Strong Thunderstorms and Tornadoes can happen… Even in November

What a crazy weather day we had on Sunday.

Let me just start by saying if you did not know me, I have two things I am very passionate about: Baseball and Weather. I have been since I was a kid and always will be. Some people say I should have pursued a degree in Meteorology!

I also love weather because it is the one thing in life that connects us all together and affects us all. It is the immediate ice breaker in any situation when you do not know someone!

As soon as I woke up and saw the National Weather Service post this, I knew we would have a potential bad situation on hand.

Stormy Sunday

A couple of things come to mind. First of all, it is not common to have a tornado watch in November. Saying that, Severe storm can happen anytime during the year. Secondly, which is even more rare, is when the national weather service alerts a PDS (Potentially Dangerous Situation). I can’t remember the last time Chicago had a Tornado watch that accompanied a PDS situation.

To find out why the atmosphere was ripe for this, here is a great video summary from Saturday and Sunday!

Our neighbors to the north, my hometown Milwaukee had only a slight to moderate risk for severe weather. To their surprise (which seems to happen everytime a major storm happens), the weather forecasters had to scurry to catch up to the PDS situation.

McHenry county in Northern Illinois quickly got tornado warnings and these storms moved rapidly into the Milwaukee area. Local TV (especially ABC affiliate Channel 12) did a great job of jumping in immediately and informing the public of the quickly deteriorating situation. They also explain their reasoning which I think is just as effective.

Wisn

As for Chicago, unlike Milwaukee, news media here rarely jump into live wall to wall coverage of storms including tornado warnings. However with this PDS alert and the calendar being November, some stations decided to change this. Here is a recap of what they did and how I would rate them from an A to F scale.

WBBM-TV_2013_Logo

Channel 2: Had a major dilemma. Do you do wall to wall storm coverage or go all NFL pregame and show the game uninterrupted? CBS rarely has the Bears on and this is a huge ratings draw. I think they did a good job trying to balance a dangerous situation with showing the NFL game. Grade: B

(Side note: Am I the only one who thinks it is idiotic that the officials have to make a call to the league office just to put a stop to the game? Anyone who lives in Chicago knew we had bad weather coming and they still started the game! I think this decision should have been in the hands of the home team only. If the storm was much worse and damaging, think of the amount of injuries with 70,000 people rushing to safety. Its plain stupid and someone one day will get hurt because of it. Players, fans, officials, or media.)

WMAQ_Logo_2012

Channel 5: Kudos to Channel 5. They started the news at 10 AM and basically decided that this situation was more important than regular programming. Everything was wall to wall, informative, and they early on made the call to have all hands on deck forecasting,  even bringing in the perspective from Soldier Field. I usually do not watch the news on Channel 5, however I was very impressed by what they did. Sure, some people are upset that they never was able to watch network sports programming. I respond to them that as of Monday, 6 people lost their lives and they should have more empathy for those families and the families who had their homes devastated.

In addition, when Ch 5 brought on viewers to get their perspective, they constantly praised or reminded them what to do in the path of a storm. These tips can mean the difference in saving someone’s life during a tornado. Grade: A

WLS-TV_Logo

Channel 7: I also give kudos to Channel 7. While they were a little more slow to take on the severity of the dangerous situation, they did follow Ch 5’s footsteps by doing wall to wall coverage. Most of the meterologists were all hands on deck as well. I don’t watch Ch. 7 as much however they did show why they are #1 overall in this market. Grade: A-

WGN-TV_Chicago_1992

Channel 9: WGN seemed to be a step behind everyone else. Once the situation became more dangerous for the entire area (not just McHenry County) the station used its sister station CLTV resources before bringing in their weekend staff to continue the coverage. I am sure being an non-major network that only airs news at 6 AM and 9 PM on the weekends makes it hard to just jump in immediately with a breaking weather story. They had the same information everyone else did about this storm before it happened, so their grade is lowered for that. Grade: B-

Side note: I really loved this logo from the 90s so that is why I decided to use it for this blog.

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Channel 32: If you ever wondered why Fox Chicago is the laughing stock of Chicago news, today would be a good example. They dropped the ball like the NFL did starting this game with an on coming storm. Guess what they did? They decided to begin their 12:00 movie Wall Street! A few minutes later they quickly undid their error and did an ok job covering the storm. Its a good thing the game was on CBS otherwise I am guessing they would have just went with the scroll technique on the screen and continue the national coverage airing a game during the delay. Grade: C

Overall I was glad to see so much coverage about the storm. Sure, some people will be disgruntled and complain to Facebook and other social media about how it interfered with their TV viewing. However I argue that it informed people that had no idea we had a dangerous storm heading for the Metro area. For more on the storm coverage including the unfortunate news that happened in the SW suburbs and areas near Peoria, IL, please go to the following links. I am also posting some of my favorite weather links as well. These are all excellent tools informing about bad weather before it hits.

My thoughts are with those folks directly affected by the storm.

November 17th Storm Information

Chicago Tribune Story

CBS Sports Blog Photos

CBS Sports Blog Storm Coverage

National Weather Service Chicago Storm Recap

Incredible video of a Peoria TV Station taking cover

Weather Links

Chicago National Weather Service Site

Chicago Tribune Weather Center Page

Tom Skilling’s Facebook Page

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