All Weather News

Growing Heat & Severe Risk by Midweek (why tornadoes and mobile homes are a dangerous mix)

“…In 1950, less than 1 percent of Americans lived in mobile homes. A half-century later, that number rose to between 7 and 8 percent in the U.S. and to about 15 percent in the Southeast. The figure is higher in Mississippi — 21 percent…” – from a story on mobile home vulnerability to tornadoes at The Clarion-Ledger.

Photo credit: “Teresa Ingram removes debris from what is left of her mobile home after a tornado passed through destroying Billy Barbs mobile home park on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, in Athens, Ala.” (AP Photo/Butch Dill).

Information Overload

Predicting severe weather is hard enough. Communicating it effectively, in an age of limitless media options, is even harder. Today marks the 49th anniversary of the historic 1965 tornado outbreak: five Minneapolis metro tornadoes, four of them F-4 in intensity, with estimated winds near 200 mph. Fridley was hit twice within 68 minutes. WCCO-AM stayed on the air with continuous coverage, saving countless lives.

But that was a simpler age, when nearly everyone was tuned to local radio & TV. Now we have Twitter, Facebook, apps and 300 channels. We have new tools to communicate, but no common digital hearth to gather around when things get really bad. Which makes things more challenging, and one (of many) reasons why many TV meteorologists have ulcers on their ulcers. In addition to live cut-ins on the air, now they’re expected to update radio stations, web pages and social media.
Mission Impossible.

One word of advice: don’t depend on sirens, and do invest in a NOAA Weather Radio for your home & office. That, and a strong dose of common sense works wonders. Listen to your gut.

Severe storms are possible, especially Thursday, as warm, juicy air surges northward; jet stream winds aloft strong enough to whip up large hail, even a few tornadoes.

Hey, at least it won’t snow.

It’s a soggy pattern, but we’re finally limping into spring.

Details of the May 6, 1965 Tornado Outbreak. When people tell me “I live in the 7-County metro area – we don’t get tornadoes here, they only hit farms” I gently remind them of what happened over the northern and western suburbs on this date 49 years ago today. Here’s an excerpt of a very good summary from the Twin Cities National Weather Service: “The worst tornadoes in Twin Cities history occurred in 1965, with five tornadoes sweeping across the western and northern portions of the 7-county region, and a sixth tornado just outside the metropolitan area. Four tornadoes were rated F4, one was an F3, and the other produced F2 damage. Thirteen people were killed and 683 injured. Many more would have been killed had it not been for the warnings of the U.S. Weather Bureau, local officials, and the outstanding communications by local radio and television stations. Many credit the announcers of WCCO-AM with saving countless lives. It was also the first time in Twin Cities history that civil defense sirens were used for severe weather….”

Photo credit above: “An areal view of the destruction along Louisa Drive in Mounds View.” Picture courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society, Photograph Collection.

Evolving Severe Risk. As the jet stream buckles and inflamed air surges north, conditions will become increasingly ripe for a severe storm outbreak Wednesday into Thursday. NOAA SPC outlines the risk area above. For Minnesota Thursday appears to be the more active, potentially severe day, especially if the sun comes out and temperatures sppike near 80F by late afternoon.

Heating Up. Temperatures soared above 100F over much of the southern Plains, and as that heat spurts north in the coming days the atmosphere will become destabilized, ripe for scattered strong to severe T-storms to sprout along the I-35 corridor. 12 KM temperatures from NOAA and HAMweather.

Future Radar. By midweek a strong storm spins up along the boundary separating cool and hot, sending a pinwheel of showers and strong to severe storms across the Dakotas into the Midwest and Mississippi Valley. Dry weather prevails over the southeast and much of California through the period. NAM model guidance: HAMweather.

Southern Soaking – Cold Enough for Snow Northern Rockies. Sharp temperature gradients will set the stage for heavy rain (mixed with snow) over the western High Plains, with Gulf Moisture fueling some 2-4″ rainfall amounts from near Dallas to Little Rock and Memphis. Much of Minnesota may pick up 1-2″ rain over the next 7 days. Map: NOAA.

March Flashback. Winter isn’t done with the central and northern Rockies and High Plains just yet. Models show plowable amounts of snow from the central Dakotas westward to Wyoming and southern Montana.

Mobile Home Tornado Risk and Risk of a Super El Nino? In today’s editions of Climate Matters we take a look at some daunting statistics: you are 20 times more likely to be killed in a tornado if you’re in a mobile home vs. a home with a foundation. Also, a look at why this may not be a garden-variety El Nino brewing. Will this warming phase in the Pacific rival 1997-98?

Recap of Last Week’s Tornado OutbreakWikipedia has a good recap of every one of the tornadoes that touched down: 69 total; 9 EF-3 and 2 EF-4 intensity with 35 deaths and 247 injuries.
Claims Journal reports Arkansas EF-4 destroyed 328 homes.

Mobile Homes Can Be Tornado Death Traps. Of the 31 tornado-related fatalities so far in 2014 more than half have been people seeking refuge in mobile homes. Here’s an excerpt of a story at The Clarion-Ledger: “Live in a mobile home? The odds are up to 20 times higher you will die at the hands of a tornado than if you lived in a foundation-built home. In 1980, a fourth of all tornado deaths in the U.S. came in mobile homes. Now half the deaths take place there. “Mobile homes are economical, but there’s a trade-off when there’s a tornado watch and certainly a tornado warning,” said State Climatologist Mike Brown. “You’ve got to get out of them…”

Photo credit above: “Rubble from the mobile home belonging to 60-year-old John Prince and his wife, 44-year-old Karen Prince, is scattered in a field Tuesday, April 29, 2014, near Fayetteville, Tenn. The couple was killed Monday when the home was thrown about one-quarter mile from its foundation. Around 50 tornadoes ravaged the South Monday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center.” (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey).

No EF-5 This Time: Anchor Bolts Not Detected In Most Construction. One of the best ways to keep your home on its foundation is to use anchor bolts vs. flat nails. The Little Rock office of the NWS went with an EF-4 classification of the recent Vilonia/Mayflower tornado, largely because “scraped foundations” did not take advantage of more aggressive anchor-bolt technology used to keep a home in place during extreme storms like tornadoes: “…Using cut nails to secure homes to the foundation is widely practiced and the minimum standard in most of the building codes. This is according to Dr. David Prevatt, Associate Professor of Civil and Coastal Engineering at the University of Florida. As stated by Dr. Prevatt: “It is my opinion that cut nails can only be considered a temporary connection while installing a wall. They are in no way, shape or form have the capacity to resist the sliding loads or the uplift loads reduced by high winds that impact the walls of a building.” Without anchor bolts, it took less wind to sweep houses away in Vilonia (Faulkner County). This explains the EF4 (instead of EF5) rating that was ultimately decided upon…”

Photo credit above: This home to left in the Vilonia (Faulkner County) area had cut nails instead of anchor bolts to fasten the structure to the foundation. To the southwest of Roland (Pulaski County), another home had anchor bolts (to right), but there were no signs of any washers or nuts to hold the walls in place. Both homes were wiped from their slabs by a tornado (rated EF4) on 04/27/2014.” 

Researchers: Simple Changes May Help Homes Better Survive Tornadoes.TuscaloosaNews has an article that points out specific steps homeowners can take to withstand tornado winds. Very little (short of steel-reinforced concrete) will survive an extreme EF-4 or EF-5, but then again extreme tornadoes make up only 1-2% of all tornadoes. Here’s an excerpt: “Researchers, including faculty and students from the University of Alabama, who studied the aftermath of a devastating 2013 tornado in Oklahoma say simple design changes could improve the survivability of wood-frame structures such as residential homes during tornadoes. “There are some simple things you could do to keep you house together,” said Andrew Graettinger, the research team’s lead investigator…”

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

Team From University of Alabama in Huntsville Studying Development of TornadoesThe Republic reports on one of many ongoing tornado research programs. One of the biggest challenges: determining which rapidly rotating “supercells” will go on to tornado, and estimating the potential intensity/path/destructive power of that tornado; here’s a clip: “…Gentry said that over the years, some members of the group have worked on the “debris signature” theory. “And Monday (when the tornado hit Limestone County) weather service officials were saying there was a debris cloud and a tornado was following so people needed to take cover,” Gentry said. “Through research they have determined that nothing else (but a tornado) is going to project debris 30,000 feet in the air. So, when they see a debris cloud, a tornado is very close behind…”

Official: Tornado Protection at Iowa Schools Needs Upgrade. Here’s the intro to a story at The Des Moines Register: “Iowa doesn’t have enough safe rooms in its schools to protect children from tornadoes and other severe weather, and it would be a good idea for more to built, says Iowa’s top disaster management official. Mark Schouten, director of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, told reporters Monday that his agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency both support the construction of additional school safe rooms, which are reinforced to withstand extremely strong storms…”

More Than 1200 Homes Seriously Damaged By Last Week’s FloodingWEAR-TV in Pensacola has the video and details.

Area consumed by Siberian wildfires has doubled since April 30. Russia now usingdrones to track fire threat. Photo credit: RIA.

Record Number of Oklahoma Tremors Raises Possibility of Damaging Earthquakes. In Oklahoma? I wonder if this could have anything to do with fracking? Just a WAG. Here’s an excerpt from USGS, The United States Geological Survey: “The rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased remarkably since October 2013 – by about 50 percent – significantly increasing the chance for a damaging magnitude 5.5 or greater quake in central Oklahoma. A new U.S. Geological Survey and Oklahoma Geological Survey analysis found that 145 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater occurred in Oklahoma from January 2014 through May 2…”.

“Cosmos” Star Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson Speaks Out On Climate Change. Here’s a clip from a story at Media Matters: “Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has found a surprising home on FOX Broadcasting Network to host Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. In the 13-part documentary series, Tyson’s advocacy of scientific literacy — particularly related to climate change — is directly at odds with its sister network, Fox News. In the latest episode of Cosmos, Tyson devoted the hour to the Earth’s history of changing climates and subsequent mass extinctions. He ended the show by forecasting the next mass extinction due to climate change, imploring his audience to break society’s “addiction” to fossil fuel…”


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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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