June 11, 2014

The Difference Between a Tornado Watch and Warning

In NO WAY is the story I am going to write about today even close to what people in Missouri, Alabama, Oklahoma or even in Indiana 90 miles south of me, have experienced the past few years. I am truly sorry for what those people lost in their tornadoes. This is NOTHING CLOSE to that severe of a storm and what they experienced. I am writing this to show the importance of paying attention to weather warnings.

Me, being the example in this story, of not paying attention on two separate occasions.

Living in the Midwest it is always good to know the difference between the words tornado "watch" and tornado "warning".  Why is this today's topic?  Last night on my iPhone and iPad I was receiving constant message updates from my nearest TV station (WTHI) that an tornado "watch" was being issued and would last up until a certain time. Glancing at the clock on the phone, they always seemed to be in lasting in 45 minute increments with each text extending the "until" time.

The problem, I was not paying attention, but the biggest thing was, I knew the difference of the two words but last night I had them confused....turned backwards in my mind.

"Watches" are issued by the NOAA's SPC, and "Warnings" are issued by local offices of the National Weather Service (NWS). I was receiving warnings and ignoring them. Like I said, for some reason last night I had the two definitions backwards in my head. So I wasn't concerned in the least.

The weather has been so nice that my windows are open 24/7 and have been since April. Slight breezes and sunny skies all day, beautiful but those kind of days can change fast in the Midwest. During the time of the warnings that were showing up on my iPad and iPhone, I was sitting at my computer working a little on the blog, but listening to 60's music on iTunes with a LOUD volume. It was loud enough for me not to hear anything through the open windows like a hard rain or high winds. I can usually hear the siren two miles away that is sounded when storms are imminent and you should take cover. Last night I did not hear that siren. The times I glanced out the window it looked like a normal thunderstorm ... no problem.

So more information on these tornado warnings I was receiving. "Warnings" are issued through the efforts of individuals working for the NWS. They state "the way a warning is issued is that a meteorologist will monitor the weather by radar and look for particular areas where there could be high impact damage. They will issue a warning and there will be a signature for an existing storm or developing tornado." Trained NWS spotters will verify reports of rotation or storm damage. "This gives the meteorologist confidence in what they are seeing on radar".

The t-shirt that I bought at the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, where I visited in 2003 says "If The Music Is Too Loud ... You're Too Old" ...

Rock n Roll Hall of Fame

A Fat Me and My Younger Brother

So, while the "warnings" were popping up on my iPhone every few minutes I continued to listen to my loud music, working on the blog, answering some email, etc. I saw nothing outside that led me to believe anything weather wise was happening. I've been in tornadoes and straight line winds before and nothing was telling me based on previous experience that a tornado was nearby.

In my head I kept thinking the definition of "watch". A watch is issued by the NOAA's SPC. "A watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a tornado. It doesn't mean severe weather is imminent." Read that again. I was thinking "watch .... doesn't mean severe weather is imminent".

That is why I thought I was ok.  After all, my trusty watch dogs were all sleeping in their favorite spots, wouldn't they know by natural instinct if severe weather was imminent? Not really. These 3 hounds, unlike some bassets I have had in the past, equate storms as being equal to a deeper sleep than normal for them. No need to watch out for anything. Snoring is allowed and they are dead to the world during any kind of storm, at any time day or night.

Heard me getting the camera and woke up

Storms?  What storms?

Heard me and woke up

This is why I will remember the difference between watch and warning in the future.

I was bored last night around 10:45pm, so I did something I rarely do, I turned on the tv and channel surfed for something to watch. I NEVER watch local news/weather ... all my information I read is online based .. not tv based. I'm bored though, and my remote leads me to the local tv channel. There is a newsman standing outside doing a remote broadcast and if I didn't know any better, he sure looks like it is downtown, in the very small town that I live a few miles south of. I'm not really listening to him as much as I am looking at the background to verify he is in this small town ... he is!!! What is this about??

I turn up the sound and find out that earlier tonight a tornado funnel cloud "touchdown" was reported "south of small town".... I live south of that small town ... hmmm. When they mentioned the road, I see that this "touchdown" was 1-1/4 mile south of me. No damages to houses or buildings were reported but they would know more this morning. Not a lot of houses in this area, mostly fields and open land.

Then they posted a video of taken by someone on their porch 10 miles south of me, where two "touchdowns" were shown in the area I worked before retirement. I can tell by the sky this storm was before sun down and that even makes it more strange because the hounds and I were outside most of the time during that period and never suspected any bad weather going on.

Now, granted these were not the F-5's you see that destroy everything in their path, miles wide with speeds over 225mph ... but they would have to be winds over 60mph that could cause "high impact damage".

It's not as bad as it sounds. This morning is dark clouds and light rain. I have not watched any news but I really doubt it is anything more than some crop damage out in the open fields of the area.

So it will be wise for me to remember (again) the difference between "watch" and "warning" in the future.

When I think of winds more than 60mph, I think of the different bloggers I read that experience those wind speeds out in the western states while they stay in small trailers, mid-sized RVs and large motorhomes. That is normal out west. I use to see high wind warnings on highways I traveled on going over the Cascade Mountains. Still, things become different when those clouds turn into rotating funnels or are straight line winds. I've experience straight line wind damage and it changed my views on "I like storms".

The following happened in June 2008 and once again I thought it was just a thunderstorm and I was working online in a room in the back of the house. Not until I heard a huge bang and crash did I notice the winds were unbelievable. As I ran into the living room to herd the hounds into the center of the house for safety, the storm stopped instantly.

Storm Photos Are From 2008 Not Last Night

One of many trees (80' - 110' tall) that were blown over or pulled out of ground.

This is the loud bang I heard with the 50' of tree top struck by lightning hitting the house

The winds came from the SW but luckily after skipping over the highway the winds turned due N. All of these trees fell parallel to my house, some within 8' from the front of the house.

This tree measured 110' from the root base that was 7' wide

Poplar tree was 80' tall and 8' in front of house

That water pictured was a recently planted cornfield before the storm

80' Poplar Tree w/Shallow Roots

One of the Sycamore trees pulled up out of the ground

Bertha and Winston inspecting for any damages

DirecTv dish in different angles

That is where the trees went in my front yard and along 80' of bank that use to be solid trees

Notice the tv dish is now bolted to the house and wind protected 
April 2013 - Not a tree in site

Last night and in 2008, only 3 days apart, I wasn't paying attention to how severe the weather was. In 2008 I did not have the tv on nor any radio. The hounds and I had just been outside but came inside when it started raining. I thought it was just a thunderstorm. These winds happen fast and can do a lot of damage in a very short period of time.

That is all I can say about storms and warnings.

Last night I was making some minor changes and additions the blog if you haven't noticed. I moved my profile photo to the left side, then added a "search" box on the upper right. I've decided to keep the title of the blog the same but I did change the description to what seemed to be appropriate. I really think RV research will always be ongoing with me, I'll always be looking at something. Then I added some new tabs at the top. I added a personal photo of myself, a page long description with some information that was lost when Google decided to change my profile from blogger to Google Plus.

For a little added flavor, I added a tab showing my past VW buses I had bought and sold between the years of 2001 - 2008. What do those have to do with this blog? In almost every case there was a cross-country trip involved after I purchased them online and drove them back to Indiana. There was some camping involved with a few of them during those drives. Plus, I just thought they were interesting enough to add and maybe some readers that are fans of VW's would be interested in seeing them.

Actually that was my original plan for my retirement years ago before I learned about the RV lifestyle. I had planned on staying in this house, buying a VW Camper and traveling the country when the urge to travel hit me.

I hope you enjoy the changes to the blog but more importantly pay attention when storm warnings are issued in your local area.

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