Category Archives: WeatherWatch

Severe Storms Spark Warning, Fear

Severe Storms Spark Warning, Fear

June 7, 2008
County spared; tornado may have hit Racine area

With weather ripe for twisting, gusty winds and earth-drenching rains, Kenosha County sounded its warning sirens Friday afternoon, leaving many residents dreading what would come next.

But it didn’t. There were no tornadoes.

Many sought shelter in their homes, schools and businesses. Cars pulled off to the sides of roads. And yes, hundreds of us released big sighs of relief.

“We didn’t have many downed trees and there was nothing, no major damage … very few broken limbs came down on trees,” said Kenosha County Sheriff Lt. Shannon Rawson, after a local tornado watch expired at 6 p.m.

Instead, this time, Big T sped to the county north of us.

According to National Weather Service, a trained spotter reported a suspected tornado at 3 p.m. at Highway 20 and Britton Road about five miles east of the town of Waterford in western Racine County.

“At this point we haven’t confirmed that it was in fact a tornado,” said meteorologist Chris Franks. “Right now it’s all very preliminary. We want to have our expert speak with the person who spotted it. Until then it will be tough to kind of distinguish from a tornado or even if it could’ve been straight-line winds.”

Franks said the weather service had no reason to doubt the trained spotter’s information and issued a tornado warning based on that information. Weather service investigators would be looking at debris scatter patterns, particularly those coming off old oak trees at the location of the suspected tornado.

“If it happens that it was a tornado it would’ve been very low-level – an EF-0,” Franks said referring to the Enhanced Fujita scale used by weather forecasters to grade a tornado’s force. Tornadoes with a rating of EF-0 have winds between 65-85 miles per hour, based on a three-second gust guideline.

Racine County Sheriff’s deputies reported no major damage. Franks said the suspected tornado caused a number of branches and limbs to break off trees. 

There were, however, plenty of people in both Kenosha and Racine counties bracing for it.

Lockdowns in schools

School districts in both Kenosha and Racine counties prevented students from leaving school grounds until posted warnings expired.

The tornado warning forced Kenosha Unified officials to lock down school buildings and – just as the warning was lifted at 3:18 p.m. – students were again told to remain in their respective buildings until 3:40 p.m., according to a district statement.

All after-school activities and sports practices were canceled due to the unpredictable weather.

Ben Schliesman, emergency services director for Kenosha County, said the line of storms that pushed through in the mid-afternoon produced no reports of significant damage. 

At about 3:15 p.m., the county’s dispatch center received a report of a funnel cloud spotted near highways H and S between the town of Somers and the city of Kenosha. Although no tornado actually formed, sirens were activated shortly afterward, Schliesman said.

In times of severe weather, Schliesman said it is the county’s policy is to activate sirens for tornados, funnel clouds and winds of hurricane force.

Funnel clouds were also spotted in at least four other locations in Racine County including two at different times north and south of Sturtevant and another to the southeast of Waterford five minutes before the reported tornado. A funnel cloud was also spotted in Franksville at Highway K and Interstate 94.

Rain and sustained high winds also swept through Kansasville during Friday’s storms, but they did not leave much damage behind.

“It really got everybody more worried than anything else,” David Smith, who was working at the BP gas station off of highways 11 and 75 during the storm, said. “The bank shut down, but everything was fine.”

Like Wheatland’s storm

Shortly before 4 p.m. a line of severe thunderstorms pushed through Paddock Lake and later north and east into northern Kenosha, Somers, Racine and Milwaukee counties and into Lake Michigan.

Lightning strikes, wind and heavy rain had been reported in western Kenosha County, where authorities said cars had pulled over to the road due to the weather, according to the sheriff’s department. No injuries had been reported.

In Twin Lakes, menacing clouds were followed by heavy rain pouring out of a blue sky. Minutes later, the sky overhead was absent, save for a line of thunderclouds moving away north.

The quick-moving storms and the ring of tornado sirens from nearby Randall – which was also spared a tornado – recalled for many residents the Jan. 7 Wheatland tornado. That tornado – which destroyed some houses and caused millions in damage – made them more likely to take shelter when sirens rang Friday about 3 p.m., and then again at about 3:30 p.m.

The recent Wheatland disaster made Alyssa Menard, who lives in Wilmot but works at the same Subway, afraid. She worries since Wheatland was hit by a tornado once, it is more likely to be hit again.

“It seems like there’s more of a chance because of the other one,” she said, noting two friends were among January’s tornado victims.

Patricia Danielson was laundering clothes at the Twin Lakes Laundry, 111 S. Lake Ave., and despite the sirens, stayed and finished drying her clothes. Still, she too recalled the January tornado.

“Because of the direction, I thought it was going to Wheatland,” she said. “I thought ‘I hope it doesn’t hit them. They couldn’t use another one, because they’re still recovering.'”

Even after the storm passed, there was some confusion in Kenosha and other communities when storm sirens – blasting the all-clear signal – went off. In the city, the sirens’ tones seem to rise and fall as the siren spins, and can sound exactly the same as the take-shelter warning blasts.

Suspends Jensen hearing

A post-conviction hearing for the Mark Jensen murder case ended abruptly Friday because of the tornado threat in Kenosha County.

Ironically, Schroeder reminded the lawyers the January trial began with a tornado warning. During jury selection, lawyers, potential jurors and others were herded to the basement as a tornado threatened Walworth County. That tornado hit Wheatland instead.

The hearing Friday was cut short after Schroeder got two e-mail messages about a tornado warning here.

Skies were sunny, but winds were whipping and, given his past experience, Schroeder said his choices were either to end the hearing or adjourn to the basement.

In a rare display of agreement on the Jensen case, the lawyers opted to end the hearing.

“The case begins and ends with a tornado,” Schroeder joked.

Kenosha News reporters Jessica Hansen, Brian O’Connor and Matthew Olson contributed to this story.

BREAKING – Severe Weather Alert/ SE Wisconsin

From a confidential source inside local government:


The National Weather Service today/May 2, 2008, are anticipating that a Severe Thunderstorm Watch and possibly a Tornado Watch will be issued this afternoon.
The storms that they are concerned about will be hitting sometime this afternoon or early evening (5-6 PM for the Kenosha area).  These storms will be developing over northern Iowa and are in front of a cold front.  The biggest threat will be large hail and down-burst winds.  They said there may be an outside chance of an isolated tornado.
Please take the proper precautions and be aware of changing weather conditions.  I would also ask that municipalities inform us of any damage reports.

Vigilance is paramount.

At least 3 deaths blamed on severe weather

Associated Press – April 11, 2008 9:53 AM ET

ST. LOUIS (AP) – Several deaths are being blamed on the latest round of storms and flooding to hit the Midwest.

In Missouri, authorities say a teenage boy was killed when he tried to cross a creek. They say the boy was holding onto a metal cable while crossing the normally shallow creek, but the higher-than-normal currents caused him to lose his footing.

Emergency crews found his body tangled in roots about a mile downstream.

In Oklahoma, authorities say two motorists died in separate incidents after their cars skidded off wet roads and hit trees.

Tens of thousands of people have been without power because of the storms that brought snow and hail to some areas. In Texas, officials say that some customers may be without power until tomorrow.

Second Life

This was my first time in Second Life, so I really did not know what to expect when I went to the website.

[This is a convenient space to admit that I’m a *huge* Law & Order fan.  I lived with two obsessed fans a few years ago, who were planning to start a Law & Order cover band.  My wife is a prosecutor, who use to watch it, but had more interest in the short-lived “Conviction”.  Anyway, my obsession began about two years ago; my favorite is SVU, if I was forced to pick, but Dickie Goren can usually steal any show if he sniffs a corpse’s fingers.  

How does this relate?  The only notion I had of Second Life was based on an SVU episode, in which the good detectives track down a missing girl by checking out the suspects property in an online game based on Second Life.  He had made a near exact representation of the cabin that they were looking for; Det. Benson convinced the game creator/admin to set the sun to rise in the middle of the night, so they could identify which shore the cabin was on.]

I resisted the initial opportunity to design my avatar, as none of the default designs were interesting to me, though the cyberpunk-ish would be my first choice – and somehow was when I got to the tutorial… uh place?  space?  Chun, help me out…

I spent probably a fast 45 minutes running around trying to do all the tutorials.  Normally, I’d launch into “gameplay,” as, well, its for fun, and the games I traditionally play are similar (sports games, first-person shooters, and a hell of a lot of Civ – when there’s time).   As this was “academic,” I decided to try and immerse myself in the general nuances and small intricacies with the thought this knowledge of the interface would help me “explore” more successfully.  Though, after typing that, I wonder if knowledge and exploration sometimes have the opposite relationship.  

After learning to fly and talking to some[thing], I went to find out about building blocks and property and money – and have to admit I was terribly disappointed with these “real world” concerns.  I guess I like my games either unconcerned with property or at least not-so-overtly concerned with ownership of space and materials.  I’d rather just take things, like in GTA.   I clicked on the door to the “real” world of Second Life.

Which took me to something like a transportation hub in a forest.  There were groups of people hanging about and some posters about making money.  I resisted talking to any of these people, as I wasn’t sure of the social rules of striking up a conversation.  Did these avatars know each other?  How well and in how many worlds?  Did I want to know them or even talk to them, with my slow typing?  I decided not, but committed to a search of folks at UWM. 

So, in my Second Life, I was drawn to look for folks I might know in my first life.  I found a few (6) with UWM ties.  I tried to figure out who these people might be, but didn’t think any were from our class this semester, and none were online, regardless.  

Thus, I continued on my path of first life habits and looked for some places on books.  I found a small and loosely-organized-sounding place (my requirements at the moment), so I teleported on over.  It was late at night (I think; still unsure about temporal issues in SL), so no one else was around.  Or maybe it was boring and no one ever went.  I did find a board that declared itself some kind of record of a contest, with books placed at height intervals reflecting a “score.” I still don’t know how to play, though.  

I picked up a free latte and a free book (I don’t know what book ; I don’t believe it has content, rather a little representation for display – a conversation starter?) and flew around.  I noticed a green blip on my radar (and had a Perfect Dark flashback) and went to check out who was around.  The avatar was in a huge house with a door and doorbell. I could see inside, where he was standing.  So, I said hi and asked what the deal with the book place was.  My response, for which I was unready: “that’s next door.”

I had no idea of the dividing line between the book “space” and this avatar’s private “space”. To me, it was all book place. I teleported there for books, found books, but there were neighbors, too.  I went back to the lodge, where I signed up for the group, found out about an upcoming SL book fair this month, thought about starting a press in SL, figured it would cost money and time, both of which were lacking, and failed terribly at a 19th century lit quiz offered by a gramophone.   

I sat in a comfortable looking chair in the lodge and signed out.


I went back in tonight, after thinking about how I projected my first life onto my SL experience.  I was also thinking about the breakdown of space and place in cyberspace and how this might relate to transportation and exploration within SL.  SL offers the basic ability to walk, the special ability to fly, and the practical gameplay function of teleporting.  Clearly, scales of distance and time has to do with these options: if I want to go from the book “place” to that avatar’s house, I can walk fairly quickly or fly if I’m feeling bored with my key-punching.  It isn’t economical to teleport, wrt time – it would likely take longer to pull up the map, I’d have to know how to search for the house, which means I’d have to have pre-existing knowledge of the place.  The ambulatory function of SL allows for discovery on a local level by allowing an avatar to roam in a continuous path through a continuous world.  Flying speeds up the same process.  Teleporting, however, allows for discovery based on keyword searches.  Thus, it facilitates an exploration based upon preconceived concepts.

And, for me, the continued path of first life concepts led me to weather.  One of the reasons for my ill-conceived and oft-neglected little blog on severe weather is to explore the relationship between terror, news, natural phenomena and probabilities/forecasting.  My interest in representations of weather in the form of brightly-colored radar imagery and numeric values prompted me to see what manifestation weather might have in SL.  

I found the Weather Channel’s home “space”, which, besides featuring ads for upcoming programming, has severe weather experience theme-park rides.  These are supposed to simulate hurricanes, blizzards, tsunamis, sandstorms – but in fun ways, like flying through the eye, skiing down a mountain, surfing and riding motocross bikes.  TWC has decided that SL is far less dangerous than first life.  Which is interesting, since I’m guessing they make their money from high ratings on coverage of events like Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in December 2004, and various North American severe storms that killed people and shut down the normal flow of goods and services.  

I guess, what I’m saying is that perhaps my avatar is on his way to becoming an evil scientist, who will stop at nothing to create a machine – built form basic solid shapes of Euclidean geometry – that controls the weather, so long as he can scrape the L$’s together…

One thing I was trying to say

On Exactitude in Science . . . In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658From Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, Translated by Andrew Hurley Copyright Penguin 1999 .


Severe Weather Borges

beware the inclement weather.