David Shepherd: News Blog

Journalist's Notebook

Rare Late November Tornado Touches Down in Illinois, Significant Damage, Injuries

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Monday, November 22, 2010

Photo: Nicole Bradley

Destruction lies in the wake of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that ripped through parts of the Midwest Monday.

Among the hardest hit, northern Illinois, where there were several reports of tornado touchdowns and significant damage.

 News sources are reporting at least three children were hurt in Caledonia, Illinois, when their school

Photo: The Rockford Register-Star

 bus was flipped in the severe storms.  There have been no reports as to the extent of their injuries.

 CNN is reporting Caledonia’s town hall was destroyed when the storms blew through.  Elsewhere in the town, at least one home was completely destroyed and power was knocked out to about 500 residents.  There was significant damage done to several other homes and businesses in that area.

 Severe weather was also reported in Wisconsin where meteorologists from the National Weather Service will have to determine if a tornado touched down there.

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November 23, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tornadoes & Hurricane Force Winds Rip Through The Midwest

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NBC NEWS PHOTO: Storms cause damage to a home near Chicago Tuesday morning.

A powerful storm system is moving through the nation’s mid-section.  A low pressure system is sweeping an intense cold front through the Midwest, with blizzard conditions in the extreme north, destructive winds in the Great Lakes region, and tornadoes from Texas to Kentucky.

In Chicago, forecasters predict the storm could be the most powerful to hit Illinois in over 70 years.

As of Tuesday morning, tornado reports have come in from several states.  In Indiana, tornadoes were reported in Kokomo and Wanatah. 

A roof was ripped off of a home in Peotone, Illinois.  The people were injured there.  Forecasters have not confirmed tornadoes yet, however they will be out soon to survey the area and determine what caused the damage.

More than 62,000 customers were without power in Chicago.  More than 40,000 reportedly lost power in Indiana.

Hurricane-force winds are being reported this afternoon in northern Illinois and Indiana and through the Dakotas.  The eastern Great Lakes are expecting waves to reach 25 feet with fears of beach erosion. 

NBC News is reporting 300 flights were canceled at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

The National Weather Service said the storm is one of the strongest to hit the region in decades.

“We’re expecting sustained winds on the order of 35 to 40 mph with gusts up to 60 mph throughout the afternoon,” Edward Fenelon, a weather service meteorologist in Romeoville, Ill, told NBC News.  He said the storm’s central pressure is equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane.

“This is a very different type of event,” Fenelon said. “But that does give an indication of the magnitude of the winds. This isn’t something you see even every year.”

Weather Service Meteorologist Jim Allsopp tells NBC that the storm could be among the worst to hit Illinois in more than 70 years.

October 26, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Earl Re-Strengthens Back to CAT 4, Warnings Issued Up and Down the Coast

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Wednesday, September 1, 2010

PHOTO: Gerry Broome / AP

Hurricane Earl re-strengthened Wednesday back to a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 135 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“Tropical storm-force winds are expected to reach the North Carolina coast within the warning area by Thursday afternoon with hurricane-force winds occurring by late Thursday,” the National Hurricane Center said in its 5 p.m. ET advisory. “Tropical storm-force winds will likely reach the coast from Virginia northward to New Jersey by early Friday.”

North Carolina’s governor declared a state of emergency Wednesday as the forecast track of hurricane Earl pushes the storm very close to the east-coast of the United States.

Residents and visitors are on high alert on North Carolina’s Ocracoke and Hatteras islands after the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning for most of the state’s eastern coastline Wednesday morning.

[NOTE:  A hurricane WARNING means hurricane conditions are expected within the next 36-hours.]

Both islands are now under an evacuation order as more than 5-thousand tourists, and some year-round residents, pack-up and get out of the massive storm’s path.  While residents there are being urged to leave, only visitors are being required to evacuate.

The bridge leading from Hatteras to the mainland has been packed with west-bound cars, some pulling campers and trailers, as a mass exodus continues as Earl continues to pack a powerful punch, churning toward the United States with maximum sustained winds of 125 MPH.

On Ocracoke Island, the only passage to the mainland is by ferry.  Evacuees began lining up early Wednesday morning, trying to get on the first ferry off the island.

Dare County, N.C., issued a statement saying the evacuation of visitors to Hatteras was ordered “before high seas produce over-wash on N.C. Highway 12 which will impede safe travel.”

By early Wednesday afternoon, cars were backed up on N.C. Highway 12.  It’s the only way to get from the Outer Bank’s barrier islands to the mainland.

“Our two biggest concerns,” National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read told NBC’s “TODAY” show, are “the coast of North Carolina and extreme southeast Virginia on early Friday morning, late Thursday night, and then on Friday into Saturday for southeastern New England. Just a small change in the direction of the storm could raise an impact, and the large waves, beach erosion and rip currents will be a problem along the East Coast.”

 While the North Carolina coastline is often subject to hurricane conditions, some officials say there has not been an evacuation, on this scale, for a very long time.

“I don’t remember the last time there was a mandatory evacuation order for the island,” Hyde County Commissioner Kenneth Collier told NBC News Wednesday.

Current Track

Photo: Gerry Broome / AP

 The current track has Earl nearing the eastern United States sometime late Thursday – early Friday morning.  As we’ve seen with other hurricanes, the track can change at any minute.  Right now, it appears Earl with just hug the coast as it heads north past the Carolinas, up toward the Delmarva, eventually possibly making landfall on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

Even a slight westward shift in the track of this powerful category 3 hurricane could dramatically change the potential damage the storm could cause.  Residents up and down the east-coast are being urged by local officials to continually monitor the situation for any late-breaking developments.  Officials warn more evacuations could be ordered if the storm changes its current track.

The National Hurricane Center said Wednesday Earl’s hurricane-force winds extend 90 miles from the center of circulation, and tropical storm force winds extend out more than 200 miles.  Even if Earl doesn’t make landfall, the storm’s center is expected to hug the coastline as it moves north, circulating those hurricane force winds inland.

September 1, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Powerful Hurricane Earl Has U.S. In His Sight

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Officials in North Carolina announced an evacuation for the Ocracoke Island beginning at 5 a.m.  NBC News is reporting tourists are being ordered to leave the barrier island which is only accessible by ferry.  At this time, year-round residents on the Ocracoke Island are being urged to evacuate but have the option to stay.  That could change if the powerful storm shifts from its current path.

Hurricane Earl, a powerful Category 4 hurricane is forcing officials up and down the east coast to get a plan ready in case the monster storm makes landfall.

On Tuesday, NBC News reported gusty winds from Earl’s outer fringes are creating waves that are pounding the Grand Turk shore. 

“We can hear the waves crashing against the reef really seriously,” Kirk Graff, owner of the Captain Kirks Flamingo Cove Marina told NBC News, Tuesday.  “Anybody who hasn’t secured their boats by now is going to regret it.”

The hurricane’s wrath is two-fold this go around.  First, the usual damage and risk of injury or death that comes with any powerful hurricane.  But Earl is whipping up a second problem.  His expected arrival comes on the heels of the busy Labor Day Weekend; beach-front businesses usually do a great deal of business on a hot, sunny Labor Day Weekend.  But with a powerful force of nature eyeing North Carolina’s coast, tourists appear to be checking out.

Forecasters say it’s too soon to know exactly what path Earl with take over the next few days.  The likely track would take the storm’s center just along the east coast, possibly making partial landfall somewhere along North Carolina’s coastline.  This storm doesn’t appear to be taking direct aim at the east coast.  But, as it rides north, just barley hugging the coastline by Thursday night, coastal areas can expect hurricane conditions.

But at the same time don’t forget, these storms can, and often do, change paths.  Hurricanes are very unpredictable and can change at any time.  Everyone along the east-coast, including places like North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware should keep a close eye on this storm as it may affect those areas with powerful hurricane-force winds, storm surge and flooding.

September 1, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Polls, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alex Strikes Land; Pushed Oil on Beaches, Spawns Tornadoes

— By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] Thursday, July 1, 2010

NEW INFORMATION:  

Weather Channel Iwitness Photo

Hurricane Alex made landfall as a Category 2 storm along the Gulf of Mexico’s coastline in northern Mexico, very close to the border with Texas.

Neighboring states’ residents had their worst fears confirmed as the powerful storm managed to push thick crude oil onto nearby beaches; kicked up by the high waves Alex has whipped up along most of the Gulf coast.

Heavy rains and maximum winds of 110 mph slammed into Mexico’s northern Tamaulipas state; approximately 110 miles south of Brownsville, Texas.

Residents in the Mexican fishing villages and marketplaces packed onto buses to move inland in the hopes of dodging Alex’s potentially deadly wrath.  Emergency shelters have been set up at several locations in San Fernando.

At least 3 people have been killed by Alex’s furry in Mexico.  No reports of deaths in the United States so far.

Texas Tornadoes

Alex’s fierce rotation spawned at least two tornadoes near Brownsville, TX.  One tornado is being blamed for flipping over a trailer and causing other damage nearby.

The National Weather Service downgraded its storm warning for the Texas coast from hurricane to tropical storm strength.

Photo: Weather Channel Coverage

The Gulf coast has been feeling the effects of Alex’s outer bands for hours.  Two tornadoes were reported near Brownsville, Texas.  No immediate report of injuries but damage reports are coming in from around that area.

KRGV – TV in Rio Grande Valley, Texas reports, on the breaking news, SAN PEDRO – ”

The river level is rising near the Arroyo Colorado river.

It appears a tornado touched down in the San Pedro community. A water station flipped over, a semi-trailer tipped over and tree limbs are scattered everywhere.

The twister jumped the road and headed south, missing some home.”

Mandatory evacuations tonight in Cameron County, Texas, southward to the nearby South Padre Island as Hurricane Alex continues to gain strength in the Gulf of Mexico.  As we’ve been telling you, Alex is taking aim at the coastal areas of south Texas, near the border with Mexico.

Officials in southern Texas have been preparing throughout the day for Alex’s arrival.  They’ve readied rescue vehicles set up emergency shelters in San Antonio and Laredo.

Tourists on South Padre Island left the white sand beaches and heeded official’s evacuation warnings to get out of town.  Hotels and restaurants, usually packed this time of year, have been deserted with very few wanting to tempt the wrath of the year’s first Atlantic hurricane.

Doctor Tells NBC “Oil Spray” Could Be Harmful

Dr. Michio Kaku, host of TV’s “Sci-Fi Science” says “oil spray” could cause negative health effects for many Gulf coast residents during an interview on MSNBC Wednesday afternoon.

Kaku says winds, rotating counter-clockwise miles from the storm’s center, are “churning up a tremendous amount of activity.”

Those who have lived through a hurricane know the mist, or spray, that fills the air from the water being blown onshore at upwards of 100 MPH or more.  Kaku believes that spray will contain crude oil particles which could be harmful if inhaled.

In 1999, researcher Craig F. Stead submitted a study to the CDC Conference on the Health Impacts of Chemical Exposures during the Gulf war.  That study was talking about a much higher rate of exposure than would be experienced in a weather event like Hurricane Alex.  Stead’s study shows even petroleum exposure on a smaller scale can cause life threatening symptoms.

Stead’s study indicates petroleum exposure presented symptoms such as “fatigue, breathlessness, cough, skin rash, headache, diarrhea, and memory loss.”  In extreme cases, it can also cause cancer, according to Stead.

Image: The Weather ChannelIf Kaku’s prediction is correct, it could expose Gulf coast residents to potentially toxic particles.  Kaku told MSNBC, “Emulsified oil coming down in people’s hair from rooftops, it’s going to be a mess…even with a near miss.”

He also thinks tar balls, the size of apples could be “launched through the air in people’s yards, pools, and streets” in the storm’s fierce winds.

Many experts admit they don’t know what will happen since a hurricane has never hit near the site of a major oil spill.  Kaku’s forecast

Image: The Weather Channel

may be a worst-case scenario, but, at the very least, Alex will come as a dress rehearsal for future hurricanes this season.

Either way, it’s just another concern for residents already devastated by the effects of the BP oil spill; which seems to be getting worse every day.

June 30, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alex Strengthens Again To Tropical Storm Status As It Moves Into Gulf

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Monday, June 28, 2010

The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center [Sunday, June 27, 2010 – 10 PM CDT] shows Alex has gained strength over the warm Gulf waters and is once again classified as a tropical storm.

Tropical systems gain their strength from warm water and weaken as they move over land.

Alex made landfall Saturday afternoon in Belize, and is currently moving into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Forecasters believe Alex will be able to gain enough strength to reach hurricane status before making landfall in northeastern Mexico or the southern coastal areas of Texas later this week.

Alex Could Push Oil Onshore Along Gulf Coast

No one is quite certain how Alex will affect coastal states as millions of gallons of oil continue to pour into the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week, forecasters feared Alex’s track could push it west of the BP oil spill but close enough that it could cause major problems for the clean-up effort in the Gulf.

Now, with the projected track further to the west, experts say the chances Alex would cause serious problems for the Gulf coast’s already desperate oil woes are low.

With that said, tropical systems are very unpredictable and can change course at any time to people along the Gulf coast should still monitor the latest developments as Alex approaches.

Tropical systems rotate counter-clockwise around the center of circulation, or eye.  With the storm projected to move to the west of the BP oil spill, that counter-clockwise flow could push the oil north closer to the coastal states.

Another factor to consider is the storm surge, which pushes Gulf water inland, often flooding coastal areas.  With oil mixed in with that Gulf water, it could leave behind a thick coat of oil on the beaches, streets, neighborhoods and flooded basements.

It’s unclear what kind of clean-up effort this would require on land but many fear it could be even more devastating for the coastal areas, where the oil spill is already hurting local tourism and economies, businesses and residents.

I’ll continue to follow the latest with this developing storm and examine what could happen as Tropical Storm Alex churns toward the Gulf.

June 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Killed In Minnesota Tornadoes This Week

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]Sunday, June 20, 2010

 At least 3 people were killed in Minnesota when a line of intense storms plowed through Thursday evening.

Angie Woodside told The Weather Channel about taking cover in the basement as the tornado approached.  Angie says her mother-in-law, Kathy, 66, refused to go underground despite the warnings.

“She told me she would not go down in one,” Angie Woodside said Friday, the day after Kathy was killed when the tornado picked her up and threw her 200 feet into a field near her home.

In northwestern Minnesota,79-year-old Margie Schulke was killed when the intense twisters destroyed her home with her inside.  58

Courtesy: The Weather Channel, Iwitness Carl Becker

 year old Wes Michaels was also killed when the gas station he owned was leveled by the violent storm.

 In all, 3 people were killed in Minnesota and dozens more were injured in Thursday’s storms. 

Officials report hundreds of homes were damaged by the extreme weather.  The National Weather Service reports 36 tornado sightings Thursday.

Severe storms have wrecked havoc on several mid-west states for several days in a row this week with some states expecting even more this weekend.

Sunday’s Severe Weather Outlook For The Midwest

David Shepherd – Storm Chaser [dshepherd@wtwo.com]

*Note:  The information on the weather blog is not updated regularly.  The forecast is based on data collected early in the day.  For the most up-to-date information on severe weather, consult your local media outlets.

Father’s Day thunderstorms are in the forecast Sunday for the Dakotas, Nebraska, Indiana and northern Kentucky, according to meteorologists. 

Some storms will likely turn severe as they enter a very hot, humid, and unstable air mass. 

Severe storms are expected to pack damaging winds, lightning, hail and isolated tornadoes.  Rainfall estimates of 3 inches for parts of the Midwestern states Sunday.


June 20, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

At Least 5 Killed In Midwest Tornado Outbreak

By: David Shepherd [ dshepherd@wtwo.com ] –  Sunday, June 06, 2010

Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes plow through the Midwest overnight killing at least 5 people and leaving a path of destruction 100 yards wide.

In Millbury, Ohio, rescue workers continue their search for victims in the rubble of shattered homes Sunday.  It’s too soon to tell whether anyone else is missing.

The storms hit around 11 p.m. Saturday night with heavy rain, wind, hail and tornadoes.  The storm swept through a small farm town,

-- CLICK HERE --

narrowly missing a heavily populated suburb of Toledo.

The violent storms damaged at least 50 homes and another 50 were severely damaged.  School buses and police cars were tossed in a mile long trail of devastation.

5 people, including 1 child, were killed.  Police say, among those killed, a person standing outside of the police department and a motorist.

In Michigan, it was a terrifying night as violent weather ripped off siding on a nuclear plant.

Nuclear Plant Automatically Shut Down as Storms Blew Through

Enrico Fermi Nuclear Power Plant

Severe storms that blew through Michigan caused damage to the Fermi 2 nuclear plant in the southeastern part of the state.  Per design, the plant shut

down as the high winds ripped off siding from one of the buildings there.

Investigators

were called in to inspect the plant to make sure there was no further damage.  A public information officer for Monroe County tells NBC News the plant was expected to go back into operation soon.

Power was knocked out to about 35,000 people nearby during the storms but it’s not clear if it was directly related to the shutdown of the nuclear power plant.

In Dundee, Michigan, 11 people were taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries.  Meteorologists with the National Weather Service are looking into reports of a tornado touchdown there.

More than 12 people were hurt in Dwight, Illinois where 10 homes and 40 mobile homes were destroyed.

June 7, 2010 Posted by | Polls, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment