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Daryl Herzmann, Agronomy, (515) 294-5978
Ray Arritt, Agronomy, (515) 294-9870
Melea Reicks Licht, Agronomy communications, (515) 294-1890
Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778


AMES, Iowa -- Thanks to an Iowa State University connection, Story County residents received a severe weather warning, alerting them to hail, rain and high winds.

Iowa State researchers supply the connection between KCCI TV's SchoolNet stations and the National Weather Service (NWS), Johnston. The Mesonet is a weather-relaying software program that monitors conditions collected by SchoolNet stations and relays unusual observations to the NWS for use in forming severe weather warnings.

On June 18, the software spotted wind speeds of more than 50 mph near Nevada and automatically notified the NWS. The NWS used the information, in combination with radar maps, to issue a severe weather warning to Story County residents.

Daryl Herzmann, an Iowa State ag meteorology program assistant, develops and maintains the Mesonet.

"The turn-around time from the observation to issuing the warning was two minutes," Herzmann said. "At 12:30 p.m. the radar didn't show anything over the city of Nevada. By 12:35 p.m., a popcorn storm blew up over the town and triggered a Mesonet response, alerting the National Weather Service of the dangerous wind conditions. With this information, the weather service was able to issue a severe weather warning by 12:37 p.m."

Janis Diehl heard the warning via weather radio as she worked in the Story County Emergency Management office.

"The storm really sneaked up on us. People in Nevada were calling 911 wanting to know what was going on. When the warning was issued everyone calmed down. It was so much nicer to know what was going on, what was to come and how much danger we were in," Diehl said.

The storm downed power lines and trees and dropped an inch of rain in a few minutes. It ended shortly after the warning was issued. No one was injured.

Without the Mesonet connection between the SchoolNet stations and the NWS, the severe wind gust that triggered the warning would not have been relayed to the NWS as quickly. The Mesonet connection enabled the NWS to issue the warning almost immediately after learning of the high wind speeds.

"Since the storm did not give warning on the radar screen, the NWS probably would not have issued a warning until storm spotter evidence was collected many minutes later. The weather service uses a variety of data sources to issue warnings, but the radar does not sense surface wind speeds. Automated surface sensors, like KCCI's, report conditions during a storm that radar cannot see," Herzmann said.

The Mesonet continually monitors observations from the SchoolNet stations. Every minute, observations are checked for wind gusts higher than 50 mph and, if found, automatically sent to the NWS within 90 seconds.

"The Iowa Environmental Mesonet has made the KCCI SchoolNet an important part of the storm warning decision-making process," John McLaughlin, the chief meteorologist at KCCI-TV said. "The ability to be instantly alerted to wind gusts over 50 mph, along with the automatic alerts sent to the National Weather Service, makes this system a first in the country. There is no doubt the partnership between the Mesonet, NWS and KCCI has resulted in better emergency weather information for the public."

Prior to the Mesonet, KCCI passed observations to the NWS manually.

The Mesonet has relayed emergency weather information since 2002. It is administered through Iowa State's agronomy department, with support from a private endowment, in partnership with the Iowa Department of Transportation; KCCI TV, Des Moines; and the NWS.

The public can sign up to receive wind alerts directly from the Mesonet at The alerts are not severe weather warnings; they are used to determine if warnings should be issued.


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