly when using them. You may ask, why should I listen to the weather radio, I already know a hurricane is in my area. Because hurricanes can cause other natural disasters such as: tornadoes, hail, flooding, and landslides. The best way to be prepared for these is to be informed.

2. Ensure food & water availability
One important thing to have during a hurricane is enough food and water for you and your family. The issue with this, is having food that can be eaten without power. For a list of suggested ready to eat food to have, visit this website. For a safe water supply fill up tubs for water to flush toilets. For safe drinking water fill up large containers, estimate a gallon of water a day per person for a few days. For more water tips visit here.

food safety3. Ensure (cold) food safety
One easy way to keep cold food safe is to turn your refrigerator to its coldest setting and keep the doors closed. If the fridge temperature rises above 40 degrees for more than two hours go ahead and discard any perishable foods such as meat, poultry, leftovers, fish, and eggs. If your freezer rises above 40 degrees for an extended period of time and the food no longer has ice crystals on it throw it out. Never taste food to see if it is still good. Remember this handy tip: when in doubt, throw it out!

4. Evacuation
If you are considering evacuation, evacuate early. It reduces the stress on you and your family from traffic. If an evacuation becomes mandatory, know your evacuation routes and have a plan in place on how to reach them if they become congested. Don’t forget to already have a planned place to evacuate to, and contact them ahead of time.

I hope these tips help you feel more confident in preparing for when a hurricane is approaching your area. Remember: It is never too early to prepare!

Earthquake Warning in Oklahoma

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Oklahoma Geological Survey have issued a rare Earthquake Warning for a potential magnitude 5 or above quake for the state of Oklahoma.  How rare?  This is the first earthquake warning ever for a location east of the Rocky Mountains.

183 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or higher were reported in Oklahoma between October of 2013 and mid-April 0f 2014.  Up to 2008, the long term average was just 2 a year.
The surveys say that past experience has shown that clusters of smaller earthquakes often precede a quake of magnitude 5 or stronger.  Oklahoma experienced a damaging 5.6 magnitude earthquake in 2011.  14 homes were destroyed and two people were injured.

Scientists are studying a possible correlation between the increasing use of deep injection wastewater wells used in connection with hydraulic fracturing in the oil and gas industry  and the increase in the frequency of earthquakes in Oklahoma and elsewhere.

Earthquake SafetyThe Federal Emergency Management Agency has a very good earthquake preparedness website .

In addition the USGS has preparedness tips.

A consortium of organizations from earthquake prone California has a seven step preparedness guide.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency has a downloadable game that can help families learn about earthquakes together.

Earthquakes can and do occur in every one of the 50 states so the current situation in Oklahoma provides an opportunity to review our personal, family, institutional and business plans.