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STORMFEST, THE WEATHER EVENT OF THE SUMMER... is proud to present its first annual StormFest. It's a day long celebration of extreme weather in the Midwest that includes a half day of seminars followed by a free outdoor concert . Experts from around the region including three National Weather Service offices, will cover a wide array of topics including the 2020 derecho, (the worst thunderstorm in U.S. history). violent tornadoes of the Midwest, (including in depth programs on the twin EF5's that battered Charles City and Oelwein 1968, the Parkersburg EF5, and the Joplin superstorm, the worst tornado in modern day history.

I'll also have Dr. Victor Gensini, College of DuPage to present some of his research on climate change and its influence on tornado alley along with severe weather trends, past, present, and future. Here is the agenda as it stands today. A few tweaks are still possible.


Rich Kinney (Warning coordinator Meteorologist National Weather Service Quad Cities)

Rich and his team were at the heart of the 2021 Derecho warning process with the storm progressing through the heart of their service area. Rich discusses the evolution and challenges of forecasting and warning the event which is labeled the worst thunderstorm in U.S. history. Rich will also discuss his role in determining the 140 mph wind gusts which devastated Cedar Rapids claiming 65% of the tree canopy.


Dr. Victor Gensini (College of DuPage)

Dr. Gensini’s talk focuses on long range tornado prediction. He’s developed a new pattern recognition technique which offers insight into the potential for tornado activity in a region beyond the current 8 day outlook period. Forecasting tornadoes is a challenging task, due to the small space and time scales on which tornadoes occur. His research shows that there are predictable ways to anticipate favorable and unfavorable jet stream patterns for severe weather across the U.S. This is helping lead to better anticipation and forecasting of tornadoes in the two to three week time frame. Dr. Gensini will also speak to the topic of severe weather past, present, and future and how climate change is reshaping tornado alley.


Terry Swails (Emmy Award winning television meteorologist and lead forecaster at

Terry will highlight the areas worst tornadoes and discuss trends he’s found in his research. His presentation also includes some captivating videos and stories that will have you on the edge of your seat.


Todd Shea (Warning Coordinator Meteorologist) National Weather Service La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Todd will discuss the epic May 15, 1968 tornado outbreak that generated two deadly EF5 tornadoes which battered Charles City and Oelwein, Iowa. The rare EF5 twisters which struck within 10 minutes of one another and were only 60 miles apart. There is no other history of two EF5 storms occurring at the same time and day in Iowa. The tornadoes killed 18 and injured another 619 others. Historically this is considered to be one of Iowa’s worst tornado outbreaks.


Terry Swails speaks to the power of this monster and shows two of the most compelling videos ever taken of such a violent storm. They reveal the rapid formation of the mile wide funnel and depict the ferocity that makes it the deadliest tornado in modern history. This is some heavy-duty video that is absolutely riveting.

THE WASHINGTON, ILLINOIS EF4 TORNADO AND THE RARE HIGH RISK SPC OUTLOOK NOVEMBER 17th 2013. (Violent Midwest twisters “can” happen in the fall and winter).

Terry Swails takes an in depth look at this explosive outbreak back on November 17th, 2013. The day dawned with a rare high risk SPC outlook that quickly led to a PDS tornado watch by mid-morning. By 11:00 A.M. the worst and deadliest November tornado in Illinois history was dealing out 190 mph winds. Ironically, the recovery was hampered by cold and snow.

THE PARKERSBURG EF5 May 25th, 2008

Rod Donovan (Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Des Moines).

May 25th, 2008 the first EF5 tornado to touch down in eastern Iowa in 40 years roared through the southern half of Parkesburg just before 5:00 P.M. Extreme winds of 205 mph caused extreme devastation as the storm carved a 43 mile path narrowly missing Cedar Falls and Waterloo. Despite excellent watches and warnings, the shear power of the storm killed 9 and injured 70. Hear the story of the day from the perspective of the NWS diligently worked knowing that a large and deadly storm was tearing through its service area.


Chris Luhring (Parkersburg Chief of Police at the time and current city manager).

Immediately following the Parkersburg tornado, it looked as if a bomb had exploded. Death and destruction prevailed and coordinating the response and recovery of his hometown fell on the 27-year-old shoulders of police chief Chris Luhring. Surveying the scene in the immediate aftermath, the destruction was so immense that Luhring set up a triage center and a morgue that could handle what he thought could be as many as 125 bodies. He soon found out one of his family members was a victim. His compelling, heroic, and at times heartbreaking story of hope, compassion, and leadership is a must hear.


Following the seminar, the group moves to the Dirty Water Music Amphitheater for a free outdoor concert from 5-7:00 P.M. The band will be playing up a “storm” featuring cover songs perfect for a bunch of weatherheads.


Additionally, I expect a couple of surprise guests and several members of the media on hand to share their expertise and add some fun to the event. It's going to be a hard core day of extreme weather and all geeks are welcome.

The action kicks off at the brand New Mississippi River Distillery event center looking over the mighty Mississippi. The venue includes two large video projection screens and a state of the art sound system. Well have access to the open roof for breaks and there's even a cash bar with a wide range of beverages to keep as from getting parched.

Aside from this being a super duty weather party, it's a fund raising event for the expenses I incur to keep afloat. As you know it is a free site and I would like to keep it that way and still get my kid through college. Retirement from TV has its downfalls!

So, the deal is this. The event takes place August 21st. Doors open at 12:00 noon and the event goes until 5. After that the party moves across the street to the Dirty Water Music amphitheater and stage where the Dirty Water Boys and some special guests will sing us up a storm! Live music and weather, that's a big day.

The event center only holds 150 people so seats are limited for the actual seminar. The cost of admission is $59.00 dollars ($69.00 at the door if we don't sell out). That includes the seminar, a snazzy StormFest t-shirt, and the concert. To get yourself a spot CLICK HERE. Thank you for participating and supporting We look forward to seeing you August 21st!

Sincerely yours in weather,

T. Swails


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