Last minute shopping? Give a gift of AllisonHouse!

Do you have a weather enthusiast who wants to see the storms in as close to real time as possible? Are you a business that is weather-sensitive, and needs to know if even a light shower is heading your way? Are you a municipality, county, or fire/police/911/ that needs to know when severe weather is about to strike….

Can I give an admittedly biased opinion, and ask you to try AllisonHouse? I’ll give you some great reasons why.

Numerous cities rely on us for current radar, and plotting watches and warnings as soon as they are received by the National Weather Service. We receive the National Weather Service NOAAport feed via satellite dish, as does every National Weather Service office in the country, without any delay. From our dish, it literally takes milliseconds to fiber it to our servers, and then your software grabs it and plots it. But many of our feeds come via fiber now. Our Level 2 radar feeds are too big to be sent across satellite in a cost-effective matter, so we get them via fiber. As well as all of our airport observations (raw and decoded), some of our models, satellite images on AllisonHouse Maps and GRx products, our super-resolution Level 3 radar data, mesonet, lightning, and more!

Furthermore, in early December 2019, we went to an all new higher capacity and faster network with all new servers. This made our already fast network and reliable systems even more so. It allows us to scale up automatically. If we get a large number of new customers, or existing customers using our services heavily, we literally spin up new servers on the fly to handle the load. Most of the time, our capacity can handle it without doing this. But on days when all heck breaks loose around the country, we literally sit and watch as new servers are spun up instantaneously to handle all of your needs automagically. Scaling up to handle big events is another reason why we are reliable! And, our solid-state drives (SSD’s) are more reliable than mechanical hard drives, and MUCH faster!

If our satellite dish in Oklahoma goes down, we have backup ones that allow us to feed data from them in Louisiana, Colorado, and Illinois. If the NOAAport satellite feed goes dead, we also have access to the NOAA Weather Wire Service (NWWS) and enterprise-EMWIN (Emergency Manager’s Weather Information Network) as backups to keep the data flowing if those feeds are still up.

Don’t get me wrong: we still go down for maintenance windows, but we will give you time to prepare, unless it is an emergency. Furthermore, we are always looking to improve what we do in terms of communication and reliability, as well as new data feeds that benefit our customers.

If you are on a tight budget, consider our Storm Chaser package. Soup up your GRLevel3 and Radarscope with super-resolution radar with full data, not truncated! And you get lightning, mesonet data, placefiles and much more. See what you need, what your budget offers, and check this out:

And give yourself, or a family or friend…the gift of weather awareness, and awesomeness.

Any questions? Send us an email at support (atsymbol) We’re standing by ready to help you in any way we can with your weather awareness and toolbox needs!

Spanning the region from the Phillipines to western Africa, our GOES-West and GOES-east feeds have you covered with satellite images every 30 seconds to 10 minutes!

SPC day 2 outlooks will soon have probabilistic hazard outlooks!

SPC day 1 outlook probability of hail, soon to be available for day 2 outlooks

Starting on January 28, 2020, SPC tornado, hail and wind probability maps and products will become available for the SPC Day 2 Convective Outlook. SPC has been testing these products internally, and the quality of the accuracy has been deemed acceptable or official and public/private use. (Image courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center)

Starting on January 28, 2020, individual severe convective threats will be added to the Storm Prediction Center (SPC)’s day 2 convective outlook. Currently, the day 2 includes a total risk percentage. But advances in data, models, and forecaster experience has allowed SPC to advance the risk forecast product further, to be broken up into their individual hazards. SPC has been testing these products internally for some time, and the accuracy/quality of these products has been acceptable for release to the public. The National Weather Service explains:

“Research to operations and improvements in numerical forecast guidance, particularly with certain convection-allowing weather forecast models, are providing necessary confidence in the forecasting of these individual hazards into the Day 2 time frame. These improvements have allowed SPC to issue forecasts of individual hazard probabilities for tornadoes, damaging wind, and hail potential along with a separate probability for significant severe, if forecast, for each hazard type. These individual hazard probabilistic forecasts will replace the current “total severe” probabilistic forecast, fully mirroring the types of output from the Day 1 Convective Outlook, in terms of the Categorical risk forecast and the three individual probabilistic hazard forecasts.”

The high-resolution NAM model has shown some eye-opening skill over the past few years. In fact, this year, it has done remarkably well out to 36 hours, and advances in the HRRR model will continue to improve confidence as well.

These new products will mirror their day 1 counterparts exactly in terms of percentage probabilities, and associated graphics. This means that weather enthusiasts, emergency managers and those responsible for the safety of venues will see another excellent tool in the toolbox for determining the status and safety of events in the day 2 (tomorrow) timeframe.

Of course, AllisonHouse will carry these products after they become available, and we are excited to see this tremendous advance in science and technology!

How do you train? And how weather affects the railroads

Union Pacific train plowing through an 8' high snow drift.

Two Union Pacific engines plow through a 8′ high snow drift near Shabbona, Illinois, after a major winter storm. The engines were sent without cars to clear the way for future trains to get through. The drift was so high at this location that only the train’s number boards at the top of the engine are visible. Photo (c)Gilbert Sebenste, used by permission of the photographer.

It’s amazing when you think about it: how much of the stuff we have in our apartments and homes was shipped on a train. You name it: vegetables, video game consoles, TV’s/monitors, air conditioners, fans and heaters, vehicles, stereos, smart phones, oil, coal, wheat, recyclables, steel…and on and on. In the last portion of their routes, they are shipped by truck. But until then, most goods are shipped by rail. In fact, many trains these days are what “railfans”, or train fans or aficianados call “Amazon trains”. They literally carry goods from online stores to a regional shipper, like UPS or the U.S. Postal Service. One train from Minneapolis to Chicago gets a sizable bonus for every hour that they are early. The stakes, therefore, are high!

Train delays, therefore, cause much angst among shippers and the general public. Their Amazon order isn’t coming or is being delayed. And one of the top reasons they are delayed is the weather.

All “Class 1″ large railroad companies like Kansas City Southern, Union Pacific, BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, Canadian Pacific, and Canadian National have a private forecasting weather service which issues their own severe thunderstorm, high wind, and tornado warnings to the railroads. They typically issue them earlier than the National Weather Service does, so that the trains can be stopped (or allowed to continue on) to avoid danger. Tornadoes, blizzards, and floods can shut down lines for hours or days, keeping your shipment from reaching their final destination when it was supposed to.

As an example, the loss suffered by railroads when accidents occur due to flooding can be very high. In one instance, tracks were washed out near a road in Rockford, IL. A county sheriff called the railroad to let them know that the tracks were washed out there after 6” of rain fell in nearly two hours after a late season thunderstorm sat over the area before dissipating. When the next train came along, several cars were stopped by the gates. The ethanol train hit the washed out area at full speed and derailed immediately; the ethanol cars crashed into each other, and exploded at the crossing. Some people in their vehicles in front of the gates were burned alive. When all was said and done, the railroad was held liable and had to pay tens of millions of dollars in fines and recompense to families who lost loved ones. The dispatcher was fired for not warning the train engineer and conductor, who survived and deemed not at fault. Still, they will suffer for the rest of their lives knowing they could have done something, if they only knew. This is why all railroads now take weather safety VERY seriously.

But there are two other weather conditions that cause major problems for rail freight: high to extreme cold and heat. For example, on one Class 1 railroad, track speeds that are normally 60 MPH get reduced to 50 MPH when the temperature hits 90 degrees (32 degrees C). When it hits 100 degrees, they slow to 40 MPH or less. And for trains that contain oil or ethanol, they may even slow the train further. Why? In very cold weather, rails can literally break or snap. I’ve called in multiple rail breaks in winter which have stopped all rail traffic for hours. Thankfully, in each case, the trains stopped in time and none of them derailed before the tracks were repaired.

But in very hot weather, the opposite occurs. Rails expand, and they can cause kinks to occur. When that happens, a derailment is likely. One such heat-related kink in Chicago several years ago caused an entire overpass to collapse on a car driving underneath. The unfortunate driver was killed.

They can be a nuisance, but trains play an extremely vital role in our economy, and without them, we couldn’t live the way we do today with many modern conveniences. And it is a business that is extremely weather sensitive! If your business needs real-time weather information to keep you going, AllisonHouse offers many data options to fit your needs. We want to keep you going, no matter what the weather! Just contact us at [email protected] Chances are, there’s something our experts can get you to take you to the next level of safety, reliability, and efficiency when dealing with nature’s hazards, and preventing or minimizing a disaster.