Why Josh Knight Will Be Missed

You might know him as a a meteorologist. You might know him as a feature reporter covering local events and businesses. You might know him as both. Regardless of how you know him, he will be missed.

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Josh is exactly the person you see on-air. That’s not always the case in the TV business, but it definitely is with Josh. You see his bright, bubbly personality on television, and that’s the way he is when the red light on the camera goes off.

I often joked with him off camera that he is every ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. When something “less than optimal” came his way, he found a way to make it positive. That thing that would make most of us say “I really have to do this?” became “This is a great learning experience” to him. He always found a way to make put a bright spin on a bad situation…or at least try to bend it positive.

While his positive bias has served him well, Josh is also a very good meteorologist. When I say very good meteorologist, I mean it. An Ohio Valley forecast is always a challenge. When my shifts followed his, I rarely made changes. He would often say – either through notes or in person – that his confidence in certain weather situations wasn’t high; despite what he says, his forecast is ahead of the curve. He takes the time to look through lots of model data and make reasonable decisions that made the most sense. Where I struggle in pattern recognition and specifics, he excels. When my confidence to break away from computer guidance is weak, his is strong. When I bend away from guidance, he bends more. His confidence makes me more confident. He did this without bragging or boasting; he did it without even knowing it.

Josh is moving to WJLA in Washington D.C., closer to his hometown. As a guy who works in his hometown, there is no place like home, and it’s great to be home. I am happy for him because he will use his talents to the fullest there. WJLA is a station I respect and many in D.C. respect, and they are adding a great meteorologist to their team. His problem solving and critical thinking skills are top notch, and he will be a great asset to WJLA.

I hope you join Josh one last time on Good Morning Cincinnati from 8am to 9am and from 11am to 12pm.

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What Happened Near New Vienna, Ohio Friday Afternoon?

It’s not often I get to go out and survey storm damage. I’m usually in a studio under bright lights. When storms hit today, the newsroom dispatched me into the field. Initially, I saw tree damage along Pausch Road near Leesburg, Ohio:

leesburg

This photo was taken looking northeast and all of the downed trees are pointing towards the southeast, where radar suggested the winds from the storm were pointing to. In nearly the same spot and facing the opposite direction, damage to barns suggested a northwest wind when it occurred. There was siding in the field from the leftmost barn pictures just southeast of the barn:

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With all of the damage fanned out in a uniform direction, this suggested straight-line winds caused this damage.

Shortly after we left the scene to head home, the newsroom directed us to a damaged home north of New Vienna, Ohio. Here’s the approximate location of the house relative to New Vienna:

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Imagine what I felt arriving the scene and seeing this:

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Whoa. What could cause this? I immediately went into investigation mode. Here’s a wide shot of this house and the yard around it:

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Notice anything, even that this resolution? Most of the debris is to the left of the house. With this photo looking southeast, most of the debris is on the east or southeast side of the house, including all of this debris along the road:

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Closer to the home, I found this wood board driven into the ground:

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Whoa. That’s some force. The home owner (pictured above) is actually an electrical engineer at General Electric. He was thinking like I was; he wondered how there could be all of this debris so far away from the house, especially east of the house. The wind was coming from the northwest at the time; if damaging straight-line wind was the cause of this damage, why was there so much damage to the east of the house (including large, heavy parts of the walls)? In addition to the debris field, that board driven into the ground suggested to me this was a tornado.

After we shot our video at the house, we drove through New Vienna (north on State Route 73); there was a lot of tree damage there:

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I did not see any structural damage, and all of the tree damage seemed to lean towards the south, east or southeast. The alignment of buildings and tree along the road reminded me of the Venturi Effect, possibly explaining how winds were accelerating through the town. More on the Venturi Effect is here: http://www.tech-faq.com/venturi-effect.html. In other words, winds – moving northwest to southeast through the town, or basically down S.R. 73 – were accelerating or at least traveling through the town like this:

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This damage appears to be caused by straight-line winds. As I drove home, I had a visual of what the radar data might look like. While I had looked at radar briefly in real-time as the storm moved through Highland County, I had not looked at the radar data in detail.

Here is the radar loop from 3:04 to 3:49pm for this Highland County storm:
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Here is the storm relative velocity (the Doppler part of Doppler radar or how the winds are moving relative to the radar [minus the motion of the storm to see rotation] in Wilmington, Ohio) loop of this storm from 3:04pm to 3:49pm:

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From the radar’s lowest scan angle, red colors are winds moving away from the radar, green colors are winds moving towards the radar, and yellow colors are severe winds moving away from the radar. So the overall wind flow relative to the radar looked like this:

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There’s no strong rotation here. Radar suggests mainly outflow winds. But there’s more! Let’s look specifically at the radar snapshot around 3:15pm:

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There’s no hook echo or strong inflow notch. Let’s look at the base velocity data for the same area:

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Winds were moving away from the radar near New Vienna at the time damage occurred. Normally, strong winds towards and strong winds away from the radar are close together near a tornado. So there’s no tornado right? Not so fast. The magnitude of the wind speeds near New Vienna matter:

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See how wind speeds over New Vienna are stronger than where the blue arrow is? Imagine a pinwheel facing the sky just north of New Vienna. Which way would it rotate? Counter-clockwise…like most tornadoes do. If you’re having a tough time visualizing this, see what normalized rotation looked like:

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The green area shows significant counter-clockwise rotation based on raar; in other words, this is where radar is detecting rotation and the possibility of a tornado.

The National Weather Service in Wilmington is responsible for determining if damage was from straight-line wind or a tornado. I don’t know if they will survey this Saturday. Based on the damage I saw, the Leesburg damage looks to be from straight-line wind, but the New Vienna damage is more complicated. After seeing it with my own two eyes, the damage north of New Vienna looks tornadic, but the damage in town is a close call.

We will see what the verdict is from the NWS!

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Remembering The Harrison Area F4 Tornado 25 Years Ago

When you think of Tri-State tornadoes, you may think of March 2, 2012 or April 9, 1999. If you’ve lived in the Cincinnati area for a while, you may also remember April 3, 1974. The tornadoes of June 2-3, 1990 are often forgotten because there were no fatalities from tornadoes that night. There were, however, roughly 40 injuries in southeastern Indiana and southwestern Ohio during the event; all of these injuries came from an F2 tornado extending from Ripley to Dearborn County and from an F4 tornado extending from Dearborn to Warren County:

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The highest rated tornado in the Tri-State that night was an F4 that went through Harrison, Ohio and also caused damage up to Mason. This tornado began two miles west of Bright, Indiana and continued into northwestern Hamilton County, where 32 homes and five businesses were destroyed. Two 18-inch, 75-foot long, 5/8″ steel beams designed to withstand winds up to 250mph were twisted to the ground at a restaurant in Harrison. The tornado continued into southern and southeastern Butler County where 19 homes and 4 mobile homes were destroyed. 58 homes, 22 mobile homes, and five apartment buildings were damaged. The tornado ended about 1 mile southwest of Mason, Ohio in Warren County.

A little known fact about the Harrison area tornado is that the path of the tornado is not continuous despite official records listing the damage from Bright to Mason as one tornado. The tornado briefly lifted near New Baltimore, Ohio and settled back to the ground in Colerain Township near Pippin Road. While the tornado lifted, the path’s interruption was brief enough to count as one tornado per NWS directives. Current NWS directives (specifically, NWS Directive 10-1605) state that if a tornado’s path is interrupted for more than 2 miles OR more than 4 minutes, the tornadoes will be rated separately. This NCDC website suggests “a tornado that lifts off the ground for less that [sic] 5 minutes or 2.5 miles is considered a separate segment. If the tornado lifts off the ground for greater than 5 minutes or 2.5 miles, it is considered a separate tornado.” Official NWS records (from the National Climatic Data Center) suggest the tornado lifted near New Baltimore, Ohio at 10:10pm EST and touched down again in Colerain Township, Ohio at 10:14pm EST. While close to being two separate tornadoes, official records list the damage from Dearborn County to Warren County as one tornado. It is unclear to me which definition is correct and/or was the correct definition at the time. Here is a map showing the tornado’s path on the evening of June 2, 1990:

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The F2 tornado that affected Ripley and Dearborn County that night produced 3 injures and caused mainly tree damage. The Hopewell Church in western Ripley County near Holton was, however, destroyed.

Radar images of this event are of poor quality, but it appears that a cyclic supercell was responsible for the damage extending from Holton to Mason. Other, weaker tornadoes were confirmed in Boone, Clermont, and Clinton County that night.

No one died in the Harrison area tornado of June 2, 1990. Including this one, there have only been three violent (F4, F5, EF4, or EF5) tornadoes in the Tri-State since 1950 that have not produced fatalities (the others being on April 3, 1974 and April 25, 1964).

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Spring Frost And Freeze Dates In Cincinnati

As a Cincinnati native, I find it very surprising that so many people that live in the Tri-State – including many natives – that don’t expect the temperature to drop near freezing in late April or early May. Hope springs eternal? Perhaps. While many cheer for warmth all spring, flowers almost always start blooming before the last 32° or 36° temperature of the cold season comes.

While a temperature to or below 32° is scored as a freeze, frost can develop at various temperatures. The temperature at eye-level can be 40°, but there can still be frost at your feet. At local airports (where the meteorological standard is used), the temperature is measured 2 meters (or roughly 6.5 feet) above the ground:

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Because relatively cold air sinks and relatively warm air rises, the temperature of the air below the temperature sensor’s height is likely below the temperature of the air at the temperature sensor’s height. If a plant was planted below the temperature sensor at an airport, it may be damaged or killed on a morning where the temperature sensor above it recorded a low of 35° to 40°. This is why Frost Advisories are issued when the temperature drops into the mid and upper 30s.

When does history suggest you’ll be able to plant your flowers and completely forget (well, virtually) about a killing frost or freeze? A sign at Natorp’s Nursery Outlet in Mason says:

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…but historical records suggest otherwise!

The latest freeze of the spring in Cincinnati typically comes in April, but we have gone the entire month of April without a freeze and had to wait until late May to get the last freeze of the season:

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A freeze (hitting 32° or below) will kill plants very sensitive to the cold and severely damage plants sensitive to the cold. A frost, however, will damage – in full or part – plants sensitive to cold. Using a temperature of 36°, Cincinnati’s last frost of the spring typically comes in late April; historically, it has come as early as late March and as late as late May:

apr23-frost

Mother’s Day is usually a save bet for planting flowers; more specifically, looking at the forecast on Mother’s Day to make sure the temperature won’t drop below 40° is a save bet for planting flowers. Since 1871 (not including 1872 because those spring records are missing), the historical odds of the last spring frost (using a temperature of 36°) occurring during May in the Queen City is 32.8%. In other words, the last frost of the year comes before May begins two out of every 3 years.

So…back to the big question…when does history suggest you’ll be able to plant your flowers and completely forget about a killing frost or freeze? Based on records back to 1871, you’ll have to wait to late May to completely avoid a freeze and June 1st to avoid frost:

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Happy planting! But seriously, wait until Mother’s Day.

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Why Local Weather Station Data Is Important

All weather is local.

Sure, patterns and cycles in the atmospheric impact the oceans, the patterns and cycles of the ocean affect the atmopshere, the larger scale features affect the smaller-scale features, and the smaller-scale features can effect the large scale features. But – ultimately – you care about the current conditions and the forecast for where you live. Not a state to the west, not a county to the west, not a city to the west, but where you live. And that’s why all weather is local. As a meteorologist, you must think globally and forecast locally.

A forecast for where you live is more likely to be accurate when we know the current conditions where you live. As George Carlin said, “I don’t know anybody who lives at the airport.” While reliable instruments for measuring atmospheric conditions – including the temperature – are often located at airports, the weather must also be understood away from airports. There are several airports in the Tri-State, but there are hundreds of thousands of people in our area that don’t live within 5 miles of an airport (and weather conditions can be dramatically different over a 5 mile span).

One of the most common ways to showcase local weather conditions is a temperature map. Rain or shine, people always care about the temperature. Here’s a typical temperature map you’ll find on Local 12:

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Regardless of the source, it is incredibly likely that your community or one nearby is represented on this map. Nearly all counties are represented, and some counties have 2 or 3 temperatures listed. It is impossible to get all of the weather stations in the Tri-State on this map; this is about as full as it can get.

But what is the source of this temperature data? The simple answer is: “there are multiple sources.” The more complex answer is below.

There are eight airports in the Tri-State that have an Automated Airport Weather Station (ASOS) or Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) that share data with the FAA directly. These observations are taken under strict standards; for example, temperatures are measured 2 meters above the ground and wind speeds are measured 10 meters above the ground. These sites also report the visibility. Outside of maintenance and occasional power outages, these sites share observations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year:

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While those sites are very reliable, Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS) sites are also run 24 hours a day but report just basic weather conditions (temperature, winds, dewpoints, etc.). These RAWS sites are run by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to monitor wildfire potential in and near national forests. These sites always report once or twice an hour with no exceptions (including special reports for strong winds or severe weather). There are three RAWS sites in the Tri-State (Crittenden, Big Oaks Refuge, and Shawnee National Forest):

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The Shawnee National Forest RAWS is not displayed to make room for West Union’s temperature (see below).

Roadway Weather Information System (RWIS) sites are operated by state transportation departments, including the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Ohio Department Of Transportation, and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. These sites measure atmospheric conditions as well as pavement conditions (wetness, temperatures, etc.):

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The Kentucky Mesonet is the official climate network of Kentucky and is operated by Western Kentucky University. Most counties in Kentucky have a site, and they are positioned to measure temperatures, wind speeds, rainfall amounts, and dewpoints in areas away from airports and other major observing sites:

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The Kentucky Mesonet site in Burlington is not shown to make room for the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and Union weather station data.

The temperature map is pretty full with temperatures already, but there are several communities we have left out so far. To fill in the gaps, we use personal weather station data. More specifically, owners of a personal weather station (that they bought) have configured their weather station software to share data with us. With the exception of Lebanon and Falmouth, the data shown on Local 12 from these sites come from personal weather stations:

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Temperatures listed for Falmouth and Lebanon come from the AWOS at the Gene Synder Airport and the Lebanon Airport, respectively. These observations, however, are not sent directly to the FAA and the NWS through a certified channel; they are sent to us through a secondary data stream NOAA operates called MADIS, or the Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System.

Remember, the temperatures on the maps above are just the ones that fit on the map. There are dozens of other sites in our area that we monitor.

With ASOS, AWOS, RWIS, RAWS, and Kentucky Mesonet sites in the Tri-State, why is there a need for personal weather station data? It all comes full circle: all weather is local. Personal weather station data shows us small-scale wind, precipitation, and temperature changes. These personal weather station stations can and have verify Severe Thunderstorm Warnings and Flash Flood Warnings. Also, higher-resolution, modern computer forecast models analyze local weather station data and may incorporate the data into the model.

If you own a personal weather station, please consider sharing your data with the Citizen Weather Observer Program. If you use software to upload your weather station data online, odds are good that you can share your data with CWOP. Step-by-step directions for sharing data from popular weather stations and their software to CWOP can be found here: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/epz/?n=cwopepz. Many towns and cities don’t have a weather station reporting at this time.

If you have any questions about which weather station to buy or how to share data with CWOP, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section of this post.

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Thunderstorm Myths

There are numerous misconceptions and myths about thunderstorms. “Lightning only strikes tall objects,” “people struck by lightning carry an electrical charge,” and “it is okay to showers during a thunderstorm” are some of the common misconceptions. I am not here to discuss these; instead, I want to highlight some of the challenges meteorologists face during active and severe weather. While reports are valuable to us, there are a lot of beliefs about storms and reporting storms that are not true, such as:

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While radar is a powerful tool, it is not a pair of eyes. Radar can but often does not confirm tornadoes. Radar suggests where damaging straight-line winds are likely, but it doesn’t confirm them. Radar data suggest where heavy rain has fallen, but it doesn’t replace what a rain gauge measures. Simply put, radar, models, satellite, and weather balloon data are great, but it doesn’t always verify the conditions where you live. In fact, your report is more important than anything a meteorologist can access at his or her fingertips. Please don’t assume someone else has reported what you are seeing because you may the only one seeing what you are seeing. Always report out-of-the-ordinary weather.

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Thank you for your report. Seriously! We need to know what you are seeing! Radar doesn’t always tell us the story. When you submit your report, however, please be specific about what you are seeing and where. Where are you located? Are you in a town, and how far/what direction are you relative to that town? A photo of hail or damage is great, but a photo with a detailed description of where you are (i.e. “I’m 2 miles west of Oxford, Ohio”) is FAR more helpful. In addition to knowing where you are, I want to know what you are seeing specifically. If you are seeing hail, how large is the hail compared to a coin? Why do I ask this? Because coins are all the same size; a quarter in California is the same as a quarter in Ohio. I need to know how big your hail is compared to something absolute in size. I don’t know how big your hand is. I don’t know how big your finger is. I do, however, know how big a golf ball is.

Also, please let me know what time severe weather occurred. Sending me a photo at 5:30pm of damage that occurred at 5:25pm is helpful, but sending me a photo at 5:30pm of damage that occurred at 2:30pm is not as helpful, especially if there are numerous rounds of storms; I don’t know what storm likely caused the damage unless you can confirm when the damage occurred.

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You might. If you’re seeing a violently rotating cloud extending from the base of a thunderstorm that’s connected to the ground, you are seeing a tornado. If you’re not seeing this, you’re probably not seeing a tornado. You may be seeing a tail cloud, a funnel cloud, a wall cloud, or another type of cloud. After going through spotter training, you’ll know the difference between these types of clouds. There are a lot of tornado look-alikes. There’s actually a “Scary Looking Cloud Club.” While these clouds may look like tornadoes, they are not.

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I am sorry. I really am. I don’t want to have to interrupt your program to tell you there is a threat for damage. I don’t want to cut into your favorite show to tell you there may be a tornado coming towards you or one of your neighbors. But if it’s a life threatening situation, I have to cut into your program. It’s not just a standard set by television station managers, but it’s also the right thing to do.

I understand you may not be in the warning, but someone nearby is; they deserve the warning just as much as you do should your town been placed in the warning. Please understand that my job – ultimately – is to make sure you stay safe. If you’re going to see severe hail, severe winds, or a tornado, you not only deserve to know, you should want to know. Big Brother, Survivor, the Olympics, the World Series, the NBA Finals, or any other program is not as important as a meteorologist telling you that you or your stuff is in danger.

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From 0 To 36: A Suddenly Stormy Stretch For The Tri-State

In my March 31st blog post, I said that the Tri-State had not gone the entire month of January, February, and March without a Severe Thunderstorm Warning being issued (since 1995 when the National Weather Service in Wilmington opened).

Boy, did our luck suddenly run out. Or as Ron Burgundy put it:

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The first Severe Thunderstorm Warning of the year in the Tri-State was issued in Owen County at 4:35pm on April 2nd. Another was issued at 5:10pm that day, and other was issued on the afternoon of April 7th. From April 8th through April 10th, however, a whopping 33 Severe Thunderstorm Warnings were issued in the Tri-State, bringing the monthly total up to 36 warnings; this total puts the Tri-State into second place for the most number of Severe Thunderstorm Warnings during April:

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All of these warnings were issued in the first 10 days of the month. Between 1995 and 2014, an average of 14 Severe Thunderstorm Warnings were issued in the Tri-State each April; with 2015 included, that average now goes to 15.

On average, April is the 3rd most common month for severe storms in the Tri-State behind June and May.

While getting 34 Severe Thunderstorm Warnings in two days is impressive, the number of times certain counties have been placed under warnings so far this month is also impressive:

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The Severe Thunderstorm Warning count for so far this month for Clermont, Brown, Pendleton, and Adams County are new records for April. Grant and Owen have tied their records for the most number of Severe Thunderstorm Warnings in a single April.

While there will be waves of rain and storms in the week ahead, this week does not look exceptionally stormy. The warning count for most if not all Tri-State counties will remain the same through the upcoming weekend.

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