Wisconsin Prime For Big Tornado, All-City Art Festival In Milwaukee, Decline Of Wisconsin Dairy Farms And Culture

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Elvis Kennedy (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Milwaukee schools are having a citywide arts festival with students from elementary to high school performing musical and theatrical acts starting this Wednesday, May 9th. We hear from a teacher who has been helping students prepare. A meteorologist explains why the state is overdue for a big tornado and two farm experts discuss the decline of dairy culture.

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  • What Causes A Violent Tornado?

    It’s been over twenty years since Wisconsin saw a tornado with winds of 200 miles per hour. We’ll ask a meteorologist about what conditions can create those monster twisters, and whether we are due for one.

  • Meteorologist: Preparedness Is Key To Surviving Twister Season

    After a powerful and destructive tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri in 2011 and left about 160 dead and more than 1,000 injured, many began to pay greater attention to these kind of storms and what they could do to prepare.

    In fact, National Weather Service forecasters who worked out of the office in Springfield tracked a spike in those interested learning more about tornadoes and how to be prepared.

    Because Wisconsin hasn’t seen a natural force of that magnitude in more than 20 years, National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Tim Halbach is worried of a growing complacency as tornado season gets into full swing.

    “Our concern is that the people that haven’t seen a tornado like that in a long time aren’t going to be prepared and have those options ready for them for when that day comes that we get that next violent tornado,” Halbach said.

    About 1,200 tornadoes occur each year in the United States. Although they can occur in any season so long as conditions are right, most tornadoes in Wisconsin occur in June, Halbach said.

    A tornado’s strength is rated on a scale of EF-0 to EF-5. Zeros, ones and twos are the most common types of tornadoes, which don’t often result in injuries or fatalities. EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes are violent, with the worst twisters topping out at wind speeds higher than 200 mph.

    It’s been 22 years since the Wisconsin’s last violent tornado in Oakfield, where four homes in a span of few miles were ripped off their foundations and automobiles were launched about 400 feet, the NWS reported. With speeds at times reaching an estimated 265 mph, the tornado eventually destroyed 60 homes and six businesses, and injured 12 people.

    Halbach watched that storm from the doorstep of his parents’ home. Although he was three or four miles to the north, the image of the twister roping out and dissipating was burned into his memory and kicked off his interest in pursuing a career in meteorology.

    Now based in the National Weather Service in Sullivan, Halbach said southern Wisconsin averages eight to 10 tornadoes a year, with the state averaging 23.

    Without reaching violent statuses, such as the tornado in Oakfield, tornadoes of any strength can still kill and leave paths of destruction in their wakes. An EF-3 tornado in early May last year tore through a trailer park in Barron County, killing one and injuring 25 people. Gov. Scott Walker at the time calling it a “miracle” that more people weren’t hurt.

    That storm led to Walker issuing a state of emergency for Barron, Jackson and Rusk counties, which bore the brunt of the storm.

    When conditions are coming together for a storm, a watch will likely be issued, Halbach said. That can occur between two and six hours before the storm becomes severe. Warnings are issued when a storm is present and has the capacity for damage.

    “(Warning is) when you should be seeking shelter,” Halbach said.

    Warnings are issued 13 minutes before a twister event, on average, but can sometimes go into effect with much less lead time. Warnings are only issued when a tornado has been sighted or weather radar indicates their presence or probable development.

    “It’s difficult for us to balance that because we want to make sure that we hit everything and try to give some kind of heads up that there’s a tornado that’s coming,” Halbach said. “But at the same time we don’t want to just toss out a tornado warning for the fun of it.”

    Experts suggest open spaces of open-plan buildings, vehicles and mobile homes don’t provide adequate protection against a twister. It’s better to seek shelter in a sturdy building in an interior and windowless room in the basement or on the lowest level of a building. Find a coat or blanket to further cover yourself, they suggest.

  • All-City Arts Festival Celebrates Milwaukee Students, Artists, Musicians

    The All-City Arts Festival in Milwaukee will reach new heights this year in its collaboration between Milwaukee Public School students and local artists and musicians, says Anthony Soyak, MPS music curriculum specialist and the event organizer.

    The festival will run Wednesday through Friday at the Summerfest grounds and bring together more than 8,000 students from elementary to high school with hundreds of local artists and musicians.

    It is a collaboration between the Milwaukee World Festival the Summerfest Foundation and the Milwaukee Public Schools.

    “It is not only to celebrate the art that the young people have been doing in the schools, but to show that that’s only an extension of the larger community of art in this city,” said Kiran Vedula, a musician, producer and youth advocate in Milwaukee.

    Milwaukee Public School declared the 2017-18 school year the Year of the Arts, and this festival is a culmination of that, Soyak said.

    In it’s 47th year, this is the first year the festival has reached this scale, he said. Students will perform in the visual arts, music, dance, theater, spoken word and more.

    “We wanted to connect our students to meaningful and engaging arts experiences in their classrooms, schools and across the city,” Soyak said. “It’s just incredible that we could have our students come together around art and we could allow them to express themselves and demonstrate how smart and how skilled they are.”

    Listen to “Sincerely Youth” by Shaddye

    The students who participate don’t necessarily want to be professional musicians, Vedula said, some want to be doctors, lawyers or real estate agents. But the lessons they learn from the arts apply across disciplines.

    “The most important side of it for me is learning the ability to have confidence in your own voice,” he said. “A lot of our programs that we do, it’s all about self-affirmation and self-confidence because particularly in the communities that we work in, there’s a lot of different types of negativity from the environment, from family, friends.”

    Listen to “Slow Jam” by Arri

    And this year’s lineup will feature a diversity of performances and activities, Soyak said.

    “You walk from one stage and see a dance routine, you go on to the next stage you see a concert band … then you could go try an instrument or try to learn salsa (dancing),” he said. “We were excited to see the diversity of our schools.”

    Soyak hopes to see the festival continue to expand and integrate into the community.

    “For us it’s our goal to have this be part of the fabric of Milwaukee, have this be one of those festivals that we all look forward to,” he said. “Whether it be something that we could always say, ‘Yep, this is the time that we all come together and celebrate not only our students but also celebrate our musicians and artists in the city of Milwaukee.’”

  • Milwaukee All-City Arts Festival Unites Students And Local Arts Community

    We learn about Milwaukee’s All-City Arts Festival, a collaboration between students and local artists that features music, dance, art, and theater performances.

    Learn more here:

  • What Does The Loss Of Wisconsin's Dairy Farms Mean For Rural Communities?

    With the number of Wisconsin dairy farms down 20 percent compared to ten years ago, we discuss what the shift away from dairy farming means for local economies and the culture of the places these farms helped shape.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Bill Martens Producer
  • Karl Christenson Producer
  • Brad Kolberg Producer
  • Rachael Vasquez Producer
  • Tim Halbach Guest
  • Anthony Soyak Guest
  • Kiran Vedula Guest
  • Joel Greeno Guest
  • John Peck Guest

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