Saturday, May 30, 2009

Missed Call

My call about no severe weather this far north was about as wrong as it possible could be. While hail was the only report for Howard County, funnel clouds and tornadoes were reported to our south.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch To Our South

Looks like some severe thunderstorms will be possible to our south. I pretty large watch box area covering parts of IL, KY, OH, and IN has been issued until midnight.

I could see some possible rain later but nothing indicates severe weather up our way.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

iNWS Alert Service

The National Weather Service is now offering a new alert service for end users. I was somewhat excited when I found out about the product and wanted to see how the service perform before I posted a review.

It should be noted the product is in the process of evolving and they are improving/changing it as they get more feedback. It has changed since I subscribed initially back in February.

While there are several things offered with the iNWS service, I will focus specifically on the alert service. I think receiving alerts is an important safety factor for everyone when it comes to severe weather.

To use the service, one needs to register and complete their profile. When I signed up, one could set up SMS text alerts to their cell phones. It has temporarily been been disabled and now only email alerts can be sent. That should still allow most mobile users to use the service since most cell phones can receive email.

One thing that intrigued me about the iNWS service was the ability to select a custom alert area. You can select a county or a location by zip code but you can draw a custom alert area. What I like about that you can draw out an area on a map. I have a pretty good idea on what path storms take when hitting Howard County (my primary area of interest).

I had my account set for several months awating for some severe weather to see how the alert service compared against a subscritpion service I have been using for around two years. (I love alerts to my cell phone.) The service I use is from Storm Now.

As mentioned be, new subscribers cannot subscribe to SMS alerts but that is what I received to my cell phone. I also received regular email alerts to my primary personal email from the iNWS service. Both looked nearly identical in format and layout.

Comparing the alerts from Storm Now to iNWS in format is simple. Here is the iNWS alert

New event. Severe Thunderstorm Warning from 05/15/09 08:17 PM EDT to 05/15/09 09:00 PM EDT for Primary Coverage.

That is not very descriptive. The Storm Now alert is the actual NWS text. To get that you need to click the link in the alert from the iNWS. Clicking the link provides the following...

The visual is nice and on the computer web page, it works rather nice but on my cell phone (Blackberry Pearl) the visuals didn't always load and the text was a bit hard to read. The entire process of accessing a link for the full text of the alert didn't appeal to me at all. I would much rather do without the visual and always have the text available.

While I mentioned my preference above, that was not the real problem. It was all about timing. It is very important to get severe weather alerts in a very timely manor. The iNWS service was slow. In fact I would say dangerously slow.

My alert area is rather large and I usually want to know what is happening two counties at a minimum to the west/southwest of my primary county. If my area was much smaller, then I might not have a heads up and be paying attention to other notifications including broadcast media.

On the above alert issued by the NWS at 8:17 PM, I received the email alert from Storm Now at 8:18 PM which can be considered instantly. (The process involves the alert being sent to a dedicated email account at gmail for my BlackBerry and having the BlackBerry service retriving the message and delivering it to my phone.)

Saddly the email from iNWS directly came in at 8:24 PM on my primary email account and the direct SMS delivery to my phone was at 8:25 PM. That delay is an eternity of time when it comes to personal safety.

Clearly the iNWS service is not up to the task as of today if you want/need instant alerts.

It should also be noted the Storm Now service offers not just alerts but the full compliment of NWS products and can be quickly and easily be customized as your needs change. (For example, I sometimes like the SPC outlooks when they are talking about severe weather in Indiana but don't need them on cell phone when they are just for the plain states or on days when there isn't much going on.)

Storm Now can also allow you to set up custom delivery profiles. For example, I do now want woken up with an Winter Storm Watch at 3 AM but would like it anytime between 7 AM to 10 PM. However I want Thundstorm and Tornado Warnings any time when they happen.

While not free, Storm Now offers a great servcie for $2 per month for each email account. If you need alerts in a timely manor, there is nothing better.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Watch For Severe Weather Friday

I won't be around to provide updates but watch for severe weather. Could see some potential like Wednesday. Whatever happens, we will see more rain which we don't need.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tornadoes to our West

Looks like some serious storms firing to our west. A large wedge has been in Missouri and is tracking east. Watch some of the chasing live here -

Super Soaker

An inch plus of rain has made this a another wet storm. Expect an additional inch or more tonight. It cannot be good for farmers or anyone with outside activities.

The clouds are moving out but I don't think the clearing will be long enough during the remaining daylight for any real destabilization. Our best chance for severe weather will come much later during the overnight with the squall line push along by the cold front coming in from the west.

Make sure to keep your weather radio on for the overnight.


That is what the chaser/spotter community is thinking. Cloud cover looks to limit what potentially could happen north of I-70. Some think Missouri will be the better target area but other are not ready to commit. There is no movement of the moderate risk area to the east. Overall wind looks to be out biggest widespread threat today.

Wednesday Has Potential

There is potential for today but it will take several things to come together. The biggest will be the clearing our of the early morning rain. Nothing special about needing clear skies ans sun to create instability.

Likely the biggest threat will be after the dinner hour when the cold front has created a squall line of severe weather.

Again, today will be a day of nowcasting and watching the west in western IA, northwestern MO and central and northern IL to see what is happen with their weather and clearing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wednesday Nowcasting (Be Alert!)

It does look like the most significant severe weather will be to our west. This system has tremendous potential to either one for the record book or bust. (Even with a bust there will be some severe weather.) Wednesday will be all about nowcasting from the morning on through the overnight (and maybe even into Thursday). I urge everyone to be alert to weather forecasts and alerts and if you have outside activities, you should take tomorrow's forecast very seriously.

Wednesday Update

Looks like a slight shift northwest in with the outlook however I think we are still are possibly in an area for a significant severe weather outbreak for tomorrow.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wednesday Severe Weather Update

Wednesday afternoon and evening look interesting. Just a bit of history, the SPC forecaster who issued today's day three moderate risk issued the first day two high risk for the April 7, 2006 event and hit it perfect.

Day 3 Moderate Risk

The SPC has issued a moderate risk at day three for only the 8th time in its history. Not only is this siginificant, we are very near the moderate risk area and in the slight risk area. Looks like we may have some severe weather to deal with mid week.