Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Storm spotter helps others

By JIM MISUNAS, Sentinel Editor

McPherson's Jerry Bruce might save your life someday. He'll offer common-sense advice about safety during severe storms in his lecture at 7 p.m. tonight at the First Baptist Church, 600 E. Marlin.

The National Weather Service advance storm spotter will deliver his talk, “Storm Chasing in Kansas.” Admission is free and anyone may attend.

Bruce offers common-sense advice built on 27 years of storm spotting. He said staples for a well-equipped storm shelter include water, non-perishable food, sturdy shoes and a whistle.

“If you're ever in trouble, a whistle will attract attention more quickly than shouting,” he said. “Plus, you can blow a whistle for a long time after your voice gives out.”

Bruce, the safety coordinator for The Cedars Retirement Center, relays on-site storm conditions to a command center and to local media on storm conditions. He contacts various media sources to view live radar and check on storm movement.

His well-equipped vehicle carries a cell phone, portable TV with antennae and a ham radio. The signal for the American Radio Emergency Services ham radio is helped by repeaters installed in Canton and Marion County.

“The ham radio operators often are able to communicate information if power is down,” Bruce said. “Passing out timely information is a key.”

He considers storm spotting a hobby, albeit dangerous at times. He's had a few close calls and can travel more than 600 miles in a day. Most times, he'll station himself southeast of a severe storm capable of producing tornadoes.

“I'm happy to get out and help people,” he said. “When you're spotting you want to give yourself at least one way to get out of the way of a storm in case it turns your way.”

Bruce said he appreciates his supervisors at The Cedars, who provide him the flexibility to leave work when the forecast calls for the probability of severe weather. That was the case May 4 when Bruce left McPherson to monitor a severe storm in southwest Kansas that developed into an EF-5 tornado.

“I was watching TV that day and when I saw a storm was southwest of Greensburg, I decided to head down there,” he said.

When another storm spotter was unable to report conditions near Greensburg, Bruce was the primary source of information for KAKE, Ch. 10. Bruce was close enough that he monitored winds topping 90 mph east of Macksville. He tracked the storm from Kiowa County to Barton County.

“I knew it was a serious tornado and there was a high probability that people had died,” Bruce said. “I told Jay Prater of Channel 10 that the storm meant business because it was causing severe damage. Greensburg took a direct hit.”

Ten people died from the storm, a toll that would've been worse had the people in Greensburg not heeded the 30-minute advance warning provided by the National Weather Service in Dodge City.

“People fortunately got the heck out of town, which no doubt saved some lives,” Bruce said. “A National Weather Service meteorologist in Dodge City saw there was no other storm that would slow the storm down. He issued a timely warning that saved a lot of lives.”

Weather Story - Chicago



Urgent - Immediate Broadcast Requested Flood Watch National Weather Service Chicago/Romeoville IL 432 AM CDT Wed Aug 8 2007

...Heavy Rain Possible Across Northern Illinois Tonight Into Early Thursday Morning...

.An Upper Level Disturbance Across The Rockies Will Race Into The Upper Mississippi River Valley Tonight. Southerly Flow In Advance Of This Short Wave Will Continue To Bring Very Warm And Moist Low Level Air Into The Region. The Combination Of This Disturbance And The Moist Air Mass Will Create A Potential For Heavy Rainfall Tonight.

Winnebago-Boone-Mchenry-Lake Illinois-Ogle-Lee-De Kalb-Kane- Dupage-Cook- Including The Cities Of...Rockford...Woodstock...Waukegan... Oregon...Dixon...Dekalb...Aurora...Chicago 432 AM CDT Wed Aug 8 2007

...Flash Flood Watch In Effect From This Evening Through Thursday Morning...

The National Weather Service In Chicago Has Issued A

• Flash Flood Watch For Portions Of North Central Illinois And Northeast Illinois...Including The Following Areas...In North Central Illinois...Boone...De Kalb...Lee...Ogle And Winnebago. In Northeast Illinois...Cook...Dupage...Kane...Lake Illinois And Mchenry.

• From This Evening Through Thursday Morning

• Thunderstorms Are Expected To Spread Into Northern Illinois Tonight. These Thunderstorms Will Have The Potential To Produce Heavy Rainfall Late This Evening Into Early Thursday Morning. Many Locations In The Watch Area Have Received Very Heavy Rainfall Over The Past Few Days...And Additional Heavy Rainfall Tonight Into Early Thursday Morning May Lead To Flash Flooding.

A Flash Flood Watch Means That Conditions May Develop That Lead To Flash Flooding. Flash Flooding Is A Very Dangerous Situation.

You Should Monitor The Latest Forecasts And Be Prepared To Take Action Should Flash Flood Warnings Be Issued.

Stay cool, stay dry, stay safe...