Saturday, May 21, 2022

From Drought to Flood!

The latest Palmer Drought Index shows drought conditions over just about all of the central and southern Great Plains with orange to reds indicating increasingly dry conditions. 

The map is precipitation for the 24 hours ending at 9am. In Colorado, snow fell (70,000 homes and businesses are without power). 

Over the next five days, heavy to excessive rains will fall over the south central part of the country.
The orange is rains of five inches and the amber within the orange area is more than seven inches. If this forecast is correct, flooding will result. 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Gaylord, Michigan Struck By Strong Tornado

NWS's Warning For This Tornado Was Inadequate

The date of May 20 is one of the infamous in tornado history. Unfortunately, we are going to have to add another tornado to the list -- the one that occurred this afternoon in Gaylord, Michigan. 

8:25pm Friday

Update: At 11am pm Saturday, there are two fatalities, 44 injuries and one person missing according to the Detroit News.

While the damage reports are just starting to come in, the storm appears to have been EF-2 to EF-3 intensity as a rough estimate. I have not seen a report as to injuries.

Photos: Michigan State Patrol except for screen capture which is The Weather Channel's

This morning's blog post included National Weather Service's (NWS) Storm Prediction Center's forecast of a "significant" (my term) tornado risk for northern Lower Michigan. 

Unfortunately, the forecast and warning quality went downhill from there. 

A severe thunderstorm rather than a tornado watch was issued. The chance of any tornado was rated "low" and the chance of an EF-2 or stronger tornado was rated to be "very low" (see lower left).

The warning of the approaching tornado was sub-par, also, if the report of the tornado reaching Gaylord of 3:45pm is correct. The tornado warning was not issued until 3:38pm (below) which amounted
to just seven minutes of lead-time in an obvious situation. This is less than the NWS's all-tornado average for 2012-2022 period of 8.4 minutes. Generally, and it was certainly the case this afternoon, the stronger tornadoes are easier to warn of than the weaker tornadoes. 

In my opinion, a tornado warning should have been issued upon the radar data available at 3:26pm. Since it takes one to three minutes to issue a warning (assume 3 minutes at 3:29pm), that would have given the town 16 minutes of lead time. Per research by Dr. Kevin Simmons, the ideal lead time is 15 to 18 minutes. 
The "hook echo" (arrow) combined with the data from a special weather balloon launch at 3pm made this rather straightforward (for meteorologists: the 0-1km SRH was 233, well above the threshold of 175 and the SIGTOR was 3). 

Instead, the tornado warning was not issued until this data came in at 3:35pm. The tornado warning was sent three minutes later. 

Here is the path of the tornado's rotation track. 
From the rotation track, it appears the tornado struck the west and north parts of the city. 

It is utterly perplexing why the National Weather Service's tornado warning quality is considerably lower now than it was 15 years ago. 

Today's Tornado Risk

The brown areas have a significant risk of tornadoes later today. Please keep up on the latest weather information. 

May 20th - Tornado Anniversaries

Ruskin Heights
65 years ago this evening was the Ruskin Heights Tornado (F-5) which launched my career in meteorology. The photo above (used with permission) was when the tornado was near Ottawa. It was on the ground nearly 80 miles with the south of the Kansas City area comprising the last 20 miles. Forty-four people were killed and about 500 injured. It was the first time what we would, today, consider a tornado warning was issued by the government. 

The town of Codell, in north central Kansas north of Hays, was a prosperous community at the turn of the 20th Century. One hundred five yers ago today, was the middle of three freaks of nature: the town being hit by tornadoes on May 20, 1916, May 20, 1917 and May 20, 1918. In 1977, Weatherwise magazine published an article I wrote (above) about the history of the torn and its tornadoes. 

The worst of the tree was the last: Ten people died in the area. Below is a photo of the destroyed high school after the last of the three. 

On May 20, 2018, a tornado memorial was dedicated in the town.
In 2022, the town has shrunk to the point that it is no longer on many maps. My interview with lifetime resident Howard Hockett said that while the tornadoes were a blow, the bank collapse in 1929 was the blow that caused the town to slowly begin to die as it was a regional agricultural center. 

The Moore, OK tornado of 2013 was the last EF-5 intensity tornado in the U.S. -- a record length of time without a storm of that intensity. There were 24 fatalities plus two indirect deaths. 

Below is a photo of meteorologist/engineer Tim Marshall surveying the total devastation.
F-5's are horrible storms. I hope this record length of time without an F-5 continues for many more years!

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Colorado: Late-Season Winter Storm Warning

As of 7:17pm, a cold front was sweeping into the Front Range that will bring a record cold spell.
Note the temperature dropped 22° in ten minutes.

Here is a map of all of the weather warnings across the region for Friday. The winter storm warning includes Denver. It is likely in the Foothills and possible in the City of Denver that leafed-out trees will be seriously damaged by the storm. Sagging limbs may cause power failures. Please prepare accordingly!
WWA = winter weather advisory, which is a lesser condition than a winter storm warning. 

Below is a map of forecast snow amounts from CBS4 in Denver. Great info from the Denver NWS are here
UPDATE, 8:50pm CDT. If you know someone camping in Rocky Mountain National Park, tell them to leave immediately. Some of the new models are forecasting higher amounts of snow than the above. If that occurs, they could be trapped or injured due to falling trees. Rescue might take some time. Get out now!

Paths of St. Louis / Bi-State Tornadoes

We had a number of rotation paths that may have produced small tornadoes in the St. Louis -  Bi-State area earlier this evening. 
Rotation path map. Red-White-Blue > chance of an actual tornado
At lower left, the circle shows the rotation around Leslie, MO where a tornado occurred this afternoon. 

In the Bi-State area, the arrows indicate the rotation paths over the area. Because the storms were moving so quickly (50+mph), the paths are not as precise as usual. From radar, it would appear the most significant rotation was between Ladue and Olivette and up the river from just east of Lemay to downtown. 

UPDATE 9:15pm: NWS graphic of the path of the Kirkwood Tornado, which corresponds to the easternmost of the cluster of 3 arrows. 

These situations are really difficult because they feature quick spin-ups and the NWS had the radar on 3.5-minute mode, so some of the spin-ups occurred between radar scans. I wish more NWS would go to the 1.3-minute mode in tornado situations. 

Farther east into downstate Illinois there is a was a significant rotation track from north of Breese to northwest of Greenville. 

Today's Tornado Risk

The brown areas have a significant risk of a tornado, along with the potential for damaging thunderstorm winds this afternoon and tonight. 

No Question!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Global Warming. Finally, People are Getting It

Bari Weiss quoting Michael Shellenberger (an environmentalist by the way):

...he knew there was a chasm between what progressive activists said they wanted and what they actually wanted. They claimed to want to end homelessness, just as the environmentalists had claimed to want to combat climate change. But that wasn’t true. Really, they wanted the fight, the feeling of moral superiority and, of course, the cash for their NGOs.

The worst way to decarbonize energy and help the environment is to listen to the Big Climate groups. They don't want to fix the problem!  

Shellenberger, by the way, is running for governor of California. I wish him well! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

3:15pm Update: Tornado and Damaging Wind Forecast

The forecast from the NWS SPC has changed a bit since this morning. 

Tornado Risk
The tornado risk has been pulled a bit to the west and now includes Omaha, Lincoln, St. Joseph, Topeka, Manhattan, Salina and Concordia. If tornadoes occur, it will likely be in the 6pm to 10pm period. 

Damaging Wind Risk
The more widespread threat is damaging thunderstorm winds. The red area has has been enlarged to the west in Kansas. 
  • The hatched area is where wind gusts of 75 mph or stronger are forecasted to occur. In this area, power failures and toppled trees are likely if the winds reach forecast values. 
  • Non-hatched areas are where winds of 60-75 mph are forecasted. 
  • The red area has an enhanced risk of those winds occurring. 
  • The yellow area has a significant risk of those winds. 
I would put the car inside this evening and bring in trampolines, lawn furniture and other items that can blow about. Do it now, before the storms develop, if you live in the red area. 

Tornado and Damaging Wind Risk Late Today and Tonight

The brown area has a significant risk of tornadoes very late this afternoon and early evening. It includes Omaha, St. Joseph and Manhattan. 

The more widespread threat is damaging thunderstorm winds. 
  • The hatched area is where wind gusts of 75 mph or stronger are forecasted to occur. In this area, power failures and toppled trees are likely if the winds reach forecast values. 
  • Non-hatched areas are where winds of 60-75 mph are forecasted. 
  • The red area has an enhanced risk of those winds occurring. 
  • The yellow area has a significant risk of those winds. 
I will try to update again late this afternoon. 

Yes! Abolish the TSA!

The entire Department of Homeland Security is a far greater threat to our liberties than Al Qaeda or other Mideast groups. It, along with the FBI and parts of the CIA, should be broken up!

Monday, May 16, 2022

Tremendous Hail Streak in the East

There was a tremendous hailstreak from southwest of Washington across Delaware and out into the Atlantic. The scale is in millimeters. In some areas, the hail was up to 2.5 inches in diameter and 3 inches deep. 

Otherwise, the forecast of damaging winds in the East (below) was a bust in many places, especially around Philadelphia. There are a lot of people upset and I don't blame them. We will try to do better next time. 

Damaging Wind Threats Today

East Central and Northeast

There is a significant risk of tornadoes in the brown area.

The bigger threat is an extreme risk of damaging wind in pink and a high risk in red. 
This area will have power failures and toppled trees. Please prepare for these conditions!


There is a significant threat of wind gusts of 60 mph in the yellow area and above 75 mph in the hatched area. 

More Global Warming Nonsense

Big Climate must be feeling ignored. This latest global warming story is about as prescient as the suggestion (at top) to buy Bitcoin for your 401K (graph below).
The story focuses on the NYC area. Yes, people died in the flash flooding in the Northeast area this past autumn. 

At least 14 people have been killed in the flooding in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania as basement apartments suddenly filled with water.

But, they were living (per news reports) in illegal underground apartments without anyway to escape as the water started to pour in. That has nothing to do with meteorology! 

If you want to see the effects of earth's warmed climate, take a look at the extreme heat in India and nearby areas or even the recent heat and fire danger in the south central United States. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Today's Tornado and Severe Thunderstorm Risk

There is a significant risk of a tornado or two in the brown area. 

Below is a forecast (yellow and orange) of where high winds and large hail are likely as additional lines of thunderstorms form and move south and southeast. 

Every one of these wind convergence lines may trigger strong thunderstorms as they move south toward the extremely unstable air over far south central Kansas and Oklahoma that is flowing northeast. 

As of 12:46pm, the area outlined may experience extreme wind gusts as the storms move SSE across northern Arkansas.

The brown area has a significant risk of tornadoes Monday and Monday evening. I will update tomorrow morning. 

Good Storms; Bad Storms

With the worldwide, worsening wheat shortage it is good to note that needed rain fell in parts of the wheat belt last night. Unfortunately, it was accompanied by large hail in places.

First, a reminder where winter wheat is grown. 

Here is the 72-hour rainfall ending at 10am. 

Here is the 7-day rainfall for the region (note different scale).

Unfortunately, for most of the area, it was another week of below normal rainfall.

Also unfortunate is the presence of large hail over part of the region. This map is for the 24 hours ending at 10am. I'm especially concerned about the wheat to the south of Highway 50. 
The scale is in millimeters: 50 mm = 2" hail and 100 mm = 4 inch hail.