[From the NWS Chicago]
Wednesday evening, June 28, saw strong to severe storms redevelop and track across far northern Illinois. Some of the initial storms were supercells, producing a couple of EF-1 tornadoes over north central Illinois in Winnebago and Boone Counties. There were also areas of straight-line wind damage, including into Lake County Illinois.
The main story though was the significant flash flooding in Winnebago and Boone Counties due to 3 to 6+ inches of rain, mainly in less than four hours. The flash flooding was extreme enough to cause dozens of roads to be flooded and impassable across the two counties, including parts of the cities of Rockford and Belvidere. There were reports from Emergency Management of numerous vehicles stranded and drivers having to be rescued, as well as creeks over their banks including Kent Creek in Rockford.
Alex Kirchner [Currently at WREX]
Viki Knapp [Currently at WeatherNation]
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Social Media/News Desk: 3.5
Overall Grade: 35/50
What worked: The crew worked a typical severe weather event for the region. I felt their ability to get warnings out was above average as was their constant communication with the National Weather Service. They were involved with social media which is important in today’s technological age. I believe they live streamed on Facebook Live the whole event. Their storm structure identification on the remote camera was on par and gave me confidence they would be able to pick out dangerous areas as they occurred on live television. From a meteorological terminology view, they displayed knowledge of the storm type and structure throughout the live stream. The best thing they did, in my opinion, was proactively look for areas of danger via radar versus relying only on when warnings were issued. They worked well together as a team.
What needed improvements: As much as I praised the crew for proactively looking for rotation, I must also fault them for not being able to accurately pick out areas of rotation. Some of that has to be due to the radar software they are using. If you saw my last narrative, my major issue with WREX was their radar software. I don’t like the velocity circles that overlay the reflectivity products. It seems like WREX even took a step back and is now using low-resolution composite reflectivity. The biggest problem with the radar must be the velocity product. It almost looks like their SRV mode is smoothed making it very hard to find gate to gate/pixel to pixel shear. With that said, I feel like the meteorologists need to be on top of their game with these limitations on hand and for that, it makes it very hard to be confident with identifying couplets with any sort of confidence. The coverage started off fluid, but once the tornado warning was issued for their station and the siren went off, it seemed to get disjointed and lost the crispness in delivery. This was a higher stress situation as a potential tornado was heading into a downtown area. Outside of the software issues, I feel the biggest errors was not acknowledging the tornado warning in Jo Daviess County until almost 40 minutes into the coverage, not identifying the massive flooding threat developing over the metro area almost an hour into the coverage, and not putting accurate storm tracks on the cells. Several times would there be graphicasts showing a storm moving 15 MPH toward the east-northeast versus east-southeast at 50 MPH. This can cause confusion to those watching the broadcast and thinking they have far longer to take shelter than they do.
What the crew couldn’t control: Referring back to Narrative 1, the station is in a precarious location directly next to a tornado siren. When it goes off, you hear it and it can sometimes distract from the message being conveyed. I’ve noticed that it seems like this station has access to only one live camera from the field and that’s the one located on the river looking toward downtown. I think adding a station camera to show the conditions before the storm makes it to the metro would go a long way into getting those in the metro to see the seriousness of the weather. Enlisting the help of local spotters/chasers would bring an extra asset to the weather coverage. The constant blaring of the weather radio in the background could be on construed as a distraction, but also reinforce the importance of having one.
Overall thoughts: I would rate this coverage as average across the board with the highest marks being the crew’s ability to work off of one another. Their meteorological savviness is there. They know what they are talking about and what to look for. Alex has worked for two other news stations and he seemed more composed than Viki on air. Viki definitely knows her content but seemed as if it was one of her first severe weather events on air. I see that she now works at WeatherNation and that is a very big accomplishment. Some have said WREX took a step back since Eric Sorensen left. I would rate them lower based on this coverage. Alex seems to be knowledgeable and with the right team in place, he can restore WREX back to the days of the past
13 Weather Authority – WREX: 35 out of 50. Average severe weather coverage.