University of Washington

Better Warnings May Be On The Way

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While searching for a topic for this week’s column I stumbled across a very interesting article published in Physics.org (phys.org). It was titled “Rising tornado warnings charts a path to improve forecasts.” It was written by Hannah Hickey from the University of Washington. There is a tornado warning protocol throughout the country, but it does have its flaws. Doppler radar does not cover every inch of the country so the famous “tornado signature” might not show up on a radar screen. There is also a lag time from when a tornado is spotted until it is reported to the authorities and the National Weather Service. A tornado warning is then issued and it can be broadcast on the weather Service’s radio warning system and local television and radio stations.

Dr. Anderson-Frey
Alex Anderson-Frey | Photo by University of Washingtion

By the time the warning actually gets to you the storm has already moved significantly. According to Alex Anderson-Frey “The forecasting community is not just looking at the big, photogenic situations that will crop up in the Great Plains. We’re looking at tornadoes in regions that normally don’t get tornadoes, where by definition the vulnerability is high.” We here in the Pacific Northwest are in that latter category. It’s because we don’t see tornadoes here very often that we are caught in and area where predicting them and finding them is more difficult.

Just about 6 years ago I explained that many people have the mistaken idea that tornadoes can’t happen in Oregon. Well if you need proof stronger than past history just look back at Tuesday April 14, 2015. A small short-lived tornado touched down at about 4:10 PM on the campus of Lane Community college.

Flipped Car
Flipped Car In LCC Parking Lot| Photo by Mary Doran Sharbatz

According to the LCC account: “At approximately 4:10 this afternoon witnesses reported that a funnel cloud touched down on the southwest corner of the parking lot on the main campus. The funnel cloud picked up two vehicles and moved them, flipping one of them into a center median. As soon as this was reported, an alert was issued via our campus PA system to shelter-in-place.

With my years of experience in tornado prone areas around the country and even here in the Eugene/Springfield area, the National Weather Service is usually reluctant to call it a tornado without having one of their own personnel view the site and speak with any witnesses to the event. There were two particularly credible witnesses. One was a member of the LCC Security patrol and the other was a climatologist who called the weather service to report it. Both described the scene so well and added to the way the vehicles were damaged the declaration was made.

Flipped Car Placed Upright | Photo by KVAL TV
Durango Damage Done When Wind Lifted Up Flipped Car Into It | Photo by KVAL TV

The next day the Weather Service updated their previous statement. “000 NWUS56 KPQR 151559 LSRPQR PRELIMINARY LOCAL STORM REPORT…CORRECTED NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PORTLAND OR 859 AM PDT WED APR 15 2015 ..TIME… …EVENT… …CITY LOCATION… …LAT.LON… ..DATE… ….MAG…. ..COUNTY LOCATION..ST.. …SOURCE…. ..REMARKS.. 0405 PM TORNADO EUGENE 44.05N 123.11W 04/14/2015 F0 LANE OR PUBLIC AT 405 PM A SHORT DURATION TORNADO TOUCHED DOWN ON THE CAMPUS OF LANE COMMUNITY COLLEGE. A LANE COMMUNITY COLLEGE OFFICIAL WITNESSED A RAIN AND HAIL WRAPPED TORNADO THAT DAMAGED THREE VEHICLES SIGNIFICANTLY. ONE VEHICLE WAS MOVED APPROXIMATELY 125 FT AND ENDED UPSIDE DOWN ON A BERM IN THE PARKING LOT. WIND SPEEDS NEEDED TO MOVE VEHICLES NEED TO BE IN THE 65 TO 85 MPH RANGE AS A CONSERVATIVE ESTIMATE…WHICH WOULD RATE THIS AS AN EF0 TORNADO. 4/15 ) A LOT OF THE WORK THIS MORNING HAS CENTERED AROUND DETERMINING THE RATING OF YESTERDAYS EUGENE TORNADO…WHICH STRUCK A PARKING LOT OF LANE COMMUNITY COLLEGE AND OVERTURNED A FEW VEHICLES. GIVEN THAT THERE WAS NO DAMAGE TO OTHER STRUCTURES…AND THE WIND SPEEDS REQUIRED TO LIFT VEHICLES ARE SOMEWHAT OF AN UNKNOWN AND EVOLVING AREA OF RESEARCH…THE STORM PREDICTION CENTER RECOMMENDED AN EF-U RATING…THE U STANDING FOR UNKNOWN. SINCE THERE IS NO EXISTING NWS DIRECTIVE AT THIS POINT WHICH SUPPORTS AN OFFICIAL EF-U RATING…THE RECOMMENDATION WAS TO RATE IT AN EF-0…AS NO DAMAGE TO OTHER STRUCTURES WAS FOUND NOR REPORTED. WEAGLE”

EF Scale
Enhanced Fujita-Pearson Tornado Scale | Image by smokeys-trail.com

n  previous article from April 4, 2014 called Dorothy Couldn’t Get To OZ With One. I explained, in very basic terms, how tornadoes form. The first description explains tornadoes in the Midwest and elsewhere, but not here in Oregon. In this state I said we average about 3 tornadoes per year over recorded history. The Midwest tornadoes form when the hot humid air rises high up into the atmosphere where the air is colder. The higher that air raises the stronger the tornado can be. This is why we have what are termed “cold core” tornadoes here. The cold air has to drop down to meet the warmer air which just doesn’t reach up far enough. That makes a weaker funnel which usually spends about 10 minutes or so on the ground and does very little damage.

Funnel Cloud
Funnel Cloud Spotted 2:10 PM Viewing E Of I-5 | Photo by Kim Courtright-Bowden perfectlybluephotography.com

You might remember back in 1996 a small tornado dropped down in the Gateway area damaging and moving a shed. The National Weather Service in Portland sent one of their meteorologists here to check it out. Our National Weather Service Office in Eugene was still in operation, but closing soon, and the last remaining meteorologist also examined the site. If I remember correctly the  Portland report was that it was not a tornado because there was no drag mark on the ground.The Eugene report said it was a tornado due to the angle of the damage and eyewitness reports. Proving what causes this kind of damage is not as simple as you might think.

The last time I checked the statistical information not one person has ever been reported to die in Oregon as a direct result of a tornado. Don’t get too cocky about that because the odds may be against having one, but if it hits you I don’t think you’ll think it’s such a rare event. If you see one or a tornado warning is issued by the authorities take shelter immediately in an interior room with no windows and a narrow roof line. A good example is a closet. Get down on the floor, cover your head and hug the wall until it is over.

Let’s hope the researchers can help give us better ways to access the risk factors involved and produce better and more accurate warnings in the very near future.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

New Research To Help Parents Monitor Their Infants.

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My wife and I raised our two children without one, but they have become a necessity for most new parents today. Baby monitors come in various forms and brands and are a real comfort for parents. Here comes my typical question. When did the first baby monitor come into being?  The answer may surprise you.

Lindbergh Baby
Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. | Photo by mamamia.com

It seems a tragic event in the United States is what brought about the invention that allows parents to monitor their infant even in another room. That event was the kidnapping and murder of 20-month-old Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. the son of the world famous flyer Charles A. Lindbergh who was the first man to successfully fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. As a direct result of the trial and horrific nature of the death of the child the Federal Kidnapping Law was passed making the kidnapping of a child and crossing state lines a federal crime.

Zenith Radio Nurse
Zenith Radio Nurse Newspaper Ad 1938 | Image by 10babygear.com

In 1932 the president of Zenith Radio Corporation, Eugene McDonald, assembled a baby monitor using a speaker, a microphone and a radio so he could listen to his daughter in her room to make sure she was OK.  In 1937  hired Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese-American engineer, to design the first baby monitor.  They called the invention the Zenith Radio Nurse and started selling them in 1938.

Radio Nurse Parts
Zenith Radio Nurse Parts (bottom left Guardian Ear/Transmitter Unit, bottom right The Receiver)| Image by 10babygear.com

Quoting an article from 10babygear.com titled “The invention of the First Baby Monitor – Zenith Radio Nurse in 1937”  here is their explanation as to how the device worked. ” 1) The Guardian Ear controlled a microphone, a sound amplifier, and oscillator circuit (modulator). 2) The generated circuit was conducted by means of the lighting circuit and was intercepted by the radio nurse. 3) The receiver unit of the Zenith Radio nurse had a detector, sound amplified and sound reproducer. The total amplification from microphone to speaker was in the order of 500,000 times. This was capable of making the slightest sound audible on the receiver.” For more details on history of baby monitors go to

History of Baby Monitors (1937 to Present)

Now we zoom forward to the present and another invention that could revolutionize the baby monitor industry. This research comes out of the University of Washington. An October 16th  article by Sarah McQuate from the University of Washington and published on techxplore.com explains this new device. The article is titled “First smart speaker system that uses white noise to monitor infant’s breathing.

BreathJunior
BreathJunior | Photo by Dennis Wise University of Washington

They call their device BreathJunior. Quoting the article”…the smart speaker plays white noise and records how the noise is reflected back to to detect breathing motions of infants’ tiny chests. When the researchers tested BreathJunior with five babies in a local hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, it detected respiratory rates that closely matched the rates detected by standard vital sign monitors.” The white noise not only soothes the babies, but allows monitoring of their breathing and movements. They can also detect the baby crying and movement within the crib.

Shyam
Shyam Gollakota | Photo by homes.cs.washington.edu

According to Shyam Gollakota, associate professor in the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of computer Science and Engineering and Director of the UW computing for health group is quoted as saying “If we could use this white noise feature as a contactless way to to monitor infants’ hand and leg movements, breathing and crying, then the smart speaker becomes a device that can do it all, which is really exciting.” Although this new device will be of great use to monitor an infant’s breathing and movement it has NOT been suggested by the team that the unit could be used to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The team was scheduled to present their findings at the MobiCom 2019 conference on October 22nd in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

Ducks to Open Up Playbook, Says Hroniss Grasu

Hroniss Grasu spoke with Ashley Young of FishDuck.com at the on-campus press conference at the Hatfield-Dowling Complex Tuesday. Heading into this week’s rivalry game against the University of Washington, Grasu explained that communication and tempo are...

Oregon club hockey splits Washington series, loses I-5 Cup in shootout

It was a rough night at the Lane County Ice Center for Oregon club hockey.

After losing 3-2 in an extremely penalty-riddled Game 4, thereby splitting the four-game series, Oregon and Washington turned to a five-man shootout to determine who would ultimately take home the I-5 Cup.

The Ducks were unable to score in the shootout. Washington got two in.

Although the Ducks were the victors last year, the Huskies held the Cup in 2010, 2011, and 2012 and they were thrilled to bring it back North.

“We’re pretty pumped,” said Huskies defenseman Jason Bartlett, who scored the series-winning shootout goal. “It feels good. I’m a senior so we had it the first two years that I played, but we lost it last year so I’m happy to get it back.”

The first period of the game seemed hopeful for the Ducks. Compared to the previous night, the energy level was up and Dan Sulitzer –with an assist by Stephen Casey — gave the Ducks an early lead less than three minutes in.

Then the physicality picked up. Oregon’s Michael Luke had his first big hit of the game against forward Brandon Vandermon and Dan Sulitzer had a hit in the Oregon zone against Washington assistant captain Andrew Johnson.

Soon the march to penalty box began.

Oregon captain Tyler Halverson got two minutes for interference. A minute after that was cleared, Dan Sulitzer entered the box on a call for roughing after pushing a Husky into the boards behind the Oregon net. Halfway through the Sulitzer penalty, Halverson returned when he committed a penalty for hit from behind.

It was 5-on-3 in favor of Washington and they took full advantage of their extra man. As Sulitzer was taking his first step onto the ice while coming out of the penalty box, Andrew Johnson sent the puck over the blocker of Ducks goalie Danny Cockriel, giving Washington their first goal of the night.

The second period began with Stephen Casey sitting in the box on a 10-minute game misconduct that was awarded at the end of the 1st while Casey was heading back to the bench. From there, it was hard hits from both ends with penalties mixed in until the final few minutes of the period.

It was the penalties that did the Ducks in once again. 4:07 remained in the period. Dan Sulitzer and Luke were both sitting for Oregon when Washington’s Ryan Minkoff scored, giving the Huskies a 2-1 lead.

The goal was followed 2:25 seconds later by another. In a shot by Terran Jendro, the puck had slipped under Cockriel’s pad, went off of his skate and trickled in behind him. Washington’s lead extended to two.

Oregon responded. Exactly a minute and a half later, Dan Sulitzer scored again with a snipe into the top corner. It was assisted by Casey, making it a two-goal and two-assist game, respectively, for the two of them.

The third period was scoreless. Luke, the Sulitzer brothers and Halverson continued dishing out big hits, but the focus had shifted to the front of the Washington net.

As the minutes dwindled down, the desperation of the Ducks was palpable. Traffic in front of Washington goalie Jacob Gilmore was dense. Halverson was firing off shot after shot after teammates picked up each rebound to quickly try again.

Oregon was unable to convert and the game ended 3-2 in favor of the Huskies.

However, the series wasn’t over. The time on the game clock had run out, but both Washington and Oregon had won two games a piece, forcing a shootout for the Cup.

Washington shot first.

The first two rounds were unsuccessful for both teams. Casey and Connor McBride went up for Oregon while Washington picked Alex Black and Corey James to go.

In the third round, Minkoff proved why he was leading the league in goals. His shot found the back of the net after sailing under the left glove of Cockriel. Alex Sulitzer was unable to reciprocate the goal.

The fourth round sealed the deal for Washington. Like Minkoff before him, Jason Bartlett fired the puck early and it yielded the same result. Dan Sulitzer, who scored the only two Oregon goals of the game, was up, but was denied by Gilmore, ending the series.

“We played well,” Dan Sulitzer said. “They got a fluke third goal and unfortunately that was the difference in the game.”

“It’s a shame, but that’s how games go,” he continued. “It was a hard fought battle and we’re definitely a better team but unfortunately it didn’t show.”

Follow Anne Yilmaz on Twitter @anneyilmaz