All Weather News

A Week of Jaw-Dropping Weather Extremes

2 May 2014, 5:55 am

Easing Back into Spring. The jet stream lifts north next week, pushing strong to potentially severe storms into the Upper Midwest by the middle of next week. California remains dry; heavy showers pushing north across the Pacific Northwest. GFS Outlook: NOAA and HAMweather.


7-Day Rainfall Outlook. NOAA ensemble models shows some 1-2″ rains for parts of Florida (including hard-hit counties in the Panhandle), and from Seattle to Bismarck, Madison, Flint and Rochester New York by Friday of next week.


Great Lakes Ice Cover. There may still be ice on stretches of Lake Superior in early June at the rate we’re going. As of April 30, 2014 23.5% of the Great Lakes were still covered in ice. Source: NOAA GLERL.


A Discouraging Snowpack Update for California. There won’t be much water to replenish low reservoirs in California this year, based on the latest findings from the California Department of Water Resources; here’s an excerpt: “Anyone who doesn’t think conservation is important should drive up the hill and take a look,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “Coupled with half our normal rainfall and low reservoir storage, our practically nonexistent snowpack reinforces the message that we need to save every drop we can just to meet basic needs.” More dramatically, today’s electronic readings shows a dismal 7% of average water content in the northern Sierra snowpack that helps fill the state’s major reservoirs which currently are only half full…” (Image above courtesy of Pacific Institute).


“Worse Than Hurricane Ivan”. Hundreds Rescued From Gulf Coast Floodwaters. Pensacola picked up 15.55″ of rain on Tuesday, a new 24-hour rainfall record. To put that into perspective Los Angeles has seen 15.9″ of rain since January 1, 2012! Here’s an excerpt from “…In Gulf Shores, Ala., where nearly 21 inches of rain fell over a day’s time, the scene resembled the aftermath of a hurricane. At the Sportsman Marina in Orange Beach, employee J.J. Andrews couldn’t believe what she saw out the window. “We’ve got water up in our parking lots,” she said. “Our docks are under water. It’s worse than during Hurricane Ivan, is what they’re saying. It’s crazy.” The 2004 hurricane dumped 3 to 7 inches of rain along the Florida Panhandle...”

Photo credit above: “In Foley, Alabama, some people couldn’t get out of their homes on Wednesday, April 30, 2014, after flood waters surrounded their homes, many of which are built on stilts. The National Weather Service says the Fish River peaked at a record high level of 23.18 feet after more than 22 inches of rain fell in the area over two days. Some residents said the flooding was the worst they had ever seen.” (AP Photo/Alex Sanz).


Long Island Mudslides. Photo and tweet above courtesy of Newsday.
Rainfall Reports:

6.06″ Unionside, NJ
5.98″ 5 miles SW of Queens, NY (NYC)
5.82″ Roslyn Heights, NY
5.72″ Midwood, Brooklyn (NYC)
5.12″ Central Park (NYC)
Also: Baltimore, MD finished 0.1″ shy of a new record for an April rainfall record.
BWI Airport: 8.60″ of rain in April; Record (1889): 8.70″ Wednesday’s 3.06″ of rain at BWI airport tied a daily record (1947).

* data courtesy of Chris Bianchi at WeatherNation.


Arkansas Tornado Rated EF-4. That’s about as powerful as they get, capable of scraping even well-built homes down to foundation. Here’s an excerpt from “…The scene was chaotic after Sunday’s storm: scraps of metal wrapped around tree limbs, brick homes reduced to rubble, bark stripped from trees. Tractor-trailers and heavy-duty SUVs were flipped over and flung like toy cars. The nation hasn’t had an EF5 storm since last May, when Moore, Okla., was hit by a twister that killed 24 and destroyed 1,000 homes. There have been only 59 EF5 storms since modern record-keeping began in 1950. Some residents in the hard-hit communities of Vilonia and Mayflower described hearing the storm, comparing it with the roar of a freight train or jet engine. Mayflower Mayor Randy Holland described it as “the loudest grinding noise I’ve ever heard…”

Photo credit above: “This Monday, April 28, 2014 aerial photo shows destroyed buildings and debris along U.S. Highway 64 in Vilonia, Arkansas. Vilonia was hit hard Sunday for the second time in three years. Four people were killed in a 2011 storm. Until this late April 2014 outbreak, the U.S. as a whole had by far the quietest start of the year for tornadoes. Longer trends show more tornado clusters recently.” (AP Photo/Danny Johnston).


Truck Carried 27 Miles By Arkansas EF-4 Tornado. When I first saw this headline I thought “that can’t possibly be true”. But then I thought about the sustained updraft in a (confirmed) EF-4 with 180 mph. winds and I guess it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Here’s a clip from USA Today: “A truck was reportedly carried 27 miles by a tornado Sunday night in Arkansas, according to meteorologist Darby Bybee of KHBS-TV in Fort Smith. Bybee reported that the truck was carried from Mayflower, Ark., to near Vilonia, Ark., a distance of about 27 miles. A report from the National Weather Service in Little Rock notes that an EF-4 tornado — with winds of at least 180 mph — traveled 41 miles on a path that included both Mayflower and Vilonia. The tornado killed 15 people…”

Photo credit above: “In this Sunday, April 27, 2014 photo, a person walks past cars strewn across Interstate 40 when a tornado struck the town of Mayflower, Ark. A tornado system ripped through several states in the central U.S. and left more than a dozen dead in a violent start to this year’s storm season, officials said.” (AP Photo/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Benjamin Krain).


GOES Animation Of The April 27-28 Tornado Outbreak. You can see the supercell thunderstorms mushrooming to life, courtesy of NOAA and NASA: “This animation of NOAA’s GOES-East satellite data shows the development and movement of the weather system that spawned tornadoes affecting seven central and southern U.S. states on April 27-28, 2014.” Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project.

* more details on using weather satellites to track tornadic storms from Space Daily.


Tornadoes, Dust Storms and Floods. What The Hell Happened This Week? There’s a compelling body of scientific data that rapid warming of the arctic may be slowing jet stream winds at northern latitudes, creating more blocking patterns, more “closed lows” (sometimes called cut-off lows) that stall for days at a time. As I’ve said repeatedly (ad nauseum) over the years, when weather stalls bad things can happen. Meteorologist Andrew Freedman has a good explainer at Mashable; here’s an excerpt: “…Blocking patterns such as this one often lead to extreme weather events, especially temperature and precipitation extremes. For example, a blocking pattern across Europe and Russia in 2010 led to the deadly Russian heat wave that killed thousands and contributed to massive wildfires, as well as the disastrous Pakistan floods that occurred around the same time. Another blocking pattern resulted in the deadly 2003 European heat wave, which killed an estimated 40,000 people…” (graphic above: Mashable).


How Can We Make Homes Safer From Tornadoes? Keying in on recent research from the University of Alabama, I take a look a structural steps we can all take to lower the risk of tornado-related damage. Step 1: reinforce your garage doors. That’s the subject of today’s Climate Matters.


Tornado “Scar”. You know it’s a bad tornado when you can see the debris path from low Earth orbit. Here’s an image passed along by WCBI-TV of the EF-4 tornado that smashed into Louisville, Mississippi on Wednesday.


Tornado Survivors Install Safe Rooms. If you live in or near Tornado Alley, or Dixie Alley in the south, or Hoosier Alley in the Ohio Valley, consider skipping 1 family vacation and putting that money into a safe room. You may thank yourself down the road. Here’s a clip from a story at the Pekin Daily Times in Pekin, Illinois: “…Both families are staying put, rebuilding their homes as the same locations. This time, each home will have a concrete safe room, complete with a steel door, in the basement. Their builders recommended adding a safe room when asked about it. The Bowers inspected a safe room at a home in rural Washington before making their decision. Neither couple could give an exact figure of how much their safe room will cost, but they said it will be in the hundreds, not thousands, of dollars…”


Small Changes Could Save Structures, Lives During Tornadoes, Reports UA-Involved Study. The University of Alabama has the details; here’s an excerpt: “Surviving a tornado in a wood-frame residential home is enhanced by an intact roof and standing walls, but light-weight garage doors can be the weak link to allowing high winds and pressure changes into a home that can lead to the removal of the roof and collapsed walls, according to a study of damage left behind by a powerful tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, in 2013 by researchers from The University of Alabama and other institutions. “Once the roof over the garage is blown off, there usually is a significant hole into the main portion of the house,” said Dr. Andrew J. Graettinger, associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering and lead author of a report by a team of researchers…”

Photo credit above: “Dr. Andrew Graettinger, a University of Alabama researcher, examines a safe room that survived the tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, in May 2013.”


Origin Of “Tornado Emergencies”. KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City just ran a story explaining the origin of the term Tornado Emergency, which implies a large, deadly, confirmed tornado on the ground, moving into a more populated urban area. Here’s an excerpt: “It all started with the National Weather Service in Norman. As the meteorologists watched a large, violent tornado moving into town, they asked themselves if they were doing all they could to get the message out. Tornado warnings were common. But the term tornado warning is somewhat vague. Is it doppler radar indicated? Is it a small tornado? Is it a large tornado? The truth is it could be any. But on May 3, 1999 we weren’t dealing with just any old tornado warning. We had a monster on our hands. And thus the need was there to hit the message as hard as possible. And so at 6:57pm, a meteorologist in Norman added the word “emergency” to this warning…”


38% of Lower 48 States in Moderate to Severe Drought. Here is the latest interactive update from the U.S. Drought Monitor.


3 Month Drought Progression. Here’s another perspective on the drought, showing how conditions have changed since early February. Much of the Midwest has seen a rapid improvement in the long-term drought,  especially in the last week with some 3-5″ rains. The Pacific Northwest is also in better shape than it was during the late winter months. But drought has intensified over the central and southern Plains and much of the Southwest. Source: U.S. Drought Monitor.


“There Will Be A Tsunami – The Question Is When” Underwater quakes can trigger tsunamis, so can underwater landslides. Israel has a history of tsunamis (which was news to me). Here’s a clip from The Jerusalem Post: “…While earthquakes stronger than 7.5-magnitude have the potential to cause tsunamis, they can also be caused by underwater landslides, Goodman explained. The last tsunami recorded off Israel’s shores occurred in 1956, as a result of a large earthquake in Greek waters, she said. The last tsunami to cause any damage in Israel happened in the 19th century near Acre, she added. Caesarea most recently received a small tsunami in the 12th century, according to Goodman…”

Photo credit above: “Dr. Beverly Goodman conducts research in the Mediterranean Sea.” Photo: MGM LABORATORY.


A Eulogy For Twitter. I really like Twitter, and derive a fair amount of value from the information streams and people/organizations I follow. It’s often the fastest way to get information, although accuracy sometimes suffers as a result. Personally I hope it survives and thrives for the long haul, but the folks at The Atlantic are noticing some disturbing trends; here’s an excerpt: “We’ve been trying to figure out the moment Twitter turned, retracing tweets to see whether there was something specific that soured the platform. Something is wrong on Twitter. And people are noticing.  Or, at least, the kind of people we hang around with on Twitter are noticing. And it’s maybe not a very important demographic, this very weird and specific kind of user: audience-obsessed, curious, newsy. Twitter’s earnings last quarter, after all, were an improvement on the period before, and it added 14 million new users for a total of 255 million. The thing is: Its users are less active than they once were. Twitter says these changes reflect a more streamlined experience, but we have a different theory: Twitter is entering its twilight...”

Image credit above: Matthias Töpfer/flickr.


Foods To Help You Age Better. Are Oreos part of a healthy Mediterranean diet? Still checking on that. In the meantime here’s an excerpt of a story at PBS Next Avenue: “But it’s a 2014 study that could tie it all together into one healthy diet plan. As part of a five-year diet intervention, Spanish researchers asked overweight older adults (aged 55 to 80) to follow a healthy Mediterranean diet — whole grains, lots of produce, healthy fats, like olive oil — and then followed measures of obesity: waist size, body mass index, waist to height ratio. At the end of five years, participants showed improvements in obesity parameters and in telomere length…”


Half The People In Illinois and Connecticut Want To Move Elsewhere. Hey, it’s only 1 out of 4 in Minnesota, but the poll was taken before the Winter of Our Discontent, before the toughest winter in 30 years. I wonder what the number would be today? Here’s a clip from Gallup: “Every state has at least some residents who are looking for greener pastures, but nowhere is the desire to move more prevalent than in Illinois and Connecticut. In both of these states, about half of residents say that if given the chance to move to a different state, they would like to do so. Maryland is a close third, at 47%. By contrast, in Montana, Hawaii, and Maine, just 23% say they would like to relocate. Nearly as few — 24% — feel this way in Oregon, New Hampshire, and Texas…”


My Photo

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

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *