CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - April is one of the deadliest months for tornadoes in the United States. They strike with short notice and leave little in their path, so having days or weeks to plan for them could save lives and property.
Forecasting tornado outbreaks two to three weeks in advance has never successfully been done, until now. Meet Dr. Victor Gensini. He's a local boy that crossed paths with a deadly tornado, and that encounter set him on a path to predict the unpredictable.
It was April 20, 2004 - a warm spring day that would take a violent turn.
"It hit the elementary school and glazed the high school,” Gensini said. "I'd never seen anything like that first hand. I've always been kind of interested in storms and to find out later it killed 8 people in Utica I was like how did that happen? Did they not have warning? Then seeing the damage I had no idea storms could even do that".
That day, a young Victor Gensini vowed to get his PhD and then study everything tornadoes. Diplomas in hand and a choice of jobs, he returned home to teach at the College of DuPage where he also lead storm chases and organizes special events, like a recent weather balloon launch. But he never forgot how quickly a tornado can destroy lives.
So last year, he formed a group of five top scientists with the single goal of creating a method to forecast tornadoes weeks in advance, and they did it!
The team meets every Sunday to look at ocean and atmospheric conditions around the globe. They use a special formula that includes the angle and placement of the jet stream. Their predictions have been three times more accurate than any current method. They successfully predicted a tornado outbreak this week. The next goal is to pinpoint outbreaks for smaller regions of the country and then make the data available to the public and government agencies.
"Who would really be interested in a product like this would be an insurance company looking to buy catastrophe bonds for a big set-up that could influence a large chunk of the country and the emergency managers who no matter where you live, educate people and bring awareness,” Gensini said.
Gensini has become a rising star in the world of weather with appearances on national shows, which is something his colleagues say should make Chicago very proud.
"I love that Chicago is the center of it all…great to be a part of this long heritage of really great meteorology,” said College of DuPage professor Paul Sirvatka.