ABC FOX Montana investigates weather myths, causes of storms and how to stay safe in Montana's ever changing climate.
Watch the whole special in the videos above.
Behind the Scenes in the Weather Authority Command Center
The Weather Authority Command Center has a number of computers that gather data, satellite images, radar images, and various computer forecast models. Our team of meteorologists spends a couple of hours at the start of each shift gathering data and looking at various computer models, trying to determine not only what the weather will be like for the next 24 hours, but for the next seven days. They also have access to a radar computer called "BIG SKY VIPIR", which taps into a network of FIVE powerful Doppler radars - capable of tracking storms all across the region. VIPIR is the fancy acronym for Volumetric Image Processing (of) Integrated Radar. It provides us a wealth of information on everything from tracking snow and rain amounts and intensity, to whether a thunderstorm has the potential of producing large hail, damaging winds or even a tornado. Wake Up Montana Meteorologist Larry Rice takes us on a tour of the The Weather Authority Command Center.
Watches, Warnings and Alerts
Meteorologists issue various alerts to let the public know about potentially hazardous weather. The most important alerts are watches and warnings. A thunderstorm is called severe when it produces hail one inch in diameter, or if it has wind gusts of over 58 miles per hour, or both. When a storm meets these criteria, a severe thunderstorm warning is issued for areas directly in its path.
Severe weather watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center -- or SPC-- in Norman, Oklahoma. Some of the best meteorologists in the country work in the SPC. This one office watches the weather over the entire country and issues watches when conditions warrant them. Warnings, however, are issued by individual National Weather Service weather forecast offices. Each office is working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, monitoring the weather, good and bad, for its area of responsibility. Our statewide team of meteorologists takes these watches and warnings and makes sure you hear about them on our stations, websites and social media platforms.
Weather can change in an instant across the varied terrain of Montana. If you're out and about in town, working outside, or just sitting at home, staying alert when weather strikes is important. The best way to stay alert is to keep an eye on our statewide team of meteorologists. We will break into programming any time there is a threat to your safety. But, if you are not in a place where you can access a television, our website, or social media accounts there are some other options to make sure you're in the loop. Meteorologist Sara Sanchez breaks them down.
What to do if You're Caught in Severe Weather
Winter, summer, spring or fall it's always a great time to be outdoors in Montana. And there's so much to do: hiking, biking, golfing, boating, boarding or running. It's great to be outdoors in Big Sky Country, but you quickly learn Montana weather has to be respected, because it can turn deadly fast. Since 2006, NOAA reported that 64 percent of lightning deaths happened when people were participating in leisure activities. Fishing topped the list with 15; 14 for boating; 12 for soccer and 8 for golf. So what do you do when you're out and severe weather strikes? The best thing to do is NOT get caught outside during severe weather in the first place. Keep an eye on the forecast and stay out of the elements when it looks like a storm is brewing. But, it doesn't hurt to know just what to do in various situations when severe weather pops up. Meteorologist Dave Cochran heads outdoors to help you prepare.
Building Codes Ensure Roofs Stay Over Heads
Montana has several building codes in place to ensure commercial and residential structures are able to withstand the state's sometimes extreme weather conditions. Melinda Zosh breaks them down.
How Weather Happens
Montana sees four main types of severe weather: tornadoes, lightning, hail and strong winds. Our statewide team of meteorologists looks at the science of what causes each of these conditions. They also break down some common myths about what to do when severe weather hits.
Storm Chasing: It can be Dangerous and Rewarding
Most people have the common sense to seek shelter when severe weather threatens, but there is a certain breed of scientific thrill seekers called "storm chasers" that head toward... rather than away from big storms. Meteorologist Larry Rice sits down with one of them. Dan Berry tells him about some of the most remarkable images he's captured and the most dangerous situations he's encountered.