April 21, 2015

Time to prepare for foul weather from floods to twisters

Downtown Pilger after last June's tornado

Downtown Pilger after last June’s tornado

We’re likely done with blizzards for a while, but now it’s time for Nebraskans to focus on being prepared for the challenges of the warm weather months ahead. This is the start of Severe Weather Awareness Week.

Meteorologist Kenny Podrazik, at the National Weather Service, says today’s focus is on flooding and flash flooding, while tomorrow, it’ll be on watches, warnings and how you get them.

“Wednesday will be tornado day, so we’ll be concentrating on tornadoes with a statewide tornado drill beginning at 10 AM, simulating how the National Weather Service and all of our partners cover a tornado watch and tornado warnings,” Podrazik says.

In one of last year’s worst twister incidents, a pair of EF4 tornadoes touched down in and around the northeast Nebraska town of Pilger on June 16th. Two people were killed, 20 people were critically hurt and a large section of the town was demolished.

Tornadoes can strike any month of the year, but Nebraska’s peak months are April, May and June.

“Thursday, we’ll be covering severe thunderstorms,” Podrazik says. “They’re sometimes just as potent as tornadoes, with large damaging hail and very strong winds, they can be prevalent.” The emphasis Friday will be on family preparedness for severe weather.

Learn more at: www.weather.gov

Red flag fire warnings issued for parts of Nebraska

The National Weather Service in Valley warns residents that portions of the state are in a red flag warning regarding fire danger.

Meteorologist Cathy Zapotocny says this is partly due to an approaching front that is bringing windy conditions to the Midwest.

Zapotocny says the red flag warning extends through the center of Nebraska and includes several areas in the eastern part of the state and for western Iowa. Cities include Lincoln, Beatrice, Fremont and Tekamah. Omaha is in the extreme fire danger category.

Zapotocny says anytime we have low humidity, unusually warm days, windy conditions combined with a lot of dry grass and brush, there is a greater risk of fire.

Learn to be a severe weather spotter, starting this week

Downtown Pilger following last June's tornado

Downtown Pilger following last June’s tornado

Spotter training classes for severe weather are underway now and will run for the next several weeks in communities across Nebraska.

Brian Smith, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Valley, says several severe storms raked the northeast part of the state last summer, causing widespread damage and injuries. Smith says it’s simply how the weather patterns emerged.

“It was just conducive for where the storms developed and since October of 2013 when Wayne got hit, northeast Nebraska has gotten its share of severe weather,” Smith says, “especially in June of last year.”

Spotters prove to be extremely valuable assets to the weather service when severe storms break out. Smith says while there were several strong storm outbreaks during 2014, overall, it was a pretty quiet year, aside from those few exceptions.

“Mother’s Day was a big event in mainly central and eastern Nebraska,” Smith says, “and then there was June 3rd, a big hail storm and wind event, one that occured in Norfolk and went southeast, and nailed Blair, and then there was June 16th and 17th.”

Those are the days when severe storms spun off several tornadoes in the region. On the 16th, a twister demolished much of the town of Pilger (PILL-gur) and on the 17th, another tornado touched down in Cedar County.

Severe Weather Awareness Week starts on March 23rd. Spotter training courses are underway now through late April. A course was held yesterday in Seward, one is scheduled tonight in Weeping Water, with more courses this week in Schuyler, Beatrice and Columbus.

Learn more at www.weather.gov.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Homeowners dealing with leaky roofs after heavy snow

Homeowners across Nebraska are dealing with leaky roofs after the heavy, wet snow that fell over the weekend. Trent Lovewell is the general manager of John Higgins Weatherguard in Omaha and says don’t panic and risk injury climbing on to the roof to clear the snow. He says unless there is a big problem now it is best to let Mother Nature take its course. 

Lovewell warns homeowners of people going door-to-door with offers to remove the snow from roofs. He says those that remove snow from roofs must have an extra insurance policy in place to do so. The warranty on a newer roof may not cover this type of damage. 

Homeowners are advised to take a few minutes and look at their ceilings and inspect them for any wet spots. Lovewell says if you see a water stain and there is a bubble, take something sharp and poke a hole in it to let the water out and put a bucket under it to catch the drip. This could prevent the ceiling from caving in. He says if it is just a brown spot there is no reason panic and you can address the problem during nice weather. 

Lovewell says many leaks can be prevented. He says during nice weather it is important to check the vents on the roof several times a year to make sure they are clear of insulation or other debris. Lovewell says if air can’t come in air can’t go out and those vents will act like a vacuum and suck in moisture and snow.

Snow and ice covered tree and shrub care

The weekend snowstorm coated tree and shrub branches with ice before upwards of 10 inches of heavy, wet snow fell weighing them down even more. University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension Educator for Douglas and Sarpy Counties John Fech says if you are tempted to go outside and brush the snow off, don’t. 

Fech says because those branches are ice covered they are fragile. He says branches can easily snap if too much force is used to clear them. That can cause more damage to the tree or shrub than just leaving it alone. 

Those that just can’t resist removing the snow Fech recommends using a soft brush similar to the ones used to clear snow from cars. He says this has to be done with a very light hand to prevent breakage. 

The good news is Fech says most trees and shrubs will recover on their one come spring with very little damage.