Midwest braces for 'vicious slap from Mother Nature'
CHICAGO -- Severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and fierce winds sliced through the Midwest, leaving behind bitterly cold air and blizzards in the northern Plains that sent temperatures in some areas plummeting by 50 degrees in a few hours.
Forecasters warned more bad weather was on the way Wednesday.
"This is going to be a hard, vicious slap in the face from Mother Nature," Gino Izzi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Romeoville, Illinois, said Tuesday night. "The temperature drop we saw was really spectacular in a bad way."
High winds associated with thunderstorms may have killed two people in Indiana, authorities said Tuesday. Snow forced the closure of schools and highways in many areas, and avalanche warnings were issued for some Western regions.
"I wouldn't call it a common occurrence to see winds this strong with this kind of snow," Izzi said. "This isn't something we see every year."
The cold air and wind gusts as high as 70 mph slammed into the Midwest, where fog created problems for air travel Tuesday in Chicago. About 350 flights were canceled Tuesday at O'Hare International Airport, said Chicago Department of Aviation spokesman Karen Pride.
The system also dragged frigid air across the northern Plains. The Weather Service reported a midday temperature of 24 degrees below zero at Glasgow, Montana. North Dakota registered wind chill factors of 54 below zero at Garrison, while Williston hit a low of 24 below.
Most of Minnesota was under wind chill warnings until noon Wednesday due to indexes that fell into the minus 30 degree level. It was as low as 50 degrees below freezing in Hibbing.
Though only light snow fell in western, central and eastern Iowa on Tuesday, winds snapping as fast as 60 mph caused visibility problems, and temperatures dropped into single digits.
In north central and eastern Iowa, forecasters expected strong winds and blowing snow to continue overnight, and for temperatures to possibly dip to 10 below zero.
"It's a little worse than your average snowstorm," said Rod Donovan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines, Iowa. "The biggest impact is that the driving conditions can change quickly with this type of storm. Once it begins, travel is quite hazardous."
Some 1,500 workers went home early from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, while critical medical staff were put up in hotels so they could stay close to serve patients. The blustery winds also put flight operations on ice at the Rochester airport.
Firefighters in southwestern Indiana pulled two bodies from a mobile home near Evansville that had been turned on its side by winds in a thunderstorm, WEHT-TV reported.
Residents near Danville, west of Indianapolis, reported funnel clouds, and damage was reported to a home and the Morgan County Courthouse in Martinsville.
The National Weather Service reported an unconfirmed tornado touchdown near Okawville, Illinois. A corner of the roof peeled off a high school in Nashville, Illinonis, but no injuries were reported.
Temperatures in Illinois dropped from Tuesday's highs in the 40s to about zero overnight. In anticipation, some central Illinois schools canceled Wednesday classes.
In Cape Girardeau County, Missouri, winds as strong as 70 mph and dime-size hail were reported Tuesday. Two unconfirmed funnel clouds were reported, said Dick Knaup, the county's emergency management director.
The week began with heavy snow pummeling mountain areas from Washington state to northern Arizona as two storms converged, one from hard-hit California and another from the Gulf of Alaska, meteorologists said.
The storms were followed Tuesday by a third that threatened to leave up to 20 inches of snow in Idaho's mountains, said Jay Breidenbach of the Weather Service office in Boise, Idaho.
A fourth storm was on the way to the interior West: "By Thursday, the next storm will be right on our doorstep. This is quite a storm system," Breidenbach said.
The Navajo reservation, which sprawls across parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, was under an emergency declaration because of the possibility that melting snow could create flooding.
In the snow farther west, avalanche danger forced officials to close Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass, Washington state's main east-west artery across the Cascade Mountains. The pass was to remain closed until Wednesday morning, Meagan McFadden of the state Department of Transportation said.
More than 200 trucks were backed up at North Bend, waiting to move freight across the pass. On a typical weekday, as many as 7,000 trucks travel I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass, she added.
Snow also closed highways in Minnesota, Colorado and Wyoming.
Two of three snowmobilers lost in the mountains west of Denver were found late Tuesday, said Summit County sheriff's spokeswoman Paulette Horr. The third was still missing.
In Oregon, two snowmobilers were rescued Monday after spending two nights in the Wallowa Mountains, where they were trapped by storms. Authorities said the two were dressed warmly and equipped with survival gear, matches and an avalanche beacon.Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.10:17
PM January 29, 2008
Tornadoes reported in metro area; 2 dead in S. Ind.
Firefighters pulled two bodies from a mobile home in northern Posey County after it was turned over on its side, apparently by storm winds, Evansville television station WEHT reported.
A sheriff’s dispatcher said he could not confirm the deaths but said the coroner had been called to the scene.
Duke Energy reported more than 28,000 customers without power as of 9:25 p.m., with the largest outages in Morgan and Vigo counties. More than 6,600 people were without power in Morgan County, while power to more than 5,000 was cut in the Terre Haute area.
WEHT reported that Pike County and South Gibson school districts canceled classes Wednesday due to power outages.
There were preliminary reports of storm damage on the Northwestside of Indianapolis as the leading edge of the storm reached the city. From Bloomington to the south and Frankfort to the north, the storm blew through with winds of more than 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Indianapolis.
Reports of downed power lines, damaged roofs and toppled trees followed the storm as it moved through the area. There were preliminary reports of damaged homes in eastern Hendricks County.
At 7:18 p.m., northern Marion County came under a tornado warning with a preliminary report of a tornado touchdown in Clermont, along the Hendricks County line. Such reports are typically confirmed by the weather service the next day after a visual inspection.
A tornado warning was issued for Fillmore, Ind., 26 miles south of Crawfordsville, at 6:44 p.m. National Weather Service radar showed a possible tornado near Danville at 6:57 p.m. today.
Firefighters were looking into reports that several homes were damaged on Swanson Drive on the Northwestside, not far from 44th Street and Kessler Boulevard North Drive.
Tonight, a cold front is expected to settle in, pushing temperatures below freezing — possibly into the upper 20s — between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., said Jason Puma of the weather service.
The overnight low for Indianapolis was forecast to be 11 degrees, officials said.
“That’s a big change considering we’re about 50 degrees right now,” Puma said about 6 p.m. today.
Tomorrow is supposed to be cold and dry, with highs in the 20s, but things could get interesting later in the week, he said.
“We could see a significant winter storm … (one that is) building out of the southern plains,” Puma said. “Given what we’re seeing so far, it will be a measurable snowfall."
NWS Indianapolis Reports - Severe Thunderstorms batter Central Indiana
ILLINOIS CHASE REPORT
January 29, 2008 Southwest Illinois Chase
by John Farley
WISCONSIN TORNADO UPDATE
Odyssey of family's checks shows human concern, tornado's power
Posted: Jan. 17, 2008
Christopher Bilda's first thought when he found a pad of checks on his property in Waterford was that maybe he had a trespasser.
"I was just walking my dogs. I've got a 7-acre place. There it was in the middle of the woods," he said.
It wasn't a whole checkbook, just a pad of checks about half used up. They were soggy but readable.
John Nichols is the name on the checks. Beaverton Road. Capron, Ill.
Christopher's wife, Cindy, told him there had been tornadoes in northern Illinois the same day last week that Kenosha County got hit. Maybe the checks blew up here.
But Capron to Waterford is more than 40 miles, a long way to ride on the wind.
Christopher contacted me to see if we could track down John Nichols and figure out what happened. I did a Google search for Nichols-Beaverton-tornado. Up popped the answer.
"Many working to help tornado victims," one site was headlined. "It's a total disaster," another said.
Reading further, I learned that the person most seriously hurt was Jeanette Nichols, 64, from the same Beaverton Road address on the checks. She had broken bones and a punctured lung. Her son, John, and two of his children had survived more or less unhurt.
The house was leveled. Same with a garage, pole barn and chicken coop.
Jeanette answered the phone when I called her room at St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford. "They tell me I'm healing. They got me out of intensive care," she said.
She and her family never heard any warning siren, she said.
The tornado was suddenly on top of them. John had been helping his kids with their homework and managed to rush to the basement with them as the house was disappearing above them. Jeanette was in a different room.
"The glass broke and the wind blew me out the window and dropped me," she said.
Christopher Bilda knows something about surviving disaster. He's a machinist at Falk Corp., and he was there when the plant was rocked by a huge explosion in December of 2006. He remembers shattered glass, debris and smoke.
The checks he found on his property, and the powerful act of nature that carried them there, have left an impression on Christopher. "I hope it never happens to me. Imagine your stuff scattered all over," he said.
When I reached John Nichols, he said he was astounded that his property was discovered so far away. He said the checks had been sitting on his desk in a second-floor bedroom. The desk was never found.
"It was nice he called," he said of Christopher's quest to find the checks' owner. "That's the only thing I know of that came back to me like that."
The Nichols family lost most of its possessions in what John calls those "15 seconds of terror." But John's and Jeanette's wallets were both found in the rubble, at least some irreplaceable photos were recovered, and two plates once owned by Jeanette's grandmother survived the storm unbroken. Volunteers have come by the hundreds to help out.
Christopher planned to mail the checks back to John. They are a grim souvenir of this rare January tornado, but also a small reminder that we're looking out for one another.
Call Jim Stingl at (414) 224-2017 or e-mail at email@example.com
SUMMER FLOODS OF 2007 IN THE UK
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has released its report into the Summer Floods of 2007 in the UK. It can be found at: SUMMER FLOODS OF 2007 IN THE UK
NATIONAL SEVERE WEATHER WORKSHOP 2008
A national forum for academia, emergency management, media, and NOAA to exchange information and techniques for public safety during severe weather. March 6-8, 2008. National Center for Employee Development 2801 East State Highway 9 Norman, Oklahoma 73071
INDIANA SEVERE WEATHER SYMPOSIUM
50 degrees today... that came to an sudden end! Like in three hours...