Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Why Little League Games Need to Be Called Off BEFORE the Sirens Sound

Sigh. Here we go again.

Over the years, I have found that little league umpires (baseball, soccer, football, doesn't matter) are extremely reluctant to call a game for weather no matter how dangerous conditions are. I remember getting into a shouting match with an umpire during son Brandon's little league game as extremely dangerous and frequent cloud-to-ground lightning was approaching and had gotten within three miles.

Now, we have a video of a little league game continuing as tornado sirens sounded last week. That is no surprise to me.
When the threat is major ("high" risk of tornadoes) or there is another substantial severe weather threat, and it is known eleven hours in advance, the games never should have been played. League officials should have called them off in plenty of time to notify players and parents.

My experience is there is a macho thing going on. Umpires and referees don't want to look like wimps by calling the games due to weather. Yet, lightning has been known to cause multiple fatalities in a single game.
Lightning is deadly serious.

Here is some lightning safety information from AccuWeather. NOAA has specific lightning safety information for Little League. Please take it to heart as we get into the heart of junior outdoor athletics.

"I'll Believe Global Warming is a Crisis When the People Telling Me It Is a Crisis Start Acting Like It Is a Crisis"

The title represents Instapundit's Glenn Reynold's sage comment from at least five years ago that highlights the extreme hypocrisy of the catastrophic global warming movement.

Unfortunately, President Obama is the latest example. After giving a speech which said told us -- those of us with the relatively small carbon footprints --
that we have to cut our carbon footprints and our dietary patterns to fight global warming.

Meanwhile, President Obama, when traveling to Italy to give his speech:

  • Took a private jet instead of flying first class commercial.
  • Rode in an SUV.
  • Had a thirteen vehicle (!!) motorcade.
  • Used 22 hotel rooms
Somehow, former Presidents Bush and Carter get along without 13-car motorcades.

The Wall Street Journal's HeatSt put it this way,
In just his trip back and forth to Italy, for his presentation and his vacation, Barack Obama has emitted more than 16 metric tons of carbon – just shy of what an average American emits in a yearAdd to that the motorcade, the internal travel in Italy, and, of course, the villa, and Obama and his wife have easily emitted more carbon in one single week than most Americans will in 2017.

Look, I don't begrudge anyone the use of a private jet. If I could, that is the way I'd travel long distances. I just can't afford it, which is fine. But, then, I don't circle the world on private jets (the most carbon-spewing mode of travel) telling everyone else to cut their carbon footprints. 

There is one word for high profile leaders (Gore, DiCaprio, Obama, Pachauri, etc.): Hypocrites

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sixth Anniversary of the Joplin Tornado

Please take a moment to say a prayer for those who were lost in the Joplin tornado and for those that have done the hard work of making the city's marvelous recovery a reality.

Today is the sixth anniversary of the horrific Joplin tornado. Since we have literally thousands of new readers as a result of last week's tornadoes, I would like to make you aware that my second book was about what went terribly wrong with the warning system that day. Like Warnings, it is written in the
form of a novel but it is an entirely true account of what occurred. If you go to Sirens' Amazon site, you'll see a lot of vitriolic 1-star reviews. Those are from people with or associated with the National Weather Service, which has never come to grips with its institutional role in the the tragedy. Please note: the names of the people associated with the warning system that day are withheld. My goal in writing the book was to fix the problems with the warning system, not embarrass people nor to make them feel worse than they likely already did.

Unfortunately, things have not improved in the ways that I wished after Joplin. The fact is, as the Washington Post documents, NWS tornado warnings have become less accurate since Joplin. Earlier this month, the NWS completely missed a damaging tornado outside of Savannah, Georgia.

If you wish to purchase Sirens, it is available as an inexpensive ebook for Kindle or Nook or the free Amazon Cloud Reader. The latter allows you to read Sirens easily without having a Nook, Kindle or other e-reader device. I intentionally priced the ebook very reasonably at $2.99 because I it to be affordable for people to read. It comes with sets of tornado safety rules for home, schools and the office.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

"Warnings": The Countdown Continues

While wholesalers like Ingrams may still have a few copies in their warehouses -- so your local bookseller can still order it for a short while longer -- the publisher of Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather has run out of copies of the book. So, it will be officially "out of print" shortly.
Here is an excerpt of a review posted on Facebook just twelve hours ago:

To say I enjoyed this book and found it educational would be an understatement!

As of a few minutes ago, Amazon said it was down to eight copies.
If you want to order a copy for a graduate, or for Dad, you may want to order now while hardcover copies are still available. 

Note: The ebook will remain on sale. It has eight extra photos we were not able to get into the hardcover version.

Second note: I still have a couple of boxes of the book. If you want an autographed book, they are available at $25/copy, including taxes and shipping. Email me at  mike at mikesmithenterprises.com and I'll give you the details.

Sunday Fun II: From the Immortal Chuck Yeager

Sunday Fun: An Entirely New Color

The first new color in 200+ years. Details here.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

60th Anniversary of the Ruskin Heights Tornado

Today is the 60th anniversary of the most important day of my life: The Ruskin Heights Tornado. I  some personal reflections.

If I had not experienced that tornado,
  • I wouldn't be a meteorologist.
  • I likely wouldn't have married Kathleen. Her home was damaged in the tornado. Ours only had debris in the yard. 
  • The entire course of my life would have been different.
My mother drove my brothers and me down Bennington Street (see below) and day after and I 
was hooked. At the age of five, I knew I wanted to be a meteorologist. Anything with that power had to be pretty interesting!

It was also was one of the most important tornadoes in history. It was probably the tornado that caused the (then) Weather Bureau to get into the formal tornado warning business, after resisting for years. 

My book, Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather, begins with the Ruskin Heights Tornado. The red link will take you to that chapter which you can read at no charge. 

There is also a wonderful essay, here, that tells the story from another point of view (including that of some of Kathleen's relatives). Last, but not least, film of the damage and other information about the storm here.

The victims of that tornado did not die in vain because it let to the warning system that has saved many thousands of lives. 

Because of this important occasion, there will be no other blogging today. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

175 mi. Long Tornadic Circulation Across Kansas

While there were a number of tornadoes in Kansas today, there was one circulation that stands out. This evening, there were strong radar indications of tornado(es) in the sparsely populated Flint Hills. There were reports of tornadoes with it from northwest of Medicine Lodge to near Bushong and an unknown number in between.

Medicine Lodge tornado.

Bushong tornado. It is difficult to get a good photo of a tornado at night, the long exposures needed tends to blur them.

It is unknown whether the storm will produce an additional tornado.

It has certainly been a busy week for weather in Kansas.

Tornado Watch: Kansas and Oklahoma

A tornado watch for south central Kansas (including Wichita) and far northern Oklahoma is in effect until 10pm.
There is no chance of a violent (eg, Joplin, Greensburg) tornado but any tornado can be dangerous and destructive. Please keep an eye on the weather.

Significant Risk of Tornadoes or Large Hail, South Central Kansas

A tornado was just reported NW of Medicine Lodge, Kansas.
The area of thunderstorms west of Wichita is slowly strengthening and there is a risk of an additional tornado or two along with large hail as the afternoon progresses into evening. Keep an eye on the weather in the area.

Tornado Watch: Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas

This watch includes the Dallas and Ft. Worth.
This is in effect until 11pm.  Please keep an eye on the weather!

Tornado Watch for Much of Missouri

Please prepare accordingly!

How Good or Bad Was Yesterday's Tornado Forecast?

For consistency with what the general public is hearing, I tend toward using the NWS's tornado forecasts unless I have a significant disagreement like Tuesday, when I posted my own (with a post-forecast validation, like the one I am writing now). FYI: AccuWeather does not do tornado watches or warnings for the general public. That is the job of the NWS. Our warnings are for business and enterprise clients.

The way this works: I make a general severe weather forecast based on tried and true techniques and then I look at the computer models. My forecast indicated a generally high risk of tornadoes in Kansas and Oklahoma. The computer models in the pre-dawn hours Thursday were terrifying: huge, long-track tornadoes hitting population centers.

Still, there was some doubt. Some of the forecast models Thursday morning showed "too many" thunderstorms for many violent tornadoes. If there are too many storms, they "compete" with each other for unstable air and become less prolific tornado and hail producers. Here is a paragraph from yesterday's forecast.
So, SPC came up with a great compromise. A high risk but the lowest probabilities that trigger a high risk (they can go up to 60%). I was very confident there would be tornadoes, my question was severity. So, I (as always) tried to educate people what to do to prepare regardless of where or how strong the tornadoes might be. If your home is destroyed by a tornado, you probably don't care about its scientific intensity.

How was the forecast? The red dots are tornado locations.
While none of these were huge, violent tornadoes (think Greensburg or Joplin), there were many tornadoes in exactly the area where they were forecast, with the exception of the southeast Colorado tornado. Regardless we need to reach out to those who were affected by yesterday's storms. 
"Wichita Eagle" photo of Great Bend-area man looking at his destroyed home and car from yesterday's tornado.
I believe that my prayers and the prayers of many were answered yesterday. No widespread damage; no serious injuries. I regret that events were postponed in Wichita and OKC and throughout the region without a tornado occurring but it sure beats the alternative!

Update on Today's Tornado Risk

The good news is there were so many thunderstorms yesterday and overnight they drove the front south and there is a much weakened tornado risk today than we thought yesterday.

If you live in the 5% area, which includes DFW, OKC and Tulsa, please keep an eye on the weather if thunderstorms approach.

Later today, I'll have an update on yesterday's forecast and we evaluate its quality.

Well, As Long As Leo Says the Science is Correct...

Thursday, May 18, 2017

We Have Been Fortunate Today

Fake news alert: The tweet below was fake. It was of a tornado that occurred near Spearman, Texas. 
I apologize for my error. Regardless, there was a tornado moving toward Salina and we were fortunate for the very little damage. 

Lots of tornadoes that appear to have struck little.

For example, this just missed Salina, Kansas, a good sized city.

7:55pm Update

The tornado watch in the western half of Oklahoma has been replaced with this severe thunderstorm watch that -- annoyingly -- states "a couple of tornadoes are possible."
Regardless, this is in effect until midnight.

I do agree the probabilities of tornadoes in Kansas (except far northeast, see below) and Oklahoma have lessened.

In Texas and from NE Kansas into NW Missouri (including Kansas City), there is still a chance of tornadoes and very large hail.

This is going to be the final update on the blog tonight. I'll continue tweeting from time to time.

Remember: Even after all of the tornadoes today, there is a chance again tomorrow.

Tornado Watch For Eastern Oklahoma, Including Tulsa

This tornado watch is in effect until midnight.

Across the central and southern Plains, numerous tornadoes have already occurred. There is still a good chance of additional tornadoes in Kansas and Oklahoma between now and at least 10pm. Continue to monitor the weather for your personal safety.

My real-time coverage continues on Twitter @usweatherexpert .

PDS:Tornado Watch for Southern Kansas, Including Wichita

The National Weather Service has issued a correction. The tornado watch below is a rare "Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch."

A Tornado Watch has been issued until 11pm for southern Kansas. It includes the Greater Wichita area.
There is also the potential for hailstones up to 4" in diameter.

Strong thunderstorms at 3:23pm are already approaching the southern border of Kansas from Oklahoma. At minimum, these storms are currently producing large hail. Thunderstorms are also developing northeast of Wichita which will move into the tornado watch area below (scroll down).

Please scroll down for additional safety information. For additional storm information, follow me on Twitter @usweatherexpert . I do not live-blog storms any longer.

Tornado Watch: Kansas and Missouri, Including Kansas City

Another tornado watch is just out:
This includes the Greater Kansas City area as well as all of northeast Kansas and part of northwest and west central Missouri. It is in effect until 10pm. Large hail is also a threat.

Thunderstorms at 3pm are already beginning to develop.

The Great Plains Tornado Outbreak is Underway

The first tornado warning of the day has been issued southwest Oklahoma with for a classic supercell with a hook echo west of Lawton.
This is a good time to remind you that I do not live-blog storms. For that, follow me on Twitter @usweatherexpert . 

A new tornado watch has just been issued for northern Texas, including the DFW Metroplex.

I expect a "particularly dangerous situation" tornado watch to be issued around mid afternoon. I'll post it when it is issued.

Oklahoma & Northwest Texas: PDS Tornado Watch

A rare particularly dangerous situation (PDS) tornado watch has been issued for the western half of Oklahoma (not including OKC) and part of northwest Texas plus the eastern Texas Panhandle until 8pm.
If you live in the area, turn on your weather radio and/or television, turn on your weather radio and make sure you have downloaded the excellent AccuWeather App (and turn on its ability to use your location).

If you live in a mobile home, it is time now to insure that your mobile home park shelter is open and available. If you don't have one, make other arrangements now.

Please make sure your friends and relatives are aware of this PDS watch. Thank you!

Don't Drop Your Guard Tonight - Tornado Threat Friday and Friday Night

The vast majority of people will be unaffected by any tornadoes that may occur late this afternoon or tonight. That said, there is a significant risk tomorrow, also.
Here, the significant threshold is 15%. Hatched means very large hail or strong tornadoes are possible.

So, if you take my advice about putting heirlooms in shelter and filling your fuel tank, you'll be in great shape for any threat that may materialize Friday or Friday night.

Noon Tornado Forecast Update

I don't see any reason to update my version of SPC's forecast (below). I mentioned OKC as an area that should prepare for the possibility of a tornado in my commentary and they now seem to agree.
The 5% tornado area (the significant threshold) has been extended south and now includes the Ft. Worth area.

My advice, below, still stands. Charge cell phones and laptops.

It is now time to prepare your sheltering plan. Basement, under strong furniture (eg, pool table) or under the stairs is a good idea -- but do not shelter right next to your hot water heater. It could tip.

If you do not have a basement or safe room, a bathroom or closet in the middle of the house on the lowest floor is your best protection. If you can get the bathtub, great. If you want to wear a helmet or hard hat, great.

If you live in a mobile home park, make sure -- now -- your shelter is open and available. If there is no shelter, you will need to seek shelter before any large thunderstorm arrives. Ask a friend or relative if you can shelter in their home.

Wear solid shoes into your shelter. Take a flashlight and your (charged) cell phone. Late addition: Remember your pets. You might wish to put your "thunder coat" on your dog now or as soon as the storms begin to form. Thank you to our commenter (below) for reminding me. 

Again -- no reason for great concern. Just be prepared to act if a tornado warning is issued. Good luck!!

P.S. I no longer live-blog storms. For that, follow me on twitter  @usweatherexpert . 
However, I will update this forecast by mid-afternoon.

Dangerous Tornado Situation

This is one of those forecasts I hate to make and I sincerely hope is completely wrong. 

Before I go further, tornado forecasts are not a cause of worry or concern, they are a call to action. So, here is the forecast.
In south central Kansas, including Wichita, there is a 30% chance of a tornado within 25 mi. of a given point. The hatching means the tornado could be violent. 

The signifiant threshold is 5% (brown). If you live in the 5%, or higher areas, please monitor the weather for any tornado watches and then for the first sign of a thunderstorm. 

Here is what I recommend you do now if you live in the 30% (Wichita) or 15% (Topeka, OKC) areas:
  • Consider taking family heirlooms to your shelter now.
  • Consider postponing little league games.
  • Making plans now for sheltering any infirm friends or relatives.
  • Put your car in the garage or under the car port due to the risk of giant hail (see below).
  • Secure items that can be blown about. 
  • Wouldn't hurt for you to get some extra cash from the ATM and fill your fuel tank.
  • Plan to take any prescription drugs to your shelter.
  • Wear shoes to shelter in case the worst happens.
  • If you don't have underground shelter, make sure there is room in an interior bathroom or closest in the middle of the house for your family.
  • Download the free AccuWeather app and allow it to use your location. It is a great extra warning tool. 
Can this forecast be wrong? Yes! There is a possibility Mother Nature will create too many thunderstorms for large tornadoes to occur but there will still be a threat of smaller tornadoes and damaging winds. So, these precautions are still worth taking.

You may recall I mentioned hail. The 15% (yellow) is the significant threshold. The hatched area is where large or even a few giant hailstones may fall.
I will update again around noon (different schedule than I originally thought).

Late addition: There is a chance of flash flooding. You may want to limit your driving even after the tornado/hail threat has passed.

Don't worry, we've been through this before many times!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Snow and Tornado Coverage

Before getting to the tornado coverage, there is a serious risk of a wet snow winter storm that could cause power failures in the pink areas (NWS winter storm warning).
The Denver area has a winter storm watch. Check on the weather tomorrow morning before traveling into these areas.

My first tornado forecast will be posted around 10:30-11am Thursday morning. Tomorrow looks like a dangerous day in the central Great Plains.

What Are These Emergency Vehicles Doing?

This poor quality photo of mine from Tuesday's storm chase in southwest Kansas reveals a couple of fire trucks, an ambulance and a couple of tow trucks. What were they doing there, mixed in with a number of storm chasers?

My educated guess is they were getting them out of harm's way in case the town of Minneola was struck by a tornado during yesterdays warning. The emergency management of Greensburg made a similar decision ten years ago that was highly successful.

The emergency management of Minneola had ample reason for such an action. The tornado barely missed the city to the south as the illustration below shows.
Rotational motion as measured by radar. Arrow shows the high rotation associated with the brief tornado  just south of Minneola. The green polygon is a later flash flood warning. 
I do have one concern: The officials making the decision to move the emergency equipment need to have a reliable way to insure they are not moving into the path of danger and must have sufficient time to get the vehicles out of the path of the tornado. In this case, they moved the equipment to the blue dot. It might have been better to go west or north, rather than crossing the tornado's eventual path. At AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, we routinely advise a number of counties and communities when such a threat presents itself.

Regardless, congratulations to Minneola on getting their equipment out of the path.

3 Tornado Watches Now in Effect

If you live in these areas, please make sure you are keeping up on the weather.

Multi-State Tornado Watch in Effect

The NWS has issued a large tornado watch from northeast Kansas up to the Iowa-Minnesota border. Strong thunderstorms have already developed (see image below). Note there is a "moderate" chance of strong tornadoes. I urge you to monitor the latest weather information as the first approach of a thunderstorm.

Below is the radar from 12:20pm CDT 5-17-17.
Stay safe!!

You Need the AccuWeather App

If you do not have the AccuWeather app on your cell phone, get it!!! It is free and it might save your life with National Weather Service storm warnings. If you allow it to, it will follow your location and give you storm warnings even when you are on the road or away from home.

It is free!

The warning message will appear on top of whatever you are viewing on your phone. You see radar on mine because I was storm chasing (see me in the far upper right area of the image). You could put it next to your bed (with your phone on) and the "message arrival" sound will sound and the message will appear in case a warning for a dangerous storm is issued by the NWS.

Did I say it is free?!

How Did the Forecast Do?

Since more than 22,000 people looked at yesterday's tornado forecast, here is a comparison.

The red dots are where tornadoes actually occurred.

And, here is the forecast of where the tornadoes would be.
It appears that all of the tornadoes, except one, occurred in the "higher" risk area. That tornado was captured by the "significant risk" area.

So, looks like the forecast worked out pretty well.

Of course, a forecast of a tornado is a forecast of an event that can kill (as occurred in Wisconsin outside our forecast area) yesterday or destroy. The images below, from Wichita's KSNW and KAKE TV (top to bottom) show some of that damage in Pawnee Rock, Kansas.
It is our hope that these forecasts are helpful in getting people prepared for what might occur and thereby keep the injuries as few and as minor as possible.

Elevated Tornado Risk Today and Tonight

Keep in mind that 5% (brown) is the signifiant risk threshold. If you live in these areas, please keep up on the wealth at the first sign of the approach of a thunderstorm.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Fun Times and Frustrating Times

We had a great time chasing tornadoes earlier today except for one thing...we didn't see any "tornadoes," keeping in mind the circulation must be all the way to the ground in order for it to be a tornado rather than a funnel cloud.
One of many funnel clouds that we saw. 
Yes, there were tornadoes and yes they did damage (unfortunately). But, we could never seem to get to the correct angle to see the tornado as indicated below.
The location of the tornado is indicated by the oval. Our location is the blue circle. But, as the upper radar image indicates, there was a solid wall of rain between us and the tornado.

So, we had a great time. But, I don't have the great photos I hoped to have for my readers.