Weather Radios, Storm Chasing, and Monsoons

When I got up for work yesterday morning, I wasn’t planning on being almost in Kansas later that afternoon. But an impromptu storm chase trip alongside Tony Laubach resulted in just that.

The members of the 24/7 Weather team were out at Walgreens in southeast Aurora promoting the importance of weather radios yesterday morning. We were at that particular location because it was the site of a tornado in June 2009. Many folks who live in the Smoky Hill neighborhood recall that day well. It prompted many to buy weather radios, and reminded those who already own them just how important they can be.

If you couldn’t come out yesterday, 7News has partnered with Midland Radios and Walgreens to make weather radios available in all Walgreens locations across the state of Colorado. You can pick one up at a store near you; the latest model is on sale at a promotional price of $29.99 through August.

We were all amazed by the remarkable turnout; there was a steady stream of customers from 7am-noon, in addition to people who already owned weather radios who came out to get them programmed. As I mentioned in the weathercast yesterday morning, those radios were going to be put to use later that afternoon when severe thunderstorms returned to the Front Range.

Sure enough, when a Severe Thunderstorm Watch was issued just a few hours later, I took advantage of the opportunity to go storm chasing with Tony in eastern Colorado. After talking so much about severe storms throughout the morning with everyone at Walgreens, when the radar started becoming more active I was inclined to go check out the storms for myself. Knowing that Tony has seen over two dozen tornadoes this year, and over 200 in his career, I always am hopeful when chasing with him that maybe I’ll see my first real tornado (from a safe distance of course). Although yesterday didn’t turn out to be the day, we saw some cool cloud formations and some severe hail… and a lot of lightning!

I like having the chance to get outside the studio every once in a while and see the storms up close and with my own eyes. Everything looks so much different on the radar than it does in real life. Chasing with Tony enables me to learn a lot about convective development too; although I worked in Texas for over four years and tracked countless severe weather events, I rarely got to see the storms from outside the weather studio so there is still so much for me to learn. Plus, chasing with Tony also means we get to listen to a soundtrack of nonstop Chicago on the way (I know very few people who have an appreciation for Chicago Greatest Hits 1982-1989).

The severe storms that have been forming over the past week or so have resulted from a “monsoonal” pattern which is typical in the southwestern United States in the summer. A monsoon does not essentially mean rain by definition, it means a seasonal wind pattern change. Southwest winds in the summer pull in Pacific moisture, leading to the heavy rainfall that we associate with the word “monsoon.” This pattern has generated a lot of “outflow” driven storms, which can be like a mini cold front or trigger to get storms fired up at a rapid rate.

We’ll be watching out for similar storms today and the next couple of days. This weather pattern serves as a reminder to have fresh batteries in your weather radio and be alert for severe weather warnings when they are issued for your area! It could be another active week weather-wise along the Front Range and plains.




About Maureen McCann

7News Meteorologist, KMGH Denver
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