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Meanwhile in Oz: Plenty of changes in weather - and predicting
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Monday was a beautiful 75 degrees with a little bit of wind around noon in Monroe.

At 3:30 p.m., we were hit by high winds and torrential rain. I watched it come down from the front foyer of Monroe Clinic after attending a meeting there. Laura Hughes, our advertising manager, and I sat and watched as a few brave souls borrowed umbrellas from the clinic and tried to get to their vehicles in the worst of it.

The wind was howling so strong it virtually collapsed the leading edge of an umbrella back into the person carrying it. You could keep your head and shoulders dry while carrying an umbrella, but everything below that was soaked.

There was plenty of lightning, which didn't make me keen on carrying an umbrella.

After giving the storm 20 minutes to blow itself into a more gentle gale, Laura went and got her vehicle, and I returned the umbrella while it just sprinkled.

It was worth the wait.

I had known all day long that rain was expected. I had checked out the National Weather Service forecast for Monroe early that morning.

Did you know that weather for Monroe and much of Green County is forecast by the NWS office in Sullivan, which is near Jefferson?

According to the station's website page on the NWS site, "The Sullivan office has routine forecast and short-fused severe weather warning responsibility for southeast and south-central Wisconsin."

Tuesday morning I spoke with Rudy Schaar, a data acquisition program manager, at the NWS Sullivan office. He's familiar with Monroe as he receives data daily from a remote weather reporting station based at the Monroe Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Schaar, 66, has been with the NWS for 25 years and before that he received his training through the United States Navy.

He's seen sweeping changes in meteorology technology, the most important of which he said was the advent of Doppler radar in 1993. There are 122 Doppler sites across the United States.

"They are all integrated and allow us to track frontal systems with a great deal of accuracy," Schaar said. "I would say over the last 25 years just about everything regarding how we forecast the weather has changed."

The National Weather Service has partnerships with television and radio to broadcast storm watches and warnings. It has weather radio to continually broadcast information. Other alerts from the NWS go out over Twitter and Facebook.

"There's a whole host of ways we're communicating with the public," Schaar said.

When it comes to weather in southern Wisconsin, Schaar said the most severe weather is driven by rapidly changing frontal systems. High and low fronts change, the barometer drops and the weather disintegrates.

Topography doesn't have much to do with weather changes here. There's not enough elevation to the hills and they aren't oriented properly, Schaar said.

Severe weather comes during two specific times of the year - mid-May through July and then again in September, Schaar said.

Conditions that brought the rapid changes in the weather we saw on Monday are what initially piqued Schaar's interest in meteorology.

"I've always had a personal interest in the weather and the fast pace of change makes it something different every day," Schaar said.

There are no shortages of armchair meteorologists here in Wisconsin's great southern farmland. With eyes on fields that need to be planted, we could use a steady period of fair weather to set the table for a great agricultural year.

- Matt Johnson is publisher of the Monroe Times. His column is published Wednesdays.