Thanksgiving Preview – Another East Coast Storm Next Week; Estimated $50 Billion in Damage from Sandy in New York City Area Nov 13, 2012

Now Or Never. I just got home from a 2 week Panama Canal cruise with my 82 year old father, my wife and some good friends. It’s something we’ve been talking about for a few years, and so we took the plunge and reserved the 14 day cruise on Princess, leaving from L.A., stopping in Cabo, Nicaragua and Costa Rica before pushing thru the canal on Election Day (which took about 7 hours). It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I wanted to do it now, with my father in relatively good health. My goal is to be able to look back and not have serious regrets (“could have, should have, would have..”). I think I spent $500 on satellite internet WIFI to keep tabs on Sandy and last week’s Nor’easter for our corporate clients – talk about lousy timing. But nobody got sick or injured. With frequent visits to the buffet line I fear I may be showing up on Doppler for some time to come. My thanks to meteorologist Todd Nelson for filling in while I was gone. PS: I highly recommend seeing The Big Ditch. It’s something you should do once in your life, if possible.


Looks Like Snow. As of yesterday 31.5% of the USA had some snow on the ground, according to NOAA, up from 2.1% on October 12, 2012.


November 16, 1931: latest tornado ever observed in Minnesota, east of Maple Plains. Details here.

4 tornadoes reported in Minnesota during the month of November (2 of them were Saturday night). Details below.



Weather Whiplash

I may be showing up on Doppler the next few weeks. I just got back from a two week Panama Canal cruise with my wife and 82 year old dad – studying tropical weather – and the buffet table.


69 F on Saturday, followed by 20s Sunday and a howling wind of Siberian origin? This extreme cold front whipped up a few small EF-0 tornadoes Saturday night near Burnsville & Eagan. November twisters are exceedingly rare; with Saturday’s outbreak there have been only 4 tornadoes in November in modern-day records.

SPC had parts of southern Minnesota in a slight risk, but there were no watches or warnings in effect when severe storms spun up these small, brief tornadoes. What happened? The greater the contrast in temperature the stronger the winds have to blow; and there was just enough wind shear aloft to spin up small, brief, 75-80 mph tornadoes

With our expanding autumns maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised. Moral of the story: never let your guard down – when skies turn threatening head for the basement, even in November.

Monday’s icy coating of snow melts today; highs in the 40s this week – near 50 (above!) next week. No big storms brewing here into Thanksgiving, the way the maps are setting up. The biggest, sloppiest storms continue to detour well south/east of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Yet another Nor’easter may cause (relatively minor) coastal flooding along the east coast next week. Folks out east just can’t catch a break.


$50 billion in estimated damage in the New York City area alone from Sandy. Details from The New York Times.

Hurricane Sandy And The Disaster Preparedness Economy. The hottest gift for the holidays out east? Emergency generators. I’m not kidding. Forget jewelry and clothing – people want some assurance the power will stay on the next time a wild storm strikes. Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “FOLKS here don’t wish disaster on their fellow Americans. They didn’t pray for Hurricane Sandy to come grinding up the East Coast, tearing lives apart and plunging millions into darkness. But the fact is, disasters are good business in Waukesha. And, lately, there have been a lot of disasters. This Milwaukee suburb, once known for its curative spring waters and, more recently, for being a Republican stronghold in a state that President Obama won on Election Day, happens to be the home of one of the largest makers of residential generators in the country. So when the lights go out in New York — or on the storm-savaged Jersey Shore or in tornado-hit Missouri or wherever — the orders come pouring in like a tidal surge…”

Photo credit above: “These photos provided by the U.S. Geological Survey showing Fire Island and Ocean Beach, N.Y. before and after Superstorm Sandy. The top photo was created May 21, 2009 and bottom photo taken Nov. 5, 2012.” (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Service)


Sandy Victims Face Insurance Nightmare. CNN Money has the story – here’s an excerpt: “When Roman and Marianna Bediner’s Staten Island, N.Y., home was clobbered by Superstorm Sandy they took some comfort in knowing that it was insured. But a few days later, when they learned that their coverage would pay for only a fraction of the $75,000 to $100,000 needed to put the house back together again, that feeling evaporated. During the storm, Roman said the waters of Lower New York Bay rose by close to 11 feet, destroying all the walls, floors and ceilings — not to mention the furniture and carpets — on the first floor of his home. When the area flooded, the sewers backed up, filling the Bediners’ ground floor with water that contained raw sewage and contaminating the home…”

Photo credit above: “These photos provided by the U.S. Geological Survey show Seaside Heights, N.J. before and after Superstorm Sandy. The top photo was created May 21, 2009 and bottom photo taken Nov. 5, 2012.” (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Service)



Hurricane Sandy Damage Amplified By Breakneck Development Of Coast. Some unpleasant trends are converging. At the same time storms are becoming more intense (and sea level is rising, by at least a foot since 1900 in the New York City area) coastal development has exploded. Who doesn’t want to live near the water? Minnesota lakes are quite tame compared to what can nappen when a hurricane storm surge coincides with high tide and a full moon. More from Huffington Post: “…Given the size and power of the storm, much of the damage from the surge was inevitable. But perhaps not all. Some of the damage along low-lying coastal areas was the result of years of poor land-use decisions and the more immediate neglect of emergency preparations as Sandy gathered force, according to experts and a review of government data and independent studies. Authorities in New York and New Jersey simply allowed heavy development of at-risk coastal areas to continue largely unabated in recent decades, even as the potential for a massive storm surge in the region became increasingly clear. In the end, a pell-mell, decades-long rush to throw up housing and businesses along fragile and vulnerable coastlines trumped commonsense concerns about the wisdom of placing hundreds of thousands of closely huddled people in the path of potential cataclysms…”

Photo credit above: “These photos provided by the U.S. Geological Survey show Mantoloking, N.J. before and after Superstorm Sandy. The top photo was created May 21, 2009 and bottom photo taken Nov. 5, 2012.” (AP Photo/US Geological Service)

“Ask Paul”. Weather-related Q&A:

Hi Paul,

Read you all the time.  Been a follower since 1988.

I’m very confused how a tornado could spin up, touchdown in my back yard with absolutely no warning.  In fact, I had just concluded watching a local weather forecast about 10:20 on Sat. night and there was no mention of strong wind, severe weather, nothing.  I just watched a rebroadcast of the weather segment again in case I missed something.  There were no sirens in Burnsville.

Everyone likes to pounce on the weathercasters when they miss a forecast by a few degrees or ‘scattered showers’ hover over their picnic, but this is serious stuff.  How can this tornado have possibly been missed by everyone on your field?

Regards, Mike Svec


Mike – I was on a cruise ship off the coast of Florida Saturday night (I know, no excuse), but I’m trying to piece together what happened. SPC had a slight risk into southern Minnesota Saturday, but you’re right: no watches or warnings were in effect when the line of strong/severe storms arrived. Dew points were in the 40s and low 50s, so moisture was somewhat limited, but with a 40 degree temperature drop across the cold front there was ample wind shear to spin up small, brief tornadoes (in 20-20 hindsight, of course). The situation was marginal at best for tornadoes. And Doppler radar works best on the big, supercell thunderstorms, not the small storms that swept thru Saturday night. The resulting twisters were too small and brief to create a noticeable “couplet” on Doppler.

Here’s our new reality: technology is good, leaps and bounds better than the radars we were using back in the 70s and 80s. But it’s not perfect, and never will be. There will be (rare) occasions where tornadoes still spin up, with little or no warning. I want to believe we’ll catch the big (EF-2+) tornadoes, but the little ones? Very difficult – they literally get lost in the sauce. When winds pick up suddenly you head to the basement, or an interior room, even if it’s mid-November.

The Twin Cities NWS has more on the November 10 tornadoes in the south metro here. Some of the photos from near Burnsville and Eagan are below.

630 PM CST SUN NOV 11 2012

..TIME...   ...EVENT...      ...CITY LOCATION...     ...LAT.LON...
..DATE...   ....MAG....      ..COUNTY LOCATION..ST.. ...SOURCE....

1058 PM     TORNADO          1 SW BURNSVILLE         44.75N 93.30W
11/10/2012  F0               DAKOTA             MN   NWS STORM SURVEY

            SPEEDS WERE 80 MPH.

1105 PM     TORNADO          2 NNW EAGAN             44.85N 93.18W
11/10/2012  F0               DAKOTA             MN   NWS STORM SURVEY


European Scientist: How We Improved Our Forecast Model, And How It’s Reliant On U.S. Satellite Data. Eric Berger at The Houston Chronicle has a good story about how the European (ECMWF) model is, in many cases, better than the U.S. models. There’s a good reason – how the model is initialized, with new data fed into the model in real-time, as it arrives, including satellite data from U.S. weather satellites. Here’s an excerpt: “…Physics is essential. In 2007 we made big changes to the model’s physics, in particular the convection and clouds. This had quite a large impact on our skill with tropical cyclones. Another essential element is the way we use observations. This is what we call data assimilation, the way we initialize our models. This is an area where I think we are leading. The way we initialize our model using observations is probably quite advanced compared to other centers. We make a very large use of satellite data in particular, and particularly satellites from the United States. We have a strong collaboration with NOAA. To have these initial conditions accurate, and not accurate only in the vicinity of the hurricane, or what is going to become a hurricane, but the large scale flow around the hurricane is very important as well….”

* ECMWF model maps of Sandy’s projected landfall courtesy of WSI Corporation.


Thanksgiving Day Preview. Don’t bet the farm based on a 9 day outlook, but the GFS is suggesting a significant storm pushing across the Midwest and Great Lakes next Wednesday. In fact the GFS model prints out over 1″ of rain the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in the Twin Cities – probably rain. I could see rain showers ending as snow showers or flurries on Thanksgiving Day. Stay tuned.




Reality Check – We’re Still In A Drought. The ECMWF keeps us dry next week, highs in the 50s next Wednesday with no storms nearby. Based on the recent track record of the European model I’m inclined to discount the (soggy) GFS forecast above and go with the milder, drier ECMWF solution. Map above valid 6 pm next Wednesday, courtesy of WSI.



Climate Stories….


Former UN Official Says Climate Report Will Shock Nations Into Action. The story from The Sydney Morning Herald; here’s an excerpt: “THE next United Nations climate report will ”scare the wits out of everyone” and should provide the impetus needed for the world to finally sign an agreement to tackle global warming, the former head of the UN negotiations said. Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief during the 2009 Copenhagen climate change talks, said his conversations with scientists working on the next report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested the findings would be shocking. “That report is going to scare the wits out of everyone,” Mr de Boer said in the only scheduled interview of his visit to Australia. “I’m confident those scientific findings will create new political momentum.”




Lance Armstrong And Superstorm Sandy Were Both Doped. Here’s an excerpt of an article that caught my eye from “If you’re a cycling enthusiast, you’re no doubt aware that Lance Armstrong was recently stripped of all of his Tour de France wins because the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency found evidence of doping. While there are some questions that remain unanswered in the case and there are certainly reasonable criticisms that can be levied against the USADA’s investigation, the scientific evidence appears to be overwhelming. But I’m not here to talk about Lance Armstrong. Instead, there’s another example where the scientific evidence of doping is overwhelming even though there are a few reasonable criticisms and a few unanswered questions – the doping of Superstorm Sandy by the performance enhancer known as industrial climate disruption (aka global warming or climate change)…”

Photo credit above: “This house was floated off its foundation by Sandy. Fairfield Beach, CT.” (Genevieve Reilly/Fairfield Citizen).

New Report Highlights Link Between Climate Change, National Security. Voice of America has the story; here’s an excerpt: “The U.S. National Research Council released a report Friday on the link between global climate change and national security. The scientific study details how global warming is putting new social and political stresses on societies around the world and how the United States and other counties can anticipate and respond to these climate-driven security risks. The report by the congressionally-chartered research group begins with an assertion that global warming is real, and that the mainstream scientific community believes that heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are being added to the atmosphere faster today than they were before the rise of human societies. And it says the consequences of climate change — including rising sea levels, more frequent and severe floods, droughts, forest fires, and insect infestations — present security threats similar to and in many cases greater than those posed by terrorist attacks….”



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Welcome to the WeatherNation blog. Every day I sift through hundreds of stories, maps, graphics and meteorological web sites, trying to capture some of the most interesting weather nuggets, the stories behind the forecast. I’ll link to stories and share some of the web sites I use. I’m still passionate about the weather, have been ever since Tropical Storm Agnes flooded my home in Lancaster, PA in 1972. I’ve started 5 weather-related companies. “EarthWatch” created the world’s first 3-D weather graphics for TV stations – Steven Spielberg used our software in “Jurassic Park” and “Twister”. My last company, “Digital Cyclone”, personalized weather for cell phones. “My-Cast” was launched in 2001 and is still going strong on iPhone, Android and Blackberry. I sold DCI to Garmin in 2007 so I could focus on my latest venture: WeatherNation. I also write a daily weather column for The Star Tribune And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather

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