Jul 23, 2010

On Storm Fears and Media Silence

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We spent the afternoon and early evening in the Detroit area visiting my grandfather, and there were some powerful storms that ripped through southern Wayne and northern Monroe counties. We became a bit worried when driving home about 7:30 PM, as the storms suddenly tracked to the southeast.

That is, following us toward Toledo.

The first picture was taken about 8:15 pm near exit 11 on Interstate 75 on the southern edge of Monroe, MI (my wife was driving and I was busy sticking the camera out the window for some cloud images). The skies suddenly darkened, and it was clear that a storm was impending. Even more ominous was the fact that our little dog Shadow - who freaks out at thunderstorms and senses their presence 10-15 minutes before humans can - crawled under the bench seat of our minivan.

Sure enough, by the time we hit Alexis and Detroit on the northern edge of Toledo, all hell was breaking loose. Rain came down in thick sheets, the sky lit up with bursts of lightning, and the roads were almost undriveable. Of course, Toledo's pathetic local radio stations had zero weather information, though I frantically scanned all stations in vain.

Even worse, the tornado sirens went off just a few minutes after we ran into the house. Strangely, none of the local stations had any coverage of the storm, and I was getting both frustrated and a bit panicky. Finally Robert Shiels of WTOL broke in just after 9:00 PM to say that local officials possessed the power to sound the sirens, but that there was nothing on his radar to indicate that a rotational cell was anywhere nearby.

It appears that sheriff's deputies in Providence, OH may have seen some rotation, but this appears to have been an error. While the storms were strong, it turns out that the greater threat to area residents was from flash flooding, as the storms dumped several inches of rain on the parched ground.

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