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More Details On Sunday’s Historic Tornado Outbreak


Tornado Take-aways

Sunday’s surreal outbreak of tornadoes, some as strong as EF-4, may have been the most violent seen so far north, coming so late in the season. Tornadoes aren’t exactly top-of-mind in Illinois in November.

Two thoughts: you can retrofit any ground-floor closet into a “safe room” for a few thousand dollars. If you don’t have a basement this is a good option, for the price of a family vacation to Disneyworld. The slow, uncertain evacuation of Soldier Field during Sunday’s Bears game was a reminder that you can’t depend on anyone else for your family’s safety. It all comes down to personal responsibility & being “weather-aware”.

My best advice: load up a few radar and warning apps on your phone and be proactive. Head inside LONG before you get the official order. Stay ahead of the severe weather curve.

The pattern favors a series of glancing blows of arctic air for Minnesota, with the biggest storms spinning up over the southern and eastern USA. After peaking near 50F today temperatures cool off later this week. A period of light snow may brush the state late Friday; by Saturday it’ll feel like January.

Thanksgiving weather? Highs in the 30s; no mega-storms brewing into late next week. Winter mayhem may well be postponed until December.

Photo credit above: “Aerial pictures of the tornado damage at Washington, Illinois, near Peoria is seen on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013.” (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/MCT).

Governor Quinn Declares 7 Counties State Disaster Areas. Illinois was hit hardest by Sunday’s tornado outbreak; here’s an excerpt of a press release from “Governor Pat Quinn today declared seven counties state disaster areas after severe storms generating tornadoes and high winds ripped across Illinois. Hundreds of homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people are without power, and numerous roads throughout the state have been closed by fallen trees and downed power lines. At least six people are reported dead and dozens more injured. Later today, Governor Quinn will inspect damage on the ground in some of Illinois’ hardest hit communities: Washington, Diamond, Gifford, Brookport and New Minden. Counties included in the Governor’s declaration are: Champaign, Grundy, LaSalle, Massac, Tazewell, Washington and Woodford counties

Photo credit: “Linda Gonia sifts through debris left from her home after a tornado that swept through Washington, Ill, Nov. 18, 2013. Severe storms moved through the Midwest on Sunday, leveling towns, killing at least six people in Illinois and injuring dozens more, and causing thousands of power failures across the region.” (Daniel Acker/The New York Times)

Hardest Hit Communities:
Washington, IL – 1 death, extreme damage (outside of Peoria)
Washington County, IL – 2 additional deaths near New Minden (southeast of St. Louis)
Brookport, IL – 2 trailer parks destroyed, at least 2 deaths
Massac County – 1 death, just outside Brookport
*these deaths confirmed by multiple news sources, see NY Times below*
6 deaths total so far (all in Illinois), 12 states reporting damage
150-200 reports of injuries in Illinois alone
Pekin, IL – one of the first large tornadoes of the day
Kokomo, IN – additional extensive damage

NWS Preliminary tornado ratings:
EF-4 : New Minden, IL
EF-4 : Washington, IL
EF-2 : Coal City, IL

Total Devastation. Ben Fiedler sent in this photo of what’s left of an auto parts store in Washington, Illinois, one of the towns hardest hit by Sunday’s historic tornado outbreak.

Filtered Tornado Count: 76. The raw number was 91 as of late Monday night. But after NOAA analyzed each tornado sighting it determined that some of these reports were the same tornado, seen from different vantage points. It may be the 3rd or 4th biggest November outbreak in U.S. history – possibly the most severe so far north, so late in the season. Map above: NOAA SPC.

Sunday’s Historic Tornado Outbreak – Ways To Lower Overall Risk. Sunday’s swarm of tornadoes was well predicted. There were no big surprises here – even though there was no way to know, in advance, which towns would be hit the hardest. For me it reinforced a few ideas: don’t trust officials to protect you or your family – take steps to make sure you’re in the weather loop wherever you go, 24/7, including Doppler radar and GPS-centric warnings. That, and if you don’t have a basement consider a safe room. For the price of a family vacation you can reinforce a closet and lower the risk of becoming a tornado statistic. More details in today’s edition of Climate Matters.

SPC Nailed Sunday’s Tornado Outbreak. As early as 4 days before the event SPC was highlighting the Ohio Valley and talking about a major outbreak. On Saturday the risk was elevated to “moderate”, then “high” early Sunday morning, meaning it was going to be a very active and violent day. You can see where the tornadoes actually touched down (red dots). That’s about as good a severe weather forecast as you’ll ever see.

Third November SPC “High Risk” Since 1998. This may have been the most violent tornado outbreak ever recorded so far north (central Illinois into central Indiana). Source: NOAA SPC.

Why Every Home Should Have A Basement (Or Safe Room). In light of more tornado-related tragedy I wanted to post a video from FEMA highlighting the merits of a safe room, which can be installed in nearly any home or apartment, costing a few thousand dollars to reinforce a closet: “In May 2008, Tom Cook and his teenage daughter Ryanne survived a catastrophic tornado in Racine, MO, that leveled their home. But Tom’s wife of 19 years and Ryanne’s mother did not survive. Following this tragic event, Tom vowed to be prepared for disasters in the future. Tom and Ryanne moved to nearby Joplin, Missouri, to rebuild–this time with a safe room in their garage. This decision proved fortuitous when an EF-5 tornado touched down just three years later on May 22, 2011. The storm leveled their home; however, Tom and Ryanne were safe and unharmed. “It was blown away completely – again,” Tom said. “The only thing standing was that storm room.” – Location: Joplin, MO.

Peoria Anchors Scramble For Shelter When Tornadic Storm Hits Station. Here’s the video clip and an explanation from TVSpy: “A tornado tearing through East Peoria pushed two anchors for the local NBC station WEEK off the air after the twister hit part of the station’s property yesterday morning. Meteorologists Chuck Collins and Sandy Gallant were giving viewers on-air updates about the approaching tornado when they said they heard something. They scrambled for shelter at 11:00 a.m., leaving the anchor desk while the station went to a break. Seven minutes later, they were back on. “OK, guys. We just had a very scary situation to report. WEEK’s TV studios was hit by…it appears to be a tornado,” said Gallant. “We were on the air just a few minutes ago. You may have seen us go off the air rather quickly and that is because, obviously, we could hear the sound of a train right outside of our station…”

Indianapolis TV Station Trolled With Doctored Photo Of Tornado, A UFO, and Bigfoot. The joys and perils of the Internet/Photoshop Age; here’s a cautionary tale fromTVSpy: “WTHR appears to have been trolled during its coverage of the storms that rumbled across the state when an image of a fake tornado that included a UFO and bigfoot was uploaded to its viewer photo iwitness site. Jim Romenesko reported that Indianapolis Star reporter Eric Weddle found the mistake and tweeted about it…”

Pacific Air Next 36 Hours – Canadian Breeze Returns By Late Week. ECMWF guidance shows highs within a few degrees of 50F today and Wednesday, then a gradual temperature tumble by late week. Highs may not climb out of the mid 20s Saturday, moderating again next week. A storm spinning up along the leading edge of this glancing blow of arctic air may squeeze out a little light snow late Friday. Graph: Weatherspark.

Cold Air Building. Although not the “Mother Lode”, not yet – cold air is forecast to push south of the border the latter half of this week. The dark red line marks the predicted 32F isotherm, the green line shows temperatures below 0F. 84 hour NAM model data courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.

Serious Late Week Lake Effect. Our modeling guru has created a new product called the BPI, or Blizzard Potential Index, which calculates the probability of low visibility and heavy snow. Although not a true blizzard, lake effect snows may produce local white-out conditions near the Great Lakes later this week into the weekend, another region of snow from north of Denver into Nebraska. Map: Ham Weather.

Negative Phase Of AO and NAO By Early December? A negative phase usually correlates with a jet stream configuration that favors much colder conditions east of the Rockies. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a numbing start to December, especially Upper Midwest and Great Lakes to New England. Graphs: NOAA.

Implications Of A Negative Arctic Oscillation. The GFS seems to confirm a turn to much colder weather after December 2 or so, maybe a few days of single-digit highs and subzero nights the first week of December? We’ll see.

Pre-Thanksgiving Travel Headaches? Although I don’t see any major snowstorms next week, ECMWF guidance shows a significant coastal storm next week for the eastern USA, a cold, windswept rain possible. This may cause some travel delays, by land and air. European solution valid midday Wednesday, via WSI.

Early Look At Thanksgiving Weather Map. Rain is forecast to taper over New England on Thanksgiving, some sun due to downslope (sinking air in the lee of the Appalachians) from D.C. to Charlotte. Dry weather is predicted for much of the southern and central USA on Thanksgiving Day, snow for the northern Rockies and a cold rain from Seattle to Portland. Map above valid 12z Thanksgiving morning, courtesy of WSI.

Incredible Footage Of Super Typhoon Haiyan’s Storm Surge. I’ve never (ever) seen the water come up this rapidly – I can now see how many observers compared Haiyan’s storm surge with a tsunami. The YouTube footage is here.

October Weather Highlights. From record blizzards in the Dakotas to historic flooding in the Austin, Texas area, to an EF-4 tornado near Wayne, Nebraska – October had something for everyone. Map: NOAA NCDC.

Climate Stories…

What Farmers Think About Climate Change In One Great Quote. Here’s a clip from a story at Business Insider: “…Here is what Climate Corporation founder Dave Friedberg said about how most farmers view climate change (emphasis ours):   

“You don’t need to talk about climate change per se … Statistically, you are looking at a series of numbers. If it were a roulette wheel, you could say, ‘It’s coming up black more and more frequently.’ Can I attribute that to black being overweighted by the croupier? Or to the pit boss, or the machine being broken? It doesn’t matter.Some people will argue that ice ages have waxed and waned for tens of millennia and that this is part of a natural cycle. That doesn’t change the fact that black is coming up more frequently and you will get less out of an acre of corn than you used to. The price for that land simply cannot be justified by the income it can generate.” 

In other words, it doesn’t matter what’s causing it, but something’s definitely not right, and investing in protection from that uncertainty now seems a must…”

Global Climate Events In October. Data courtesy of NOAA NCDC.

All Over The World, Hurricane Records Keep Breaking. A symptom of warmer seas or a statistical fluke? Chris Mooney takes a look at Mother Jones; here’s an excerpt: “…But here’s the thing: Haiyan isn’t the globe’s only record-breaking hurricane in recent years. Even as scientists continue to study and debate whether global warming is making hurricanes worse, hurricanes have continued to set new intensity records. Indeed, a Climate Desk analysis of official hurricane records finds that many of the globe’s hurricane basins—including the Atlantic, the Northwest Pacific, the North Indian, the South Indian, and the South Pacific—have witnessed (or, in the case of Haiyan and the Northwest Pacific, arguably witnessed) some type of new hurricane intensity record since the year 2000. What’s more, a few regions that aren’t usually considered major hurricane basis have also seen mammoth storms of late…” (Image: NOAA).

Haiyan, Sandy And Climate Change. Jeff Nesbit has the story at U.S. News; here’s the introduction: “Is climate change responsible for the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan – the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded history? Was it responsible for Superstorm Sandy, which caused billions of dollars of damage to New York City and New Jersey? More broadly, is climate change starting to have an impact today on such extreme weather events? The answer to those questions is a complicated one, but it starts with the word “yes”. Scientists have spent years researching climate change’s role in specific, extreme events such as Haiyan and Sandy. But what climate scientists know today, with a high degree of certainty, is that all extreme weather events are now occurring in a world where the oceans are warmer, sea levels are higher and temperatures are rising. So the odds of more intense, devastating storms like Haiyan and Sandy are increasing every year…”

Photo credit above: “A resident bikes past the devastation in Tacloban, central Philippines.”



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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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