Archive for the ‘Severe Weather’ Category

Storm Prepping: Your bug out bag and shelter

I’ve been posting about weather stuff here and on Facebook for a number of years.

With that in mind here is the prep list I keep in my own storm shelter and a retailer you can find it from. I’ve also broken this down in to 2 categories: Necessities and options. The former are must haves. The latter not so much.

There are tons of people who have ideas as to what you need. Do not take my word as gospel. Look around. Conduct some research. There are several books that I can strongly recommend. This list should get you started at least.

Minor items are to put reflective tape on the door to your shelter so it can be more easily seen at night. Use red and white so it can be seen in day time as well. Tell friends and neighbors where your shelter is located.

I am also assuming you already have a weather radio. If you do not, I strongly suggest you make it part of your list.

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By now, the media has updated everyone on the events of the weekend. I wanted to share a thought this morning with one of the groups of people I work to try to keep appraised on the side, and whom I thought could appreciate the scenario.

If you own a weather radio or read the NOAA updates, you have probably heard or read the end tag “Spotter Activation will not be needed” at the end of a report. Or the ever worrisome “Spotter Activation will be needed at…..” and wondered what it all meant.

Those are the lines that put me and other spotter/chasers in to action each night on a alert level. Without muddying the waters I get called for other items but those lines are a “Heads up!” alert for all the spotter organizations in an area to be ready, we think it is serious. These individuals, groups, and teams- all volunteers, will spring in to action and spend their day, evening and often nights trying to keep the various NWS offices appraised with scientific data, visual cues, and imagery to help us send alerts, balloons, and warnings to the national media and direct systems like weather radios.

The price was heavy in keeping folks appraised over the weekend. Three men whom I have had the pleasure of working with since my start in the weather industry Paul Samaras, Tim Samaras and Carl Young residents of Colorado and California, died while trying to plant a measuring device in front of the Canadian County tornado.

It is one reason I seldom directly chase anymore. The storms are getting more unpredictable in the last 2 years (from my perspective anyway), and the influx of what we call “storm lice” or folks who are not professional storm chasers but throw themselves in front of storms recklessly because they think it fun, or cool has increased three fold. So you no longer are simply concerned with just a storm, but with endangerment of those around you. It’s a nightmare scenario, personally. However, I do chase, and did that night from Tulsa, through Bella Vista, Exeter, Cassville and in to Springfield and past in to Marshfield. We were spread too thin, with too many storms, and too little chasers.

I know how many folks will react, pointing out that storm chasers take risks. I wanted to say that Tim did not take risks. Tim was as cautions as they come. The storm made a hard jog north as Tim tried to place instrumentation in its path and his safety zone became a danger zone. One, that with a tornado that spun up as rapidly as this one did, he could not escape. Even with 4 weather centers, and over 12 people watching the storm, and the radar, myself included, none of us could contact Tim fast enough to have him change course…the storm moved that fast.

These were folks I have shared coffee with, talked with, swapped E-mails with and spoke with. They were not nameless entities on a computer or celebrities on a TV screen. What they did saved countless lives in other places and their information that night went directly to NWS Norman to call for the cover of at least 3 cities before they were struck. In any occupation, you have the risk takers…from snowboarding to boating. I just wanted to set the record straight that they was none of these, as they were good people trying to do something good to help others.

Moreover, the fact of the matter is the casualty rate was much lower than it could have been in OKC, people were prepared despite the mass chaos and dangerous storm going through a heavily populated metropolitan area. All of that is directly because of people like Tim, Paul and Carl. Because of them, we could coordinate, identify damage, and send out warnings to the places that needed them. We received measurements, visual identification, pictures, video, and calculations. None of which we would have without boots on the ground in a dangerous environment.

We have more storms coming this week. Starting tomorrow night most likely and again at the end of the week. As we measure the back build I’ll let you know what’s coming. Right now, count on hail, and high winds. And Spotters being in the field

Remembering: be safe this New Years Eve

As a veteran I have had a lot of friends go on to Fiddlers green before. It never gets easier. As a civilian its a bit different.

You don’t have the bond that you get from the military. Sure you have drinks at folks houses, you talk about the kids but the struggles and traumas aren’t the same.

Storm chasing is different. You are pushed right up against the envelope in some of the most dangerous scenarios that mother nature has to offer. Me? I rarely if ever go out running them down. I readily admit I sit my happy ass in my comfortable office running radar scans and pulling information from multiple chasers over several states.

Andy made it fun. He made it interesting. He showed that chasers are professionals not only to each other but others as well and willing to give the shirt off his back to folks no matter the situation.

We lost Andy at the beginning of 2012. Killed less than 2 hours from my home by a drunk driver. In life as in war sometimes its the stupid things that get you killed. In this case it was a stupid person. Its often the things that seem most inconceivable, most unlikely that also do you in. Its not an artillery round, or a bomb vest, its a moron who doesn’t know how to say “Someone drive me home.” because at heart they are a mindless, simpleton coward.

It’s New Years Eve. I beg you be safe, be smart and be humble.

And remember those who have went before us, save a empty chair for them aye?

Bliain úr faoi shéan is faoi mhaise duit



Perfect Weekend

This will be short as I need to get out the door but I have told myself I would get better at this

Was a great weekend.

Storm Chasing.

Celtic Woman show. (You haven’t lived until your 7 year old is leaning against you in your seat  awe struck and whispers “Daddy….they are AMAZING!”)

Took Critter to Sea Life

Oriental Massages for everyone but the Critter who was very disturbed by our enthusiasm.

Was a truly Great time.

Now I need time off from my vacation, no?

Back to the grind. However I am hoping I’m not coming down with my coworkers flu.Its either just the amount of driving we have done since Friday or my head is becoming mucus breeding grounds. I’m hoping its the former not the latter



Tornado Shelter/Disaster Preparation

So I had been putting this off repeatedly but Homefront Six inadvertently reminded me that I needed to get my shit together and get this published, as the time frame is upon us.

Having worked the aftermath of the Joplin tornado, and doing storm tracking/chasing for the last few years I don’t consider myself anything close to an expert. However, between that and my military training I have a pretty good idea of what not to do (nothing!) and some direct experience in what may help you survive a very dangerous and deadly experience. I am no expert, I can not guarantee you or your families lives as there are just too many variables. I can say that it can’t hurt to be prepared, and I’d rather be prepared than left with absolutely nothing which is what many people found themselves with here in Missouri this time last year.

So I boned up on my research material, dug in to my old manuals and training notes from years gone by and here is what I consider probably the best (short term) program for tornado/disaster prepping.

Please take this seriously, this is not a doomsday-apocalypse-the-sky-is-falling-day-after-tommorow fantasy where you will appear on the other side in a Jerry Ahern novel (although I do like his books!). The point of this is to help you and your family possibly survive a very dangerous situation that can occur.

If you don’t want help, then find something else to read.

Lets Begin.

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Stormchaser Down

It has been a hectic week.
I’ve tried to stay ahead of it all, but I have failed miserably.

I must have sat down a dozen times to write this post, just to be called away for something else, some other task, some other issue needing my attention.

Andy Gabrielson, aka Find the Tornado, was killed over the weekend by a drunk driver, just a hour from my backyard.

He died, coming back from doing what he loved: chasing a storm.

I can’t say Andy and I were close. That would be a lie. However I met him on roughly a half dozen occasions when I first started as a storm spotter. We met for coffee and chit chat as he gave me some insight. We had met via twitter. He was a good man, with a love for the chase and a eye for video and pictures. You have probably seen his footage on countless Weather Channel shorts and news work across the country.

Andy was the real deal.

Last year his truck was flipped with him inside (the last 45 seconds of the video if you want fast forward to it)

Andy did his best to get good footage, which he more often than not succeeded in. He also gathered good data which was very important to meteorologists.

His work, his candor, and his will to do good for people was practically legendary. Last year he picked up Joel Taylor of Team Dominator fame from the side of the road after Reed and Joel parted ways. Andy was always, always willing to help.

As tribute over 500 storm chasers came together to honor Andy, in a way that can only be seen on the Radar screens that we watch, haunt, and stare at for hours. He would have appreciated it I think:

The world is a lesser place, and this storm season won’t be the same without him


If your in the area, or you wish to make a donation to Andy’s family, or attend his service, that information is after the jump.


God speed Andy, and where ever you are, ride the lightning.
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Slowly but surely

Well between the ankle and work things have indeed been moving slowly. I stay piled under time wise. Its like I never have a free moment to myself, and the weekends scream by in record time. Sometimes I feel like I lay down Friday night and wake up on Monday.

It isn’t that stressful, thats the good thing. It’s just I have so many things that I am trying to get accomplished.

I have school work for both of my classes every night.
I have work that I do all day, and sometimes I spent a few minutes each night on it.
I have my CAPM test I will be studying for shortly, hopefully I’ll be taking the test by the end of February.
With Spring on the way I have a training class all next week for Spotters.
My ankle is not as healed as I would like, and I’m still using a cane. I am hoping to be done with that next week if I can but right now it feels like someone smashing my foot with a hammer when i put any sort of real weight on it. Not a pleasant experience I can assure you.

During the course of all this fun and excitement I have several pieces of software that I have to buy, Microsoft project being one.

But the one that invariably always folks ask me about is my meteorological data processing program: GrLevelX.

I have used GrLevel2 for the last several years but this year I am also going to try to get my hands on Level3. They aren’t very expensive, but the work and detail they provide are extremely reliable.

With as mild as this winter has been, I am worried that the spring storms may be more robust and violent than what we have seen the last three years. Thats saying something seeing as how 2011 was one of the most deadly seasons on record.

Unless this winter freezes up soon, I think Spring may have a few surprises for us weather wise and I doubt highly we will like any of them.

Sensational Weather, or Weather Sensationalism?

There has been a lot of hullabub in the last 24 hours as to just how serious we should have taken Irene.'d you spend *your* weekend?

Comments on Facebook and in Twitter from politico’s, editorials, bloggers to even other meteorologists who are climbing on the “Media Sensationalism!” bandwagon.

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Advisory: Joplin tornado response resources are being requested through established mutual aid agreements

The State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) continues to work with Missouri state and local agencies to provide all necessary response resources to Joplin, following Sunday’s deadly tornado

Responders are being coordinated through established regional mutual aid agreements and requests filed with SEMA for state and federal resources.

Missourians interested in volunteering to assist should first call (800) 427-4626 or 2-1-1, instead of reporting directly to a command post or the disaster area. Those with medical skills interested in volunteering should go to:

Missourians wishing to make donations to help with the relief effort can go to or call (800) 427-4626 or 2-1-1.

Residents affected by the tornado who wish to notify their friends and family that they are safe should go to: Friends and family who would like to check on their loved ones in the affected area can use the same site.

Missourians who need disaster information, shelter information or referrals are urged to call

2-1-1. The United Way’s 211 service number is now available for most areas in Missouri. In areas where the 211 number is not operational, citizens can call 800-427-4626.

Finger of God

Last night possibly the worst storm in 29 years rolled through the south east.

More than 200 people are dead across five southern states following what the National Weather Service is calling the deadliest wave of tornadoes since 1974.

Five southern states — Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia — are reporting fatalities, with officials reporting at least 141 dead in Alabama and eight in Virginia.

Tornado riping through Alabama

This storm barely missed my town of Smyrna, and we were lucky.  Too many people lost their lives, and I struggle to find a reason for it.

Last night around 8:00, I started getting ready for the worst.  Mind you, I am rarely uneasy about storms, but this one seemed different.  It was just so hot and humid outside, and with a violent thunderstorm on its way, I knew this is what breeds tornado’s.  Unfortunately little else is known about why tornado’s strike with very little warning.

Fear sunk in as I watched the radar and the swirling red and yellow approaching, it was very sobering as I looked around our humble home and chose which of my valuables to save.  I packed a couple bags, of course the diaper bag for the baby with diapers and a change of clothes, milk, and juice.  Then I looked to our personal valuables.  I packed our firebox with priceless jewelry, some files, birth certs and marriage licenses, social security cards.  We took our baby’s book which had all the first memories, first hair clippings, and my computers and backup hard drive.

While looking at our bags, and got ready to start taking them down to the neighbors basement, I wondered how many by daybreak won’t even have these few things left.

Every time I hear of a storm, virtualy just wind and rain, 2 of the things that supply life, that is taking lives I have to wonder….

Why does this happen? How is it that 2 of the most important things that sustain human life kill so many people?

Bloodspite said it best when we talk of tornado’s, “They are the literal Finger of God”

I pray for the families that lost loved ones and of the families that lost their houses and businesses, nothing left to do now but to pick up the pieces and move on….


Storms Claim 6 during the night

The Atoka, OK Tornado

Six people lost their lives last night. UPDATE: 7 reported. 5 for Arkansas.

Severe weather is a funny thing. It can roll in like a beast and swamp you before you have a chance to act. That wasn’t the case last night.

People were joking last night about the amount of notice we had about the storms.

But the kicker comes when the Storm Prediction Center was not issuing watches for the State of Arkansas. Countless meteorologists and storm chasers, as well as armchair weather geeks like myself were asking the same question last night:

Where. are. the. watches.? Where?

When the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) of the NOAA declares a Watch it is a pretty substantial action. The whole intention of the watch process being ran by the SPC is because of the sheer area they can monitor and cover, versus the more locally driven National Weather Service (NWS) which relies on local information and local announcements.

Can I say that those folks were placed in harms way due to a lack of action by the SPC?

Not directly. but what I can say is it has been proven, by the SPC’s own reports, that early warnings and watches save lives.

And last night that did not happen. By the time the SPC issued the watch for Arkansas there was already a report of a tornado on the ground due North in Missouri that came right across the Bentonville, Bella Vista area. Fortunately in Missouri we had our watches easily a full 45 minutes before it hit.

No matter how you cut it, last night was inexcusable.

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