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Archive for Sunday, March 3, 1991

FORECASTERS BRACE FOR TORNADO SEASON

March 3, 1991

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The National Weather Service can't control severe weather, but it continues to make strides in monitoring it.

This spring the NWS will add four wind profiler systems across Kansas, said Bill Fortune, warning preparedness meterologist for the NWS. He was in Lawrence last week to promote "Severe Weather Awareness Week," which begins today.

"They provide us with a vertical view of the winds in the atmosphere every hour," Fortune said about the new technology.

This wind information previously was available only twice a day from weather balloons, he said.

The wind profiler systems, described by Fortune as a Doppler radar pointed vertically, will allow the NWS to monitor the changes in wind shears associated with strong thunderstorms. As wind shears increase, he said, they can become one of the ingredients to produce a tornado.

"USING THAT technology, we hope to be able to forsee the increase in intensity of thunderstorms over certain areas," Fortune said.

The closest profiler to Lawrence will be located in Hillsboro, in the central part of the state.

In the summer, the NWS will increase its automated surface observation system to triple the data generated by the system. Fortune said that one benefit would come from being able to track a "dry line" moving across the state and forecasting when it may collide with moist air, which could lead to thunderstorms.

And a year from now, he said, the NWS will replace its current storm detection radars with four Doppler radars. Topeka, Wichita, Dodge City and Goodland are the sites for the new radars, which can pinpoint the location of a severe storm.

BUT ALL OF this enhanced technology won't replace the need for storm spotters, Fortune said. To that end, the NWS will put on a spotter training seminar at 7 p.m. Thursday in Nichols Hall at Kansas University.

"Radar can tell us where the storm is, (but it) can't really tell us what's going on underneath it," Fortune said. "That's why we depend on spotters."

The severe storm season officially and literally began Friday, as evidenced by the afternoon storms that pushed through Douglas and Shawnee counties. Last year was the third worst year for tornadoes in Kansas since 1950, with 87 tornado sightings. Two people were killed in tornadoes in 1990.

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