Tom Skilling previews the 37th Annual Tornado and Severe Weather Seminar at Fermilab

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Tom Skilling

Dr. Louis Uccellini, Dr. Russell Schneider, Dr. Don Wuebbles, Ed Fenelon, Brian Smith

Saturday, April 8
Ramsey Auditorium in Wilson Hall
Kirk Road and Pine Street

For more information:



CHICAGO, March 21, 2017 – Tom Skilling, WGN-TV’s chief meteorologist, will host the 37th  Annual Tornado and Severe Weather Seminar at the Ramsey Auditorium on the grounds of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, on Saturday, April 8, 2017 starting at noon.  Admission to the seminar is free and people will be seated on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Any overflow will be seated to view a closed circuit feed in the atrium area. The presentation will be streamed LIVE at and will be archived for later viewing.

Those on Twitter can follow hashtag #SkillingFermi for information, and nuggets from the seminar itself.

Tom Skilling’s Annual Tornado and Severe Weather Seminar was created to educate viewers about the dynamics and after-effects of severe weather, and is open to everyone including students from junior high age and older.  Mr. Skilling created this seminar 37 years ago, along with Brian Smith, currently with the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Omaha, Nebraska. For more information about this seminar, go to More info about the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermilab:

This year’s seminar will feature survivor interviews and a discussion of the devastating, deadly Belvidere/Oak Lawn Tornadoes that struck nearly 50 years ago, on April 21st, 1967.

During the seminar, Skilling will raffle off 18 weather radios for attendees to take home with them.  The ten WR-120 desktop radios and eight HH50 radios offer not only an insight into the tools meteorologists use today, but also instant and direct information on your latest weather news.

The 2017 program features an impressive and varied roster of severe weather scientists and forecasters.  Here is the list of speakers and their talks for the Saturday, April 8th, 2017 Fermilab Tornado and Severe Weather program, which begins at 12 noon:

  • Dr. Louis Uccellini, Director, National Weather Service


The National Weather Service, under the direction of Dr. Uccellini and his team, have accomplished the biggest upgrade in the agency's supercomputing and modeling infrastructure ever. The tenfold increase in computing power is allowing a full court press by U.S. numerical modelers to tackle the prediction of ever-smaller features of the atmosphere, aiding human forecasters in generating more accurate forecasts of events ranging from hurricanes and tornadoes to floods and extremes of temperature. The arsenal of tools and the dedicated legions of meteorologists Dr. Uccellini leads across the U.S. have been--and still are--engaged in an effort to transform the country into a "Weather Ready Nation"-- one in which preventing loss of life and limb at the hands of severe weather is the main priority.


  • Dr. Russell Schneider, Director of the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, Norman, Oklahoma


Monitoring U.S. weather 24/7, issuing our country's tornado and severe thunderstorm watches as well as guidance on the nation's fire risk. Dr. Schneider's staff has developed an impressive track record in pinpointing regions threatened by outbreaks of tornadoes and severe weather as much as a week ahead of time. The Storm Prediction Center also offers a range of indispensable numerical model products, which enable meteorologists in every facet of the atmospheric science community to follow developing weather situations and communicate the threat posed by severe weather to the public with a level of confidence unrivaled in the past.


  • Tim Marshall, Storm Chaser, Researcher, and Structural Engineer


Famed storm chaser and structural engineer, Tim Marshall played a major role in updating the Fujita tornado intensity scale by producing the "Enhanced Fujita Intensity Scale."  Marshall will not only recount his experiences and impressions of the Belvidere/Oak Lawn Tornadoes from 1967, but will talk about how that nightmarish tornado outbreak influenced his meteorological career.  He will also brief us on a project in which he's currently engaged which recently positioned two instrument pods in two different tornadoes – yielding a treasure trove of information he'll tell us about.


  • Ed Fenelon, Area Manager-National Weather Service-Chicago


Meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Chicago, Ed Fenelon warns "It's not a matter of 'if' the next major tornado disaster will occur; it's a matter of 'when'!" According to Mr. Fenelon, the key to mitigating injury and loss of life is understanding the threat, having a plan and being ready to act on a moment's notice.


  • Brian Smith, Warning Coordination Meteorologist-National Weather Service Forecast Office-Valley, NE


After pursuing meteorological studies at Northern Illinois University, Brian Smith later join famed tornado researcher Dr. Theodore Fujita as a research assistant at the University of Chicago. Along with Tom Skilling, Smith co-founded the Tornado and Severe Weather Seminar 37 years ago. As personnel at National Weather Service, Smith routinely conducts storm surveys after tornadoes and wind storm events that move through areas of the nation.  Information gathered from conducting storm surveys not only provides one with valuable information about the storm structure, but also about the failure and quality of construction of structures.


  • Mike Bardou, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, NWS-Chicago


Meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Chicago,  Mike Bardou will look at how a half century of advances in weather forecasting have impacted severe weather forecasting since the 1967 Belvidere/Oak Lawn Tornado outbreak.


  • Matt Friedlein, Lead Forecaster, National Weather Service-Chicago


Matt Friedlein will take an up-close look at the 1967 Belvidere/Oak Lawn Tornadoes, this area's most deadly and devastating tornado outbreak.


  • Dr. Donald J. Wuebbles is the Harry E. Preble Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Illinois.


An expert in atmospheric physics and chemistry, Dr. Wuebbles has authored many pioneering studies related to human effects on the Earth’s climate, on air quality, and on stratospheric ozone. He was a leader in the 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment and was also a coordinating lead author for the 2013 international assessment of climate change. He has been a Coordinating Lead Author and contributed to a number of the reports of the international Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.


  • Tom Skilling, WGN-TV & Radio and Chicago Tribune Chief Meteorologist: Tom Skilling will focus this year’s session on discussing the 50th anniversary of this area's most deadly and devastating outbreak---the Oak Lawn/Belvidere tornado outbreak----which occurred on April 21, 1967.  Through interviews and his own personal account of that day, Mr. Skilling hopes that the seminar discussion will serve as a reminder of the vulnerability of this area to severe weather.


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