Chicago Weather or Not:: Is This January or Spring?


Call it “solar meltdown”, climate change, global warming, whatever you wish, here in Chicago today a temperature record was broken as we reached 62 degrees, from the previous record of 59. Today we are supposed to have rain, which we indeed have seen, and storms in the area, which we have, and now even more severe weather is possible in Illinois, with the chance of tornadoes and hail.

Severe weather happens in America at any time of the year now. Here are my observations of the past few years, from around April of 1998 to the present.

In April of 1998, Nashville had a series of strong storms come through downtown and through the rest of the state they went! I was at my alma mater working in the computer lab when the warning came out that the tornado was coming. Now about a half hour before I had seen a gigantic anvil shaped cloud top to the WNW of the city, and I knew how to read clouds but I misread the direction of the short part of the anvil. The storm was coming our way and I did not realize it until after the warning went out and some of us went down to survey the incoming storm. The stupid thing we did was go outside but the view was incredible, what storm chasers see when they go into the central parts of our nation looking for severe storm conditions. The colors were swirling and layering and heavy and lowering, and the wind was audible. There was a huge flat black and round thing hanging to the NW of town and it contained an F3 twister.

Footage from the storm is quite striking, the above picture is from a tornado survival item pictured on another webpage (see resources below). But seeing things unfold first hand is stellar, beautiful, but of course when we realized the gravity of the situation we hurried inside and then it hit the city.

Since that time, I have noticed a marked change in the pattern of severe weather in the Nashville area, and now the changes have come big time to the Chicago area. Now in Nashville in 1999 the severe storms happened late at night, and they were dramatic, with colorful lightning, anvil clouds, huge tower clouds and high winds. After 2000 the pattern continued, with storm systems coming in the evening, in the late nights, into the early AM. Some storms were so powerful that, as in one example, I could see the flashes of white lightning long before the thunder was audible and the storms actually came into our part of Nashville around the Belmont area.

Tornadoes happened since that time in Clarksville, TN and in eastern middle Tennessee, in winter and also in late autumn respectively. I have photographs of the Veterans Day storm system of November 2002, when in Nashville there was sun and blue skies, but east of us there were huge storms so big I could see the rotating clouds at their tops and the anvil caps very clearly, and I think one had an overshooting top. Nashville had storms later that evening and I have sunset photos of those as well.

2003 was an explosive year for storms, and 2004 was treacherous. In April of 2004, the month my brother passed away, we were on the way to his memorial service and started out from the city. Nothing about that day seemed right, and it was not. As we left there was a milky white and humid sky, like someone had squeezed a huge sponge over the town. We rolled out to the airport to pick up someone and as we went along the interstate I looked back to the NW and there it was, a tornadic supercell with this lowering black and gray shape coming rapidly in. We made it to the airport entry ramp in the nick of time as the rain poured down. In fact as we waited in the terminal it was so hard the terminal roof leaked. Soon the storm passed to the counties south and east of us, producing at least one twister.

Well, I moved to Chicago months after that, and wow did we have some huge weather in 2005 and 2006, and every year since that. Tornado warnings hit during a game at Wrigley Field a few years ago, and I was watching the game when the storm started to come in. Even the annoucers were nervous as the green lightning pierced the skies and the storm entered and worked toward the lakefront.

During the frigid winter of 2009 Holy Name Cathedral had a 3-11 fire. I have photos from that morning, and it was 4 degrees above zero when I went out for those pictures. Some of them turned out all right, but when I realized I was becoming numb I immediately went to the nearest builing and then a bus until I warmed up. I am glad we did not lose the church, even though the firefighters could have let it go. I am grateful to the first responders who braved those conditions and put themselves in all kinds of danger to save our beloved Cathedral and an important piece of American history.

Two years ago there was a massive blizzard that closed down Lake Shore Drive and stranded cars, busses, and people by the hundreds. I had never seen that much snow in one day, almost two feet. And then I heard about the awful blizzard of 1967 while listening to News Radio WBBM, and the tragic events of that week. Bad weather brings out the best and also the worst in people, but we can always hope for more of the best.

We can jump in the lake for charity, we can strip and run in the weather for good causes, we can always stop to help a neighbor and we can think that there would be no looting, no need for people getting caught up around snowplows and in crossfires.

Bad weather will be with us always, but we are doing nothing by worrying ourselves and by putting more pollutants into the air. We need to be careful, analyze the situation closely and take in all factors, from our position in the galaxy to the impact of emissions from industry and automobiles and diesel trucks. We do not need to cause ourselves any more trouble than we have all ready, and we need to slow down and be more careful.

Someone I know said we will have weather like Florida is having, here in Chicago, if we let this pollution keep going. But what can we do? Sit back and enjoy the ride, or do something abotu what we ride in? Study the conditions and wonder what causes them… we can always study and think, ponder and write.

Where all that pondering, writing, thinking, computer lab simulation work, and field research will lead us is another matter, but nothing can be done without action.

Divi Logan, Nashville and Chicago, 2013.




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