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Ominous warning

June 6, 2007

Such a delightfully cool, pleasant morning, with a clear sky and light breeze.  Traffic is light, birds are chirping, a few early students making their way to class or breakfast. The campus is full of green growing things including the flowers just planted yesterday.

Chicago Tribune meterologist Tom Skilling predicts:

A summer storm system of unprecedented size and intensity threatens a period of potentially wild weather in the Plains Wednesday and the Midwest Thursday and Thursday night.

If barometric pressures at the heart of the abnormally potent late season storm sink to 28.90” (979 mb) of mercury in the Dakotas Thursday, as the global computer forecast models of nearly every major national forecast agency in the world predict, howling non-thunderstorm winds could gust above 45 m.p.h. here by Thursday afternoon, followed by the potential for a serious outbreak of severe, possibly tornadic t-storms over a wide area of the Nation’s Heartland.

A central pressure at that level would equal that of a Category One hurricane.

Right now it hardly seems as if anything like that could happen!  In today’s notes, Skilling adds:

Storm’s forecast central pressure of 977 mb (28.85”) is about the same strength as the Edmund Fitzgerald storm of Nov. 10-11, 1975.  Chicago’s record low barometric pressure for June is 990 mb (29.22”)established on June 6, 1880

I wonder if the Edmund Fitzgerald would have set sail against a prediction like this.  Or would they have ignored the warnings and sailed ahead anyway?  The correct answer depends on a risk assessment balancing the perceived accuracy of the prediction, the economic cost of delay, and the consequences of taking the risk.  And of course, getting your crew onboard if they knew the prediction, as each of them would be making their own assessments.

Update: morning 07jun07, Warm and pleasant though windy with wind advisory all day.  “Severe T-storms” predicted tonight.

  1. June 6, 2007 at 18:58 | #1

    The Edmund Fitzgerald likely would have set out anyway.  As I recall (read: my memory is not great so read with a grain of sel gris), there were warnings which were, for the times of equal import, but the captain decided to go anyway.  He was a Brit, a veteran of the North Sea, and figured Lake Superior could not match what he had been able to manage back home.

    Little did he know how ferocious conditions could be on Gitche Gumee.

    Every generation seems to believe it has somehow arrived and is not bound by history or local wisdom, i.e., it has “arrived”.

    Be safe.

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