Saline Regional Weather Seminar

Date: Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Twister Sisters, Wayne 2013

Tornado highlight March 29 seminar


        Just over 10 years ago, Nebraska’s longest-track tornado began in Thayer County, worked its way northeast through Jefferson, Saline, Gage and Lancaster counties, and fizzled out in Cass County. The F4 storm was 2.5 miles wide and destroyed the town of Hallam and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in its path.

        Peggy Willenberg and Melanie Metz, known as The Twister Sisters, were among the stormchasers who sought refuge in the basements and cellars of area residents on May 22, 2004 and both are returning to tell their stories at the free 20th annual Saline Regional Weather Seminar on Saturday, March 29 at Saline Center Hall, rural Saline County.

        Learning to recognize the dangers of severe weather can be the key to being prepared for disaster and the stormchasing pair will highlight the 12:30 p.m. seminar with their experiences that day, safety tips on how to survive the storm and why Weather Radios are still important even though there are cell phones everywhere.

        A 20-minute documentary will be shown featuring the Hallam tornado and focusing on the importance of using a weather radio including interviews with local Wilber residents, Willenberg and National Weather Service experts.

        The other significant presentation is “Wayne Tornado 2013: (Almost A) Direct Hit” by Nic Kenmitz, Wayne County emergency management director; and LeRoy Janssen, Wayne County sheriff.

      “Being prepared is the key to surviving severe weather no matter what the threat,” said B.J. Fictum, Saline County emergency management coordinator and one of several event organizers. “The Wayne County folks demonstrated this last Oct. 5 when an EF4 and several other tornadoes tore up the area.”

      Lincoln television meteorologists Brad Anderson (Channels 10/11), Luke Dorris (KLKN TV-8) and Hastings KHAS-TV5 meteorologist Travis Klanecky are scheduled to be present early in the event to meet the attendees and help with the awards.

      The afternoon’s activities begin at 12:30 p.m. with presentation of awards in the Saline County portion of the Nebraska Severe Weather Awareness Week Poster Contest. More than 170 severe weather posters drawn by Dorchester, Wilber-Clatonia, Friend and Crete fourth grade students will be on display.

      Other scheduled presentations include “Weather Spotting in 2014” by Brian Smith, National Weather Service Omaha/Valley warning coordination meteorologist; “The 2013 Tornado Season: U.S., Great Plains…and Nebraska” with Dr. Ken Dewey, stormchaser and Professor of Climatology-UNL Applied Climate Science Group of the School of Natural Resources, UNL; and Fictum, who will talk on Saline County spotter operations.

      Another highlight of the event will be a display of more than 100 severe weather posters drawn by Crete fourth grade students as part of the Nebraska Severe Weather Awareness Week Poster Contest. The top four artists will be honored at the start of the afternoon.

      A new display this year will be several prefabricated residential tornado safe rooms by Global Storm Shelters, Sidney, Iowa. The High Plains Regional Climate Center, American Red Cross, Fillmore and Lancaster County emergency management, Nebraska State Patrol, Nebraska Emergency Agency and the Great Plains Severe Weather Team also plan to be among the displays.

      The event includes the official weather spotter training session that everyone is welcome to attend. The seminar ends about 5 p.m. with a free lunch.

     Saline County Emergency Management, in cooperation with the National Weather Service and other local businesses, is sponsoring the free afternoon event.

      There is no admission to attend the public seminar, which includes door prizes and a free lunch. NOAA all-hazards weather radios, rain gauges and other weather-related items will be among the door prizes.

      Saline Center Hall is located 3 miles west and 9 miles south of Dorchester, or 11 miles west and 3 miles north of Wilber on Nebraska Highway 15. GPS coordinates are 40.5124196 N -97.179136 W.

      More information on the severe weather seminar is available by contacting Fictum at (402) 821-3010 or 826-7200; or via email at or anytime.



NOTE: The Twister Sisters’ Peggy Willenberg is available for interviews at 843-525-1315 (home) or 763-443-2994 (cll)