Weather Eye

It’s been a weather weekend. When I was a young woman I developed a paranoid fear of tornados. It began in Saskatchewan after I visited the site of a farm turned to rubble after a tornado touchdown. What I saw terrified me. I began having nightmares and developed a fear of severe storms. In response to that fear, I began learning everything I could find out about tornados and other severe storms. I also became a fanatical radar watcher and weather tracker. I am always following the weather forecast. During active weather I typically check the radar every hour or so. During a storm I will track it constantly. The result is that I have developed a fair weather eye and I did not realize how good I have become until this past couple of weekends.

As we set up before the Bison Days events I used a fairly new and very handy phone ap, called “Meteo Radar” that gives a direct connection to Environment Canada’s radar website via the mobile network. By the radar images I predicted we’d have rain beginning in the final hour of our event. I kept checking the radar and when the rain started I told our interpreter it was going to start light for about 30 minutes and then get really heavy. She announced we were shutting down 45 minutes early. We finished our cleanup just as the heavy rain started.

We had a campfire event the next day and there was a lot of thunder and lightening and one of the patrollers was wondering if we would be able to hold our event. Just before we started I checked my ap and said the distant rumbling we heard was a storm going north of us and missing the park. We would be fine for the event itself but we would need to do the clean up quickly. A second storm was tracking our way and, if it remained on its current trajectory, would likely hit about 15 minutes after our finishing time. I was right. The first storm missed us. The second storm began as we cleaned up after our program. We were running to our vehicles right after clean up. At that point the staff jokingly called me their weather eye.

That afternoon there was a squall line of storms that came barreling through. They were quite scary looking on approach and had blasting winds but by radar I could see it was just a thin fast moving squall line. To my astonishment, I got a call from the other campground host asking if she should evacuate due to a possible tornado. I told her no, it was just a squall line that would rush over, make lots of noise but do no real damage and be gone within twenty minutes. She contacted me twenty minutes later, when the storm had blown by with no damage, to thank me. I told her about Meteo Radar and gave her a lesson using it the next time we met.

Saturday, July 5, 2014, was a wild weather day in Manitoba. We were under a severe thunderstorm watch most of the day. In addition there were no less than three full tornado warnings, including one for the city of Winnipeg 14km south of us. Environment Canada later confirmed one touchdown. Looking at the storm as it approached southern Winnipeg I decided it was likely not going to produce the kind of mega tornado I had seen in the southern USA. We might get, maybe, an F1. The tornado warning was warranted but the tornado was not going anywhere near my kids’ or friends homes. There was no need to worry about it or bother calling them. There were indeed some spectacular funnel clouds but nothing touched down. We were out and about in the campground while these warnings were firing off and more than one worried camper asked about the weather warnings. I assured them thus far the radar showed it was all well south of us and we were not in any danger. Just before our evening event that Saturday, one of the interpreters asked me if we were going to be stormed out and I told her no. There was nothing near us. She announced to the group that I was their weather eye and if I said we were in the clear, then we were.

That was when it occurred to me that my obsession with weather had developed to the point where I actually had a useful skill. It had taken me a decade to learn to follow and predict local severe weather with the tools publicly available. I had gotten to be rather good at it. It’s not that difficult a skill. My daughter-in-law Nola has an equally good weather eye. I guess what puzzles me is why isn’t everyone equally adept. With phone aps like Meteo Radar, it is now so easy to just check and know if you need to worry. More important, most of the time you discover you don’t need to worry. It just makes life a lot less worrisome in general. We can all use less worrying.


Funnel Cloud Over St Norbert and southern Winnipeg)

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