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Meteorologist shares weather tips in Carlton

The number one cause of death from thunderstorms is due to flooding, according to Carol Christenson, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Duluth.

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Carol Christenson, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Duluth, explains what type of clouds are the most likely to spawn a tornado during Monday’s Refire! luncheon meeting in Carlton. Jamie Lund/jlund@pinejournal.com

The number one cause of death from thunderstorms is due to flooding, according to Carol Christenson, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Duluth.

“Turn around, don’t drown,” Christenson advised the room full of senior citizens Monday afternoon. Christenson was the guest speaker at the weekly Refire! luncheon meeting at the Public House in Carlton. The meetings are geared towards senior citizen real life concerns and focus on both fun and interesting subjects.

This week’s subject was “SKYWARN: How weather spotters play an important role in the warning process.” Christenson explained that while the water covering a road in a thunderstorm may not look deep, the road may have actually washed away underneath or the water may be deeper than it looks.

The information-packed meeting lasted about an hour as Christenson explained the various cloud types and which ones can lead to severe weather.

Mare’s tails clouds are higher up and wispy, resembling a horse's tail, she told the attentive listeners. Their presence means a storm out west will be heading east in a few days. The crazy storms in Carlton County last summer that caused a lot of damage were the result of downdraft winds beneath a thunderstorm. They can have the strength of a small tornado, Christenson said.

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Low, dark, scary clouds are called a wall cloud. If a wall cloud starts rotating, there is a good chance a tornado will develop.

“When thunder roars, go indoors,” Christenson told the seniors, in another easy-to-remember rhyme.

Hail causes a lot of property and crop damage every year.

“Most people are smart enough to go inside when ice falls from the sky,” Christenson said.

Weather spotters take classes offered by the National Weather Service to learn about the weather, then they call in when they see severe weather developing.

“We need ground truth information,” Christenson said, explaining that the meteorologists need to know what is really happening from people experiencing the weather in addition to using technology.

When a “watch” is issued, it means conditions are ripe for severe weather to develop.

“You don't have to cancel your plans,” Christenson said. “Pay attention to the weather and stay closer to shelter.”

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A “warning” alerts listeners that severe weather either will develop or has already developed and is headed for a specific area and they need to take shelter.

Christenson recommended people purchase a weather radio - it can be a lifesaver. There are 13 weather radio stations across the Northland and 800 nationwide. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

(NOAA) weather radio is a special radio that picks up the signals from the weather stations and can be purchased at a variety of stores, according to Christenson. The radio alarm automatically goes off when a severe weather alert is sent by the National Weather Service.

When the meeting was over several people commented how interesting it had been.

“It was a very interesting teaching lesson,” said Verna Puline of Esko, adding, however, that she did not have time to be a weather spotter.

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