A Newsletter for Emergency Managers & Storm Spotters
Spring Edition, 1998
Vol 3, ed 4.
Spotters are asked to report any occurrence of severe weather to your Skywarn EC, Skywarn
Net Controller or directly to us at the National Weather Service. These reports are of
tremendous importance to us since they firmly tell us what the weather is like at the
ground and aid us in understanding what we are seeing on our radar and satellite images.
If you see any of the following eight types of events, please call us! These events are
considered emergency traffic on the Ham network, please relay them to the NWS immediately.
1. Tornadoes, Water Spouts, Funnel Clouds and Wall Clouds (either rotating or not).
2. Damaging Winds that down trees, large limbs and power lines or any wind producing property
3. Hail of any size
4. Lightning that produces damage, injury or death.
5. Flooding, Ice Jams, Bankfull Rivers or Streams.
6. Measured Rainfall that exceeds 1.0 to 1.5 inches in a 4 hour period.
7. Freezing Rain...all occurrences.
8. Snowfall that exceeds 4 inches in a 24 hour period.
9. Any other event that you feel
may help us determine the severity of storms.
By Hugh Johnson
Severe weather has already pummeled
portions of the south this spring. So far, 1998 has
been the third deadliest weather year behind 1974 and
1984. As our temperatures continue to warm, the
threat of severe weather, including severe
thunderstorms, tornadoes and flash floods, will
increase across eastern New York and adjacent
western New England.
Historically, our region gets its share of
violence from Mother Nature. Last July 3, seven
tornados touched down in Berkshire and Columbia
Counties. On July 15, 1995 the "Great Derecho"
downed more than a million trees in the Adirondack
Forest. With that in mind, a few safety tips are in
If the sky turns threatening, always seek
shelter in a sturdy place, away from windows. Never
stay in a mobile home during a severe thunderstorm
or tornado. You are safer lying in a ditch than inside
a mobile home.
When observing thunderstorms, keep in mind
that it is lightning that kills more than any other
aspect of the thunderstorm, including tornados. Also,
lightning can strike miles ahead of the actual storm.
Last but not least, NEVER attempt to drive a
vehicle over a flooded roadway. The water may be
deeper than you think and could sweep you and your
As always, if there is time and your safety is
NOT jeopardized, please report severe weather to the
National Weather Service.
by Dick Westergard
On March 24, our electronics staff installed
an upgrade to our Weather Radio consoles. That
upgrade reduces the number of steps for our
operators when they are sending out tones
compatible with Emergency Alert System (EAS)
This upgrade incorporates several
improvements which result in less buttons to push
and less likelihood of operator error when we issue
There is another consequence of these
changes which you should be aware of. Each
transmitter now has a separate tone encoding
keypad, so warnings for the Mohawk Valley will no
longer be tone alerted on the Kingston or Mt.
Greylock transmitters, warnings for Litchfield
County, CT will no longer be tone alerted on the
Albany transmitter, and so forth. Questions or
comments? Please call Dick Westergard, Warning
Coordination Meteorologist, at 518-435-9568.
by John Quinlan
The National Weather Service is constantly
seeking new Skywarn spotters to act as our eyes in
the sky. This Spring's list of training dates and
locations can be found at the end of this article. By
attending a Skywarn spotter training session a
volunteer spotter receives enough training and
technical information to be able to identify the
characteristic weather phenomena associated with
severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
If you are
interested, please try to attend a training session.
Pre-registration is required for each Skywarn
spotter training session. You may pre-register by
calling 518-435-9580 from a touch-tone phone,
select option 7, and choose the session you wish to
attend, you will then be asked to leave your name and
phone number. That information will be used to
contact you should the session be over booked,
moved or canceled.
Spring 1998 Skywarn Spotter Training Schedule:
April 18 - Albany, NY - CESTM Auditorium
April 21 - Schoharie, NY - Public Safety Facility
April 25 - Albany, NY - CESTM Auditorium
April 27 - Pittsfield, MA - Emergency Mgmt Office
April 28 - Kingston, NY - Central Hudson Trng Cntr
April 29 - Fonda, NY - Yosts Fire Trng Cntr
May 4 - Indian Lake, NY - Town Hall
May 5 - Torrington, CT - City Hall
May 9 - Albany, NY - CESTM Auditorium
May 11 - Albany, NY - CESTM Auditorium
May 13 - Albany, NY - CESTM Auditorium
May 14 - Grt Barrington, MA - Fire Department
May 18 - Hudson, NY - J.L. Edwards Elementary
by Tom Janus
The Winter of 1997-98 (the months of
December, January, and February) was very mild and
wetter than normal, but with below-normal snowfall.
This winter was the tenth warmest on record, with a
mean temperature of 30.2oF, the warmest since the
winter of 1912-13, which had a mean temperature of
30.1oF. The normal mean temperature for December,
January, and February is 23.5oF. All data in this
report are from Albany.
December was warmer and drier than the
climatological normal. The mean temperature was
29.8oF (3.3oF above normal). Total precipitation
(rain and melted snow) was 2.10 inches (0.83 inch
below normal). The monthly snowfall total was 14.7
inches (2.0 inches below normal). The biggest
snowstorm of December came on December 29-31,
when 6.4 inches fell. Albany had a white Christmas
in 1997, with 3 inches on the ground at the National
Weather Service Forecast Office on December 25.
In January, mild and moist air poured into the
Capital District. The mean temperature for the
month was 28.9oF (8.3oF above normal).
Precipitation totaled 3.80 inches (1.44 inches above
normal). January 3-9 was the rainiest period of the
month with measurable rain falling each day totaling
1.97 inches for the one-week period. Snowfall for
January was 13.5 inches (3.3 inches below normal).
The greatest storm total for the month was 4.8
inches on January 15-16.
February also averaged 8.3oF above normal,
with a mean temperature of 31.8oF. This was the
tenth warmest February on record, beating out
February 1976 when the mean monthly temperature
was 31.5oF. Total precipitation was 2.58 inches
(0.31 inch above normal). Snowfall was a mere 6.0
inches (8.1 inches below normal). Most of the snow
in February came in one storm, with 4.9 inches on
The first snowfall of the 1997-1998 season
came in November. The total snowfall for
November was 11.8 inches (7.7 inches above
normal). The greatest snowstorm of the season was
on November 14-15, with 8.9 inches. Although the
climatological winter season consists of the months
December through February, the snow season runs
from July through June. The season snowfall as of
April 9 stands at 52.3 inches. The normal is 62.8
Despite its tenth-warmest status, no record
high temperature records were broken in December,
January or February. The highest temperature
reached during this period was 54oF, occurring
twice...on January 6 and February 28.
By Steve Pertgen
On March 3, 1998, the FCC granted a
station license to the National Weather Service
Albany CWA SKYWARN, call sign WX2ALY.
This license and call sign will remove the confusion
during SKYWARN/ARES/RACES activities and
will be used on both the packet and voice sides of
On Saturday, May 23, 1998, at 10 AM, there
will be an organizational meeting of the Albany
CWA SKYWARN group in the auditorium at the
CESTM Building (downstairs from the NWS office)
Interested SKYWARN spotters are invited and
encouraged to attend. Officers will be elected and a
Technical Advisory Committee formed. More
information on the meeting will be posted on the
SKYWARN reflector soon.
If you can attend, please let us know. Space
is limited. Please call the 1-800 number, and ask for
extension 225. Leave your name, county and
telephone number. You will not receive a call back
unless the meeting place is moved.
by John Quinlan
Two major tornado outbreaks occurred
across the Taconics of New York and the Berkshires
of Massachusetts during the last three years (May 29,
1995 and July 3, 1997). The magnitude of these
tornadoes (most F2-F4) makes one wonder if there is
a scientific explanation to answer the question "Why
did the tornadoes strike the Taconics and
Berkshires?" To answer this question one must first
look at the tornado climatology of the area to see if
these tornadoes were unprecedented in the Taconics
and Berkshires. In his book "Significant Tornadoes
1680-1991", Tom Grazulis lists the following
tornadoes as having occurred in the Taconics or
Berkshires (Note: the information for the tornadoes
of May 29, 1995 and July 3, 1997 is from the
Publication Storm Data):
Date Time Fujita Location
m/dd/year (est) Scale
5/23/1782 1200 ? Berkshire County
6/30/1819 ? ? Berkshire County
7/08/1821 ? ? Columbia County
8/14/1834 ? ? Berkshire County
6/16/1867 ? ? Columbia County
7/16/1877 ? F1 Columbia County
7/16/1879 1430 F2 Berkshire County
7/02/1883 1700 F2 Berkshire County
6/11/1922 ? F2 Berkshire County
8/28/1973 1300 F4 Columbia County
1320 Berkshire County
5/29/1995 1740 F2 Columbia County
1824 F4 Berkshire County
7/03/1997 1623 F1 Columbia County
7/03/1997 1636 F1 Berkshire County
7/03/1997 1705 F2 Berkshire County
7/03/1997 1711 F2 Berkshire County
7/03/1997 1817 F1 Columbia County
7/03/1997 1820 F2 Columbia County
1824 F1 Berkshire County
*Note: While this list includes many tornadoes, it is
far from a complete list of all tornadoes for the two
The West Stockbridge Tornado (August 28,
1973) was the first F4 New England Tornado since
the Worcester Tornado of June 9, 1953 which ranks
as the most devastating New England Tornado. The
Worcester Tornado had a path length of 46 miles and
a path width of 1000 yards. It lasted for 84 minutes,
killing 94 people and injuring 1288. The damage
total was in excess of 52 million dollars. There have
been a total of five F4 Tornadoes in New England
and two of those have occurred in Berkshire County
(August 28, 1973 and May 29, 1995).
An Analysis of the Great Barrington
Tornado by Bosart et al. (1996) provides some
answers which suggests that the Taconics and
Berkshires may indeed be a favored area for
tornadoes. First the north-south oriented river
valleys in eastern New York (Hudson Valley) and
western Massachusetts (Housatonic Valley) channel
southerly flow which provides the necessary wind
shear to sustain tornadic development. In addition,
tornado genesis and mesocyclone intensification is
enhanced by the cyclonic shear created as a result of
northwesterly flow off the Catskill Mountains which
encounters the terrain channeled southerly flow in
the Hudson Valley. Several other factors may also
play a significant role and those are the terrain
channeling of low level moisture which results in
dew point pooling in the Hudson Valley and
Housatonic Valley and Upslope Flow which occurs
as the thunderstorms cross the Taconic Ridge and
again as they move into the Berkshires.
To the Open House at the
Center for Environmental Sciences and Technology Management
On the Campus of the University at Albany
11 AM to 2 PM on Saturday, May 2, 1998
Interstate 90 to exit 2
From the intersection of Fuller and Washington, go south to the first light
Turn right on Tricentennial Drive - Go to stop sign and turn right into parking area
National Weather Service Forecast Office
251 Fuller Road, Suite B-300
Albany, NY 12203-3640
StormBuster is a publication for
Emergency Management Officials and Skywarn
Spotters in the National Weather Service Forecast
Office Albany's County Warning Area.
They Make StormBuster Happen!
Hugh W. Johnson IV.
Address comments to:
C/O NWS Albany NY
251 Fuller Road
CESTM Suite B-300
Albany, NY 12203