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'It's A Twister! It's A Twister!'

I'm just your average weather-obsessed editor.

I admit it — I’m a weather geek.

My obsession with weather goes all the way back to when I was just a teenager. I was absolutely terrified of tornadoes. Whenever the sirens sounded, I’d of course be out in the driveway with my dad, watching for anything suspicious. The whole time, though, I’d be insisting that we run to the basement.

Then, when I was on a youth group trip with my church, I had a close encounter with a tornado. We were in Nebraska on our way to Colorado. We planned to stay overnight at a local church but first stopped to eat dinner. Then, on our way to the church, the skies started looking ominous. We pulled over at a McDonald’s in case we needed to seek shelter. Pastor Tim Strommen, though, was outside, rummaging through the camper to find his camera. Just when he did, we could see a tornado that had touched down about a mile away! I was scared then, but now I can look back at that as a cool experience.

OK, so I’m still scared of tornadoes. I still rush to the basement whenever the sirens sound. But, I am more educated about tornadoes than I used to be. A few years ago, I signed up for a severe weather spotter training class offered by the National Weather Service office in Chicago. I took the class again a year later, when my brother Karl wanted to train to be a severe weather spotter.

In those classes, I learned about storm structure and proper terminology — updrafts and wall clouds and hail cores, oh my! More importantly, though, taking the classes eased my fears, as our instructor told us just how rare it would be for a tornado to touch down wherever we happened to be at any given moment.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d actually get to use all of that knowledge. I thought I’d just be able to throw out random weather facts to annoy my friends and family.

This year, though, we’ve had some crazy weather! On June 30, when I was still living in Waukegan, I watched as a supercell thunderstorm formed over Lake Michigan. I could see the updraft area, where air was being pulled into the storm. Then, to my amazement, I saw the birth of a wall cloud — an isolated lowering of the cloud base. The really shocking moment came when I saw an area of rotation come closer and closer to my apartment building! As that rotation — which appeared to be a funnel cloud — went over my head, I thought, “Maybe I should go to the basement.” Just then, the sirens sounded. As soon as I got downstairs, I called the National Weather Service office in Chicago to report what I’d seen. I have the special phone numbers for trained spotters to use, after all.

Then, when severe thunderstorms hit on Aug. 2, I again saw an area of rotation headed toward my new apartment building. It dissipated quickly, so I didn’t call it in this time. But I was ready to!

Just call me your local weather girl. If there’s severe weather headed our way, you can be sure I’m going to post something about it here on Lake Zurich Patch.

Shaun Stehly August 06, 2011 at 09:02 PM
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