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Expert talks unpredictable spring weather
Leaves and pieces of trash are blown against a fence at Parkside Elementary School Wednesday. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - Meteorologist Tim Halbach visited Monroe Wednesday to train citizens to identify different types of destructive and unpredictable weather.

The session drew in 45 attendees, from Green County Highway Department workers to firefighters and police officers as well as residents of the county interested in finding out more, at Monroe Fire Department Station No. 1.

Green County Emergency Management Director Tanna McKeon said the sessions are hosted annually and usually draw from 30 to sometimes 100 people interested in learning how to report weather events. The training helps the National Weather Service, too, Halbach said.

"The faster we get information, the faster we can get that out," Halbach said. "People will find safety if they hear firsthand accounts."

Halbach is the warning coordinator meteorologist for the Milwaukee/ Sullivan National Weather Service. The point of the session was to enlist help on the ground because meteorology instruments cannot yet confirm whether or not a tornado has touched the ground or the exact measurement of hail.

Halbach noted spring weather is unpredictable, although research is getting closer to a better answer. Southern Wisconsin especially has a higher risk for bad weather because of its location compared to the rest of the state.

"The farther south, the more severe weather becomes," Halbach said. "To be able to pinpoint - it's hard enough to know the day of. The timing has to come together just right."

Monroe and its surrounding areas are closer to the area of the United States referred to as "Tornado Alley" than the rest of Wisconsin. The alley includes central Texas northward to Illinois and Indiana. Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and eastern Colorado are included in the area. The farther south, the more the environment has unstable, moist air masses which can cause severe weather, Halbach said.

Monroe has experience with straight-line winds, which Halbach said are as strong as a weak tornado. They are more widespread than funnels, however, and can cause more damage as a result. Generally, the winds are the result of a heavy thunderstorm. The damage they cause is a result of trees being knocked over because they are too heavy with moisture, and in some cases, the winds can rip roofs off of houses.