Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Coronavirus Events of the Last Two Weeks...

...are making meteorologists look like geniuses.  
[Updated 5:30pm Wednesday]

[Original Posting]
As Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, said of public health modeling earlier today:
Meteorologists model the atmosphere and weather. And, while we are far from perfect, the quality of our modeling is amazing compared to some of the forecasts that have been published by public health modelers the last month (1.7 million coronavirus deaths in the U.S. with social distancing?! -- ain't gonna happen).

Not only have some of the public health models been wildly wrong, take a look at what is spent on health in the United States.
So, we spent $10,739 on health, per person, in the United States in 2017 (most recent stats available). We will, undoubtedly, spend much more this year.
Want to know what we will spend on weather satellites, weather balloons, radars, the National Weather Service, et. cetera, per person this year? $5.34. Yes, $5.34. And, the NWS is getting its budget cut so we will spend even less than that meager amount next year. 

No question: if you have chest pains, you are mighty glad for excellent emergency room physicians. They can save your life.
If you were a resident of Jonesboro, Arkansas, Saturday afternoon, I'm certain you were grateful for the National Weather Service and local TV meteorologists. A violent tornado in a heavily populated area with zero deaths is an amazing outcome. Meteorologists save lives, too. And, we do it for the cost of one Big Mac Meal per year.

Undoubtedly, when all of this is over, there will be a reassessment of how the United States prepares for and responds to natural disasters. The NWS needs more money, not less. 

Record Low Price For "Warnings"

As of 2:03p, that company apparently sold its copy.
The best price right now is $15.00, which is still a bargain 
as the regular price $24.95. 

Original Posting:
An affiliate of Amazon is selling new copies of Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather for a record low price of $9.94. If you are looking for something to read during social distancing, this might be a great opportunity. Just click on the green link.

Addition: This was posted on Twitter moments ago.

"Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste"

Those were the words of Ron Emanuel when he was a senior advisor to President Obama. In an apparent attempt to act on that recommendation: he is blaming the coronavirus pandemic on, what else, global warming.
Global warming: Is there anything is can't do?!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March Rainfall in the Winter Wheat Belt

Here is the total rainfall.

And, here is the departures from normal rainfall in inches.
Moisture is, overall, adequate or more than adequate. In central Kansas, a major wheat producing area, the 60-day rainfall is about normal due to rain and snow earlier in the winter.

Enhanced Tornado Risk in the Southeast

The area in brown has a significant risk of tornadoes. The yellow has an enhanced risk. Please monitor the weather in this area the rest of the day.

Big Environment: Always Confident, Usually Wrong

I was amused to see this story in The New York Times last week.
Isn't this the same paper that published these in the aughts?

Big Climate and Big Environment make the same mistake over and over and over: they assume a world of the status quo that completely discounts human ingenuity.

Of course, Times isn't alone. They printed this article about President Jimmy Carter that predicted the world would be completely out of oil between 2001 and 2010.
So, take a deep breath. The environmental movement is wrong about almost everything when it comes to their "gloom and doom" predictions.

Real ID: A Solution In Search of a Problem

The job of the TSA is to keep dangerous objects off of airplanes. Its job is not to track the movement of the citizenry and legal immigrants. So, I object to RealID on First Amendment grounds, especially since the US Supreme Court has found Americans have a right to travel.

So, the news that RealID is being pushed back a year (to October 1, 2021) is somewhat welcome. I suspect the real reason is the DHS realizes that people are not exactly flocking to DMV's across the nation with the mound of paperwork it requires -- especially since you can still travel with your passport -- even with RealID in effect.

My opinion? Congress needs to intervene and get rid of RealID.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Modern Weather Science: Companies As Well As People Benefit

Yesterday, I wrote about the lives saved by Saturday's advance tornado watches and warnings.

Today, I want to talk about how private sector weather companies made a major difference when that swarm of tornadoes struck the Mississippi Valley region.

Below, via, is a photo of a high-priority train blown over Saturday near Jonesboro, Arkansas. At first glance, it may even appear to be some type of failure of the warning system. It just the opposite.

This train is one of the highest priority, and fastest, trains the Union Pacific runs. Because of a timely tornado warning from AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, the train was stopped because of the approaching tornado. When the tornado struck, because the train was stopped, the crew was safe in the interior of the locomotives (if the track had been damaged, the locos could have derailed at high speed causing serious injuries). And, the cars merely blew over. Look at the track in the photo. It is pristine. So, the salvage people can recover what is undamaged and clear the wreck easily and train traffic can resume quickly. That would not be true if the train had been traveling, say, 50 mph when the train was struck. The train would have destroyed the roadbed and the wreckage would be an utter mess.
Photographer unknown, via
If you want to know what it is like when a train does not receive a tornado warning, below is an example from Wisconsin. The train is traveling at 40 mph.

Because of this derailment, the nearby town had to be evacuated because of a hazardous materials spill.

I believe you will agree it is far better -- for both safety and financial reasons -- for the train to be stopped if there isn't sufficient time to get it out of the area.

This service is known as AccuWeather's SkyGuard® Track-Specific Storm Warnings.

This is just one of many specialized services offered by commercial weather companies. In a situation like Saturday's, electric utilities could kill power just ahead of the tornado in order to prevent fires and electrocution by downed wires, companies could do an orderly shut-down so that delicate equipment is not damaged. Hospitals can call in people early so that patients can be moved into safe areas, if needed, but the specificity of the SkyGuard warnings can prevent the need to move critically ill patients if the hospital is not actually in a storm's path.

Commercial meteorology is often at its best and most valuable when the weather is at its worst.

Bottom line: It takes the entire meteorological enterprise: the National Weather Service, broadcast meteorologists, emergency managers and private sector meteorologists for the United States to have the best meteorological services in the world.

Are We Missing the "Diversity Consultants"?

These people are heroes -- every single one of them. Thank you!!

But, the shutdown of our society is creating great clarity as to what is valuable and what is not.

More on that topic, here.

In Case You've Ever Had the Impulse to Outrun a Tornado in a Car

...or, if you have had the impulse to shelter in a car.
Via Twitter
This is what Saturday's Jonesboro Tornado did to an auto or truck. They are unsafe in tornadoes!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Thoughts on Yesterday's Tornadoes

The fact there were violent tornadoes and zero fatalities was a testament to the value of our tornado warning system. 

As long-time readers of this blog know, I like to review events where we've made forecasts of high-impact weather.

A violent tornado struck northeast Arkansas yesterday, including a strike on the City of Jonesboro.
There was extensive, severe damage. This violent tornado is rated EF-3 and, maybe, EF-4 intensity. [Note: the damage survey has been finished and it was an EF-3.]
Why you should be in indoor shelter during a tornado. Imagine
one of those pieces of metal slicing through you at 150 mph!
Take a look at what happened to this USPS truck after the tornado flung it through the air.
Via Twitter
In spite of the violence of this tornado, there were only six minor injuries. 
Some are pointing out the sheltering-in-place for the coronavirus helped. Undoubtedly it did because people at home can more easily, and quickly, monitor the weather and then shelter than those in a car or in an unfamiliar business or shopping mall.
That said, the NWS's excellent tornado watch and warning along with radio and TV meteorologists' live broadcasts showing the tornado in progress were key factors in people being able to prepare and then shelter when the moment came. 

This wasn't just true in Jonesboro, it was true throughout the region stricken by the many tornadoes.
Via Twitter
Above is Wayne Hart warning of the tornado(es) that struck in the lower Ohio Valley (don't yet know how many there were). The photo below is of the damage in nearby Henderson County, Indiana.
Indy Star
The National Weather Service is the very best bargain in the entire federal government. And, private sector meteorologists worked tirelessly yesterday.

While the above is congratulatory, I do need to state that my forecast of overnight tornadoes Friday night was inaccurate. While there were destructive hailstorms, as far as I know, no tornadoes occurred. I apologize for the inaccuracy.
Jefferson City Hailstorm, photo: KOMU TV
There is a lot of the 2020 tornado season remaining. Those who have not set up my tornado alarm - using your iPhone or Android - should do so. It can play a major role in keeping you safe. Via Twitter, here is a happy user in Nashville (read from the bottom up), after I suggested yesterday evening he use the alarm.
You get a subtle sound for a severe thunderstorm warning. For a tornado warning (or a tsunami or other life-threatening storm), you get a loud scream that will awaken you. The great thing about this warning tool is that GPS allows you to be warned at your specific location (whether you are at home, office or camping) with a minimum of false alarms.

There's more tornado season to come. Make sure you are prepared. And, we'll keep applying meteorological science to give you the information you need to keep you, your friends, and your family safe. 

Sunday Fun: "Stayin' Inside"

This is really well done. 

BTW, if you like single artist covers of songs, I found this version of Frankie and the Four Seasons' December, 1963, to be very well done, also.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

3 Tornado Watches in Effect

There are three tornado watches in effect as of 4pm CDT.

If you live in this region, please keep up on the latest weather information.

Note: this will be my last forecast pertaining to this situation. Please continue to follow me on Twitter @usweatherexpert . 

"Particularly Dangerous Situation" Tornado Watch

This tornado watch is in effect until 9pm. According to the NWS SPC, there is a "high" risk of strong tornadoes. As discussed earlier, the tornadoes will move rapidly, especially in Missouri and Illinois.

There is also a conventional tornado watch for much of Arkansas along with parts of the Missouri Bootheel.

If you live in these areas, now is the time to start monitoring the weather. 

Update on Today's High Tornado Risk in Midwest

Forecast Update 11:45a
The forecast tornado risk has been increased for eastern Missouri.
Otherwise, the Midwest forecast (below) is the same. 

-- original posting --
Here is the SPC's updated tornado forecast for today and this evening. Here's what the colors and hatching mean:
  • Hatching = risk of violent tornadoes. 
  • Brown = significant risk of tornadoes.
  • Yellow = enhanced risk of tornadoes.
  • Red = high risk of tornadoes. 
These tornadoes will be fast-moving, so you will need to move quickly if a tornado warning is issued. The tornadoes may move as fast as a mile a minute. 

This is the most ominous tornado forecast for Chicago in at least six years.

If you have friends or relatives in this area, please make sure they are aware of the threat. You will need to respond quickly tomorrow if a tornado warning is issued.

Where should you shelter?

Things to do now to prepare:
  • Turn your television to a trusted meteorologist and leave it there. Don't channel-hop. That might cause you to miss essential information. 
  • Turn on your NOAA Weather Radio and make sure it has adequate batteries. 
  • Set up a tornado alarm
  • Clear out your shelter or other safe space. Put in a couple of bottles of water and, if appropriate, a couple of diapers. 
  • Make sure you are wearing shoes when you enter the shelter and have a way to protect your head.
  • Now, put your car in the garage along with any items that can be blown about.
  • Take surgical masks, if you have them, into a public or semi-public shelter since you may be crowded together. 
Please note: I do not live-blog tornadoes. I do provide additional information on Twitter:@usweatherexpert. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

- High Tornado Risk For Saturday and Saturday Evening -

This situation is the most ominous in several years 
in this region. 
These tornadoes will be fast-moving, so I am providing this preparedness information tonight. If you have friends or relatives in this area, please make sure they are aware of the threat. You will need to respond quickly tomorrow if a tornado warning is issued. The tornadoes may move as fast as a mile a minute. 

Where should you shelter?

Things to do now to prepare:
  • Turn your television to a trusted meteorologist and leave it there. Don't channel-hop. That might cause you to miss essential information. 
  • Turn on your NOAA Weather Radio and make sure it has adequate batteries. 
  • Set up a tornado alarm
  • Clear out your shelter or other safe space. Put in a couple of bottles of water and, if appropriate, a couple of diapers. 
  • Make sure you are wearing shoes when you enter the shelter and have a way to protect your head.
  • Now, put your car in the garage along with any items that can be blown about.
  • Take masks into the shelter since you may be crowded together. 

Updated Tornado Forecast For Friday Night

The red area has a significant risk of tornadoes between 9pm and 6am. I have revised the forecast to eliminate Oklahoma and the parts of Kansas west of the Flint Hills.

It is important, if you are in the red outlined area, to have fresh batteries for the weather radio and to implement the "tornado alarm" and take both to your bedroom so you will be awakened if a tornado warning is issued. Note: these storms will be fast-moving. So, act quickly if a warning is issued.

Serious Tornado Risk in the Midwest Saturday

This forecast, by the NWS SPC, looks like it is -- unfortunately -- right on the money Saturday and Saturday evening.

The tornado risk is designated by colors and hatching. Let's break it down:
  • Brown = significant tornado risk. This includes St. Louis and Indianapolis. 
  • Yellow = enhanced tornado risk. Hatched area = violent tornado(es) possible. This includes much of Chicagoland. 
  • Red = high tornado risk with violent tornado(es) possible. This includes Peoria and the Quad Cities. 
Especially in Missouri and Illinois this is an all-day tornado risk (i.e., there could be tornadoes in the morning). Now is a great time to make sure your weather radio is working and/or you have your "tornado alarm" set up. 

Also, please make sure your shelter area is ready to go. You may wish to move any vital family keepsakes or data into it. Prestock it with a couple of water bottles and, if necessary, diapers. 

Note: It is the official opinion of public health officials that, if a tornado warning is necessary, worry about the tornado first (the immediate threat) and then coronavirus. So, if you have a friend/family who lives in a mobile home or doesn't have a basement, it is better to let them share your basement than to strand them in a dangerous tornado situation. 

Addition. Below is a close-up map of the highest risk area.

Tornado Forecast For Tonight

Forecast Cancelled. Scroll Up
For Update
This is one of the most difficult forecasts I have made in several years. The ingredients seem to be coming together to support the chance of nighttime tornadoes in the area I have outlined.

This is a perfect opportunity to make sure your weather radio is working with fresh batteries and to activate your tornado alarm.

In a bit, I'll have a forecast up for the serious tornado risk for Saturday in the Midwest.