House Calls

Is it a secret if something is done under your nose?

Sometimes, when we look at surface maps as meteorologists and weather enthusiasts, we miss things about weather reports. Maybe we miss that a station goes dark unless we are intimately familiar with it. Today, I learned of something that was happening right under my nose…and it took a colleague of mine to point it out to me.

Thanks to Boris Konon, I learned that all (and this is critical) *federally owned* AWOS (Automated Weather Observing Systems) sites, which are typically found at smaller airports, are being converted to, essentially, ASOS sites. They’ll still be called AWOS sites, but this “tech refresh” started a year ago, and will end in the latter portions of 2017, and these sites will have the same weather information in the observations as an ASOS site. Here is a list of the ones done so far: is your AWOS on the list? Note: AWOS sites owned by individual states will NOT have this done to them, unless a local state does it on their own accord. Here is a list of them done so far:
K7N0  New Orleans/Downtown LA
KAIZ  Kaiser/Lake Ozark MO
KAUO  Auburn AL
KBHB  Bar Harbor ME
KBID  Block Island RI
KBKX  Brookings SD
KBLM  Belmar/Farmingdale NJ
KCIU  Sault Ste Marie MI
KCWI  Clinton IA
KDVL  Devils Lake ND
KEKY  Bessemer AL
KEUL  Caldwell ID
KEWK  Newton KS
KFAM  Farmington MO
KGAD  Gadsden AL
KGDV  Glendive MT
KGPZ  Grand Rapids MN
KILE  Killeen TX
KISM  Orlando/Kissimmee FL
KLCI  Laconia NH
KLEW  Auburn/Lewiston ME
KLPC  Lompoc CA
KMBL  Manistee MI
KMJX  Toms River NJ
KMML  Marshall MN
KMNM  Menominee MI
KMRF  Marfa TX
KOAJ  Jacksonville NC
KOTG  Worthington MN
KOWB  Owensboro KY
KPQI  Presque Isle ME
KPTN  Patterson LA
KPTV  Porterville CA
KPVC  Provincetown MA
KPWG  Waco/Executive TX
KRKD  Rockland ME
KRUT  Rutland VT
KSDY  Sidney MT
KSFM  Sanford ME
KSOP  Pinehurst/Southern Pines NC
KSQI  Sterling/Rockfalls IL
KSUE  Sturgeon Bay WI
KTPL  Temple TX
KTVF  Theif River Falls MN
KUDG  Darlington SC
KVIS  Visalia CA
KWVL  Waterville ME
PABV  Birchwood AK
PADL  Dillingham AK
PAEM  Emmonak AK
PAGS  Gustavus AK
PAHP  Hooper Bay AK
PAHY  Hydaburg AK
PAII  Egegik AK
PAJC  Chignik AK
PAMY  Mekoryuk AK
PAPH  Port Heiden AK
PATG  Togiak Village AK

I don’t have a list of those that are coming, but keep an eye on yours if you know it’s federally owned! They will immediately report things like thunderstorms, peak winds, sea level pressure, etc. All will be done by September 30, 2017.

Hourly updates? How about every 5 minutes instead?

Hello everyone,

This past week, the FAA started releasing airport weather observations (known as METARs) every 5 minutes from every ASOS site at various airports. ASOS, or Automated Surface Observing Systems, are installed at all major and most medium-sized airports in the United States. For example, in the Chicago area, an ASOS is installed at Chicago O’Hare and Midway airports, as well as in suburban airports such as KDPA (DuPage County Airport/West Chicago), KPWK (Palwaukee/Chicago Executive Airport), and some others. (Note: Most smaller airports that report weather data use AWOS, or the Automated Weather Observing System. Those reports are only available every 20 minutes on the NWS/FAA circuits, and I have heard of no plans to have those update more regularly).

As of today, I am very pleased to announce that the METAR feed for GRLevelX, WSV3 and AllisonHouse Maps customers automatically gets the regular observations, specials, and now ALL of the 5 minute observations as well! This means you get 10 more weather observations from every ASOS every hour! No matter if you have a Storm Chaser or Hunter subscription, you will always see the very latest reported observation. Currently, due to processing, the FAA delays the 5 minute reports by up to 10 minutes, and we need to tweak things on our end next week to reduce the delay time on our end as well…which really isn’t much, but we can do a little bit better. Having said that, this is important, and we wanted to get this to you NOW! The FAA started sending the data at 15Z on Tuesday, June 28, and I beta-tested it starting late on the 29th. We are happy with what we see, so away we go! No need to twiddle your thumbs waiting for that top-of-the-hour ob anymore…now you can see what is happening as the weather happens!

P.S. A few of you “in the know” may wonder if they are going to ever release the 1 minute observations. Due to bandwidth and processing, not in the foreseeable future. But, even so, this is a big improvement, and this upgrade comes at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Enjoy, subscribers! Wait…you’re not a subscriber and want these? Get yourself GRLevel3 or Analyst, and then head to to sign up!

P.P.S. GREarth is being worked on as I type this to incorporate these observations as well; our other app partners are in the loop, too. Stay tuned, those will hopefully be available soon after it passes our quality control muster, and our providers integrate them into their software!


Stay alive, don’t drive

When severe weather strikes, AllisonHouse wants to keep you informed when bad weather is moving in. We have the same high-speed data feed that the National Weather Service offices use, received via a large satellite dish. We have backups to that, in case our dish and receiver goes down. And, if that feed goes down entirely from the Weather Service, we have backups to keep the critical data flowing. Thankfully, that is now becoming extremely rare, as they have replaced and upgraded many of their systems, and continue to upgrade or replace the remaining older ones.

And you know what?

It doesn’t matter if you can’t get the alert that tells you a tornado is coming…or if you haven’t checked to see what is going on. And sometimes, that will lead to disastrous consequences.

On December 27th, 2015, the National Weather Service’ Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma issued an “enhanced” risk of severe thunderstorms for much of northeastern Texas. Included in that was a 10% risk of tornadoes within 25 miles of any point in the area. This area included much of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The local National Weather Service office highlighted that threat on their web page, and the local and national media were also giving regular updates on the situation. And yet, even though the tornado watch was issued well in advance, and tornado warnings were issued in a timely matter, 11 people still died around the metro area, with most of the fatalities occurring on area highways. People literally drove right into the tornado.

I pondered this after the event was over. How, in 2015 (almost 2016 at the time), is this still possible? I am not talking about people who intentionally drove out there to see a tornado. I’m talking about the average, typical American. We see the state department of transportation videos afterwards of people driving into the tornado, or storm chaser video of people doing just that. Long zoom lenses and increasingly higher quality cameras and lenses will let us see things in graphic detail from here on out….including in this event, even though it was at night. So do how we solve this problem? How can we stop people from being on the roads when tornadoes are touching down? Here are the solutions I think will work in largely solving the issue.

1. Even if you are poor, see if you can afford a $10, cheap weather radio that you can use at home, or in your car, with a simple all-county alert mechanism on it…and get one. Take it with you whenever severe weather is possible…and even when it is not. Check the radar, preferably with an AllisonHouse supported app, or local broadcast TV networks for up-to-date information. Step 1 is situational awareness. “But”, you might protest, “Even if there is a tornado warning, if I am late for work, I will be fired.” You have two realistic options: get there well before the storm arrives, or hold off. You can’t be late for work if you are dead, and it just isn’t worth that. Call your boss and explain the situation. He or she may accomodate you. But it is true that, at least for now, if there is a tornado warning and the boss says you must come into work, he has the right to make you do that. See:

For a good explanation of this. Again, though: if you work hard, and your boss knows it, he or she probably will make that accommodation, even if you have to take a vacation hour or two, or unpaid time off.

2. While driving, be aware! At night, this becomes even harder, since your main focus is on driving. But, have your cell phone with government alerts set to ON, have your portable weather radio with you in your car, and if you are in a major metro area, see if a local radio station is broadcasting a TV station simulcast, or their own news department is broadcasting up-to-date information.
I know you want to listen to Pandora, XM Satellite radio, commercial/HD music radio stations, etc. On a day when tornadoes are touching down, you need to have your ears open to what is going on.

3. If you get caught in a severe thunderstorm, pull off the side of the road. If there is a tornado warning, hiding under a bridge will only make things worse! If you can see the tornado coming at you, try to drive away from it at a perpendicular angle. In other words: if the tornado is heading east, drive south if you are in its path…or it appears you are in its path.

4. The very best advice I can give you, however, is DON’T DRIVE AT ALL when severe weather is moving in. Driving into, or getting caught in a severe thunderstorm while driving is putting your life at risk, end of story. Even if the thunderstorm doesn’t produce a tornado, you can drive into floodwaters and be swept away, blown off the highway, get your car annhilated by large hail or flying debris, or be hit by a tornado. If that doesn’t sound like something you’d enjoy, and you can put off getting the groceries for a few hours, then do so. Only emergency personnel should be on the road in a tornado warning, and everyone else needs to get off the roads…and into a substantial shelter.

Having said all of that, the key points I want you to focus in on during a severe weather event are situational awareness, and reasonable expectations of travel. During severe weather, only weather spotters and emergency officials should be out on the roads. They volunteer to keep you safe by risking their safety. Make their jobs worth it by sheltering in a safe location.

Finally, I’m not going to pass judgment on how those people were killed in the vehicles. Maybe they did know, and tried to escape…but couldn’t get off the interstate, or didn’t know where shelter was. Maybe they just didn’t care and were willfully ignorant. We don’t know. What I do know was that each and every one of those deaths was preventable. And by using AllisonHouse data with your favorite weather alert/radar display software, you can help avoid becoming one of these very ugly statistics. And when you do get the word that severe weather is moving in: stay alive, don’t drive!