Yesterday’s Weather Fears

I’m never happy to be right about severe weather. The storms came yesterday afternoon under that ominous “Tornado Watch.”

Let me pause for a moment. A little tangent.

The Weather Service has watches and warnings and advisories. There are too many descriptions for too many different events. It is confusing to the public, in spite of the fact the whole idea is to inform the public.

Last night, by storm’s end, over 50,000 customers were without power. That’s a misleading number, because of home (one customer) might contain four or five or more people. There were tree down all over the place.

I started getting emails with tornado claims. There’s really no way to tell unless you’re in a Kansas type situation where the tornado is ‘in the clear’ and easily seen. We don’t get that here.

Early in the afternoon, as I’d gotten ready to go on for a quick live report, our director had pointed to an image on one of our remote cameras. It looked like a funnel.

I quickly made the decision not to mention that. I couldn’t be sure what it was from our distant camera shot and it wasn’t reaching down toward the ground.

More importantly, I thought the verbal warnings and instructions I was giving would have been proper in a tornado and there was no reason to cause panic.

Should I have mentioned the funnel? Based on what I knew then, I still think I made the right decision.

Now I have more information.

That photo on the left came via email from someone name Ted in Milford. Though I’d normally enhance a shot like this to bring out the contrast, this is ‘as is.’ It looks like it was shot through a window, hence the reflection of a fluorescent light fixture on the right.

All the experts who’ve seen it say it’s a funnel cloud. A tornado is a funnel cloud that reaches toward the ground. This was close and could have grown to be one.

After a day like yesterday, I usually look back to think about what I did and said. I wasn’t perfectly smooth – but who ever is? I think my info was good and appropriate and I respected the fact that every time I came on, I was interrupting someone’s viewing.

My job is to prepare the viewers, not panic them.

8 thoughts on “Yesterday’s Weather Fears”

  1. Geoff –

    I really respect & trust your weather reporting. It’s always informative and interesting, but you don’t interject unnecessary drama into it. Kudo’s to your integrity!



  2. Geoff,

    Looks like a “beaver tail” feeding into the storm.

    No typical banding (striations) due to rotation that would be associated with the broadscale rotation of a funnel cloud.

  3. Sounds like you made the correct call for your viewers.

    As a trained spotter, standing on the ground with first-hand information, if I didn’t see the rotation I would not report it as a funnel.

    Wind speed, direction of travel, hail, and the position of the tail in the entire storm cell would all be factors I would access.

  4. Unless there was rotation, that is, I believe, what Sullivan-Milwaukee WCM Rusty Kapela would call a “scary looking cloud.”

    On a side note, I don’t have it in front of me because I’m at home, but we saved an awesome picture of a thunderstorm moving into Madison off the camera on top of our doppler radar tower.


  5. That looks like something you’d see in my area of the country. We do call that a funnel cloud but we only get scared and hid out in the basement if it’s rotating.

    That weather must have had your adrenaline flowing.

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