There’s no doubting it. Thursday morning was extremely cold in western Wisconsin. Sure, there are times during the winter when the temperature overnight tumbles into the double digits below zero. But when you add a decent wind into the equation, the situation turns from plain cold to dangerous. Wind chills of -25 to -30 were recorded across western Wisconsin during the early morning hours. In those conditions, a person not dressed properly would have experienced frostbite or hypothermia in a matter of minutes.
In my opinion, our forecast regarding the dangerous cold came with ample warning time. We continued to provide updates during the coldest period, letting the public know what to expect and how long the danger would last. You may have noticed though no cold weather advisories or warnings were issued by the National Weather Service for the Chippewa Valley. The reason: a new experimental program that ditches the Wind Chill Advisory and Wind Chill Warning for the “Extreme Cold Warning.”
Figure 1 - Warnings/Advisories for night of 1/18/2012
Check out Figure 1 on the left side of your screen. Take note that our eastern and southern counties were included in a Wind Chill Advisory. Meanwhile, the Eau Claire area and locations north and west were under no kind of advisory or warning for cold weather. Far to the west, around St. Cloud, MN, the dark blue represents the Extreme Cold Warning that was in effect.
So why the “gap”? The answer is a little complicated, but I’ll do my best to explain it. Basically, the WQOW News 18 viewing area is served by two National Weather Service offices – Chanhassen, MN and La Crosse, WI. The Chanhassen office, along with all Minnesota offices, is participating in this new experimental program where the public is warned if temperatures or wind chills are expected to sink below -35 for an extended period of time. If the forecast for part of their area meets this requirement, an Extreme Cold Warning is issued. Meanwhile, the La Crosse office, along with all Wisconsin offices, is not participating in the experiment. They continue to issue the Wind Chill Advisory/Warning, based on the forecast and a requirement of temperatures or wind chills near -20 or colder for an extended time.
Thursday Morning's Wind Chills (1/19/2012)
In summary, Eau Claire would have been included in a Wind Chill Advisory in the past. But because “Wind Chill Advisory” does not exist in the Chanhassen “language” anymore, no cold weather alerts were issued, even though wind chills were just as cold compared to locations in the Wind Chill Advisory, like Medford, Neillsville, Osseo and Mondovi.
The weather service is aware of this issue and appreciates feedback when issues like these arise. In their defense, their overall goal is to increase public awarness by making warnings and advisories better. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than “crying wolf” during an urgent weather event. I can’t blame them for working to improve our system. We’ve just got to get through the growing pains.
The moral of this blog post is just because you’re not under a warning, doesn’t mean you will escape the power of Mother Nature. This not only pertains to the cold, but severe weather in the summer too. There are lots of storms in the summer that borderline severe. They don’t meet the criteria, but they can still pack high winds and drop hail. Always keep tuned to the weather forecast, whether it’s on air or online. That way, when we’re thrown a curve ball, you’ll be prepared.
If you have any comments on this issue, please feel free to leave them! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more from Beyond the Forecast…
Posted under Hometown Weather, Weather
This post was written by Nick Grunseth on January 19, 2012