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updated: 4/5/2014 7:12 PM

Fermi hosts annual seminar on severe weather, climate change

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  • The annual Tornado and Severe Storms Seminar drew an overflow crowd Saturday who had to watch WGN Chief Meteorologist Tom Skilling's presentation outside a Fermilab auditorium.

       The annual Tornado and Severe Storms Seminar drew an overflow crowd Saturday who had to watch WGN Chief Meteorologist Tom Skilling's presentation outside a Fermilab auditorium.
    Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

  • Hundreds showed up to an annual seminar Saturday on severe weather at Fermilab.

       Hundreds showed up to an annual seminar Saturday on severe weather at Fermilab.
    Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

 
 

Ideally, there would have been lightning and gale-force winds blowing over the particle accelerator at Fermilab Saturday, but sunny skies didn't deter hundreds of meteorolgists-in-training who showed up for the annual Tornado and Severe Storms Seminar.

In fact, the enthusiasm to hear bad weather news was so great, an overflow crowd had to watch a televised version of WGN Chief Meteorologist Tom Skilling's presentation outside Ramsey Auditorium.

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Lombard resident Jim Leyland and his grandson, Josh McGregor of North Aurora, were among the lucky ones who got a seat.

"We want to learn about tornadoes and climate change," said Leyland, who referred to Skilling as "Mr. Weather."

At age 9, Josh loves science and already has experienced some freakish weather, including last year's intense spring rains.

"The biggest (climate event) I've been in was a flash flood," he recalled. "It was pretty rainy, and when I got home, our tree fell over and there was lots of water rushing down the driveway."

That spring flooding caused devastation in 49 counties and was among 11 natural disasters the state has experienced in the last five years. Those events include a severe drought in 2012, killer tornadoes in 2012 and 2013, and the polar vortex of January 2014.

"Climate change is real, it's happening, and it's having real effects today," Skilling said.

Gov. Pat Quinn, who attended the seminar, spoke of seeing flattened communities in downstate Illinois, such as Washington last fall. The twister outbreak killed eight people and hit 2,500 homes with 25 confirmed tornadoes in a three-hour period.

"It took about 12 seconds to destroy more than 1,000 homes," Quinn said.

The severe storms seminar, which is co-hosted by WGN and Fermilab, started 34 years ago. This year's participants included speakers from the National Weather Service and University of Illinois.

To learn more about getting prepared for severe weather and tornadoes, go to http://www.illinois.gov/ready/Pages/default.aspx.

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