Thursday, May 23, 2019

Tornado Risk This Afternoon and Tonight

There is a wide band of significant tornado risk from Topeka to Lubbock.
There is an elevated risk, with a chance of violent tornadoes from far NW Oklahoma to southeast of Amarillo.

There is a second area of significant tornado risk in the upper Ohio Valley into the Northeast.

I am storm chasing this afternoon, so I will not be providing severe weather coverage on the blog.

"High" Flash Flood Risk

This is a big deal.
Even though "high" flash flood risks are rare, they account for more than half of the flash flood fatalities. I urge people in south central Kansas (and all of central Kansas including the "moderate" risk to keep up on weather information.

Above all else: If you encounter flooding, Turn Around, Don't Drown.

9am Thursday: Flood Woes to Worsen

I'm sorry to report that more heavy rain, as much as 7", is forecast the next seven days in the same areas that have been severely affected by flooding.

Here is the heavy rainfall for the last 24-hours ending at 7am
Here is a snapshot of rivers across our nation. Black is a flood gage near or over flood stage. Dark blue is a gage with river flow at the 90th percentile or higher.

1:18am - Wrapping Things Up For the Night

I thought I was finished earlier (scroll down to the forecasts a couple of postings below) but then the Missouri supercell blew up and I wanted to help get the warning out for Eldon and Jefferson City via Twitter. Officials in Missouri are calling this rash of nighttime tornadoes a "mass casualty event" but we do not know yet what that means.

I have been doing this for 52 years and I have NEVER seen an overnight tornado outbreak of this intensity. The supercell thunderstorm which is producing tornadoes near Warrenton, MO (and began near Tulsa) is approaching a path length of 350 miles. That is extraordinary. But, it was also forecasted: at 11:39am I posted "Serious Tornado Risk" and explicitly forecast both overnight tornadoes and gave instructions as to how to set up your smartphone as a nighttime "tornado alarm." If you haven't already done so, please look over the instructions at the red link.

Here is the first forecast of tornado risk from the Storm Prediction Center valid from 7am Thursday to 7am Friday.
The brown areas have a significant risk of tornadoes. The yellow area has an enhanced risk and the yellow hatching indicates violent tornadoes may occur as they have the last 24-hours. If the warm front moves far enough north, I would not be surprised if the risk level in the Great Plains has to be elevated further.

So, please continue to monitor local media, the AccuWeather app, and your smartphone for updated tornado and flash flood information.

That's all for tonight. 

11:45pm: Tornado in the Immediate Jefferson City Area

From KOMU-TV News in Columbia-Jefferson City, there is "considerable" tornado damage in Jefferson City:
The rectangle over the south part of
Jefferson City is a large quantity of lofted debris as detected
by dual-polarization radar.
The Jefferson City debris was lofted to at least 10,000' above the ground. 

On the left is "reflectivity data" which is the type of weather radar display seen on television. On the right is the Doppler velocity which shows strong rotation moving into Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri.

Note: This is likely a historic event. The same supercell thunderstorm that produced the Jefferson City Tornado is the same one that began on the east side of Tulsa, passed just north of Joplin, and continue northeast into central Missouri. Three fatalities are reported north of Joplin as of midnight.
We do not have any word of casualties in mid-Missouri.

Via Twitter, the Jefferson City Tornado.

A high school in Jefferson City was damaged. I don't know if this is it but in a bolt of lightning, this video appears to show the dark tornado with a light-colored satellite tornado around it.
Above Via Twitter.

An EMT based in Jefferson Co. tweeted at 12:35am.
Am also getting reports of tornado damage in Eldon, MO, which is SW of Jefferson City. 

12:39am, a map of at least part of the path of the tornado through Jefferson City.
Via Twitter

Via Twitter 

Below Tweeted at 12:53a.

At 1am, that same thunderstorm was still producing tornadoes. This near Warrenton, MO, along Interstate 70.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tornado Watches in Effect Until 4am Thursday And Updated Overnight Flood Forecast

These two tornado watches are in effect until 4am Thursday. Scroll down to learn how to use your smartphone as an overnight tornado alarm. 

Between now and 7am, there is a risk of more flash flooding with amounts of up to 5" possible.

However, a just out and fairly reliable model is showing amounts of about 11" (see below).
Either amount will aggravate what is already severe flooding throughout that region.

Note: this is the end of my coverage for the night. However, there is a very good chance of more tornadoes and severe thunderstorms along with flood-producing rains Thursday and Thursday night in the central Great Plains. 

Joplin Was NOT Hit By a Tornado This Evening

Thanks to my friend Jesse Ferrell of AccuWeather, I wanted to dispel the false reports on the internet that Joplin was again hit by a tornado this evening (8th anniversary of the 2011 storm). Joplin is highlighted by a rectangle at the bottom. The large, violent tornado - illustrated by the red-light blue line - passed to the north hitting the south part of Carl Junction and passed over or very near Oronogo.

Addition: Jesse just sent this wider view from Baxter Springs to Golden City.

We just received a report of three people killed with the tornado north of Joplin. I don't have any more details. 

"When the Sirens Were Silent" -- Thank You, James Spann

Today is the 8th anniversary of the Joplin Tornado. This just came across my Twitter feed.
James is a renowned meteorologist based in Birmingham and known for his severe weather coverage.  You can find the book via Amazon, here.

Tornado Watch: Missouri and Illinois

While this is a "conventional" tornado watch, please take it seriously.

Second "Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch"

This is a serious situation where large, violent tornadoes may occur. It includes Joplin, the Lake of the Ozarks, Ft. Scott, Coffeyville, Tulsa the southeast part of the Greater Kansas City area.

Please scroll down for more pertinent information.

For more coverage, please follow me on Twitter @usweatherexpert. 

4:20pm: Watch enlarged.

"Particularly Dangerous Situation" Tornado Watch

We don't routinely post watches on this blog but we make exceptions for the rare "particularly dangerous situation" tornado (and severe thunderstorm) watches. One was just issued until 10pm for central and south central Oklahoma and a small part of northern Texas around Wichita Falls.

The radar at 2:30pm shows a rapidly developing severe thunderstorm in southern Oklahoma.
There are thunderstorms starting to develop in southeast Kansas and western Missouri. A tornado watch will likely be issued in these areas. I'll go ahead and post it when one is issued.

If you haven't already, start continuously monitoring local media, turn on your weather radio, and turn up the volume on your cell phone -- hopefully with the emergency messages turned on (see below).
Below are safety suggestions:
  • Because of the higher than average overnight tornado risk, I strongly recommend downloading both the AccuWeather app (scroll down to bottom of page). Be sure to allow location services. 
  • Making sure you have turned the emergency notification feature (ENF) your smartphone. Easy instructions are below. 
  • If you are in the threat area, put your (fully charged!) smartphone with the AW App and the ENF turned on next to your bed! Turn on your weather radio. You want to be awakened if a tornado warning is issued. 
  • Insure your PC and phone are fully charged but take them off the charger before lightning arrives.
  • Have a flash light (check the batteries), a couple bottles of water and diapers in your shelter area. Take your cell phone into shelter with you. 
  • Always wear shoes into your shelter. 
Here is now to turn on the emergency notification feature.
Once you have tapped Notifications, scroll down to the bottom and turn on Emergency Alerts.
While not as fast or as location-specific as NWS warnings provided by the AccuWeather App, the WEA tones will wake you up at night if the phone is next to your bed. So, you want both. Because WEA only triggers for tornado and flash flood warnings you don't have the false alarm problem that you have with many NOAA Weather Radios. Please make sure family and friends have done this.

I will not be updating tornado warnings on this blog. Follow me on Twitter @usweatherexpert. 

Serious Risk of Flash Flooding

Not only do we have a serious risk of tornadoes later this afternoon and tonight, there is a serious risk of flash flooding tonight
If you live in the red area, please be prepared by using the checklist below. If you live in an area that is flood prone, make sure your weather radio is turned on before you retire for the night. If you do not have a weather radio, scroll down to turn your cell phone into a "weather alarm."

Here are some flash flood safety suggestions:

Remember: If you encounter flooding, turn around, don't drown.

What to do?
  • Prepare a "go kit." Put needed and easily transportable items in your car or near your car where you can grab it and move quickly.
  • If you have to evacuate, turn off the main power and water. Locate them now if you are not sure where they are located. 
  • Keep your automobile fully fueled.
  • Get extra cash.
  • Make sure your prescriptions are refilled.
  • Know your destination and make sure your path is not flooded. 
  • Keep your smartphone charged. 
I urge you to take this seriously. Areas will flood that have never flooded before. Please make sure vulnerable friends and relatives know of the risk. Prepare accordingly. 

Serious Tornado Risk Later Today

The SPC has raised its forecast of tornadoes, unfortunately. I present the map above as a "headline" but the details are below.
Remember: 5% (brown) is the significant threat. They have upgraded their 10% probability to a 15% probability and have extended it from Tulsa to near Columbia-Jeff City, Missouri.

Addition at 2:20pm. The SPC has now determined the enhanced tornado risk extends into central
and southwest Oklahoma. This includes Oklahoma City, Norman, and Ft. Sill.

-- Original Posting--

I don't want you to focus too much on SE Kansas, NE Oklahoma and Missouri. This air mass seems to be adroit at producing overnight tornadoes. If you live anywhere in the 5% region, please have your weather radio on overnight or use your cellphone as a weather alarm (see below).

I decided not to chase today even though it is a nearly ideal situation meteorologically. There are too many flooded roads in SE Kansas and NE Oklahoma and many dirt roads are total mud. By the time the storms get to Missouri it my be dusk or even after dark. Too dangerous for me.

Please pay attention to the weather if you live in these areas. And, remember, I do not post watches, etc., on the blog. Follow me on Twitter @usweatherexpert. Thank you. 

Here is now to turn on the emergency notification feature.
Once you have tapped Notifications, scroll down to the bottom and turn on Emergency Alerts.
While not as fast or as location-specific as NWS warnings provided by the AccuWeather App, the WEA tones will wake you up at night if the phone is next to your bed. So, you want both. Because WEA only triggers for tornado and flash flood warnings you don't have the false alarm problem that you have with many NOAA Weather Radios. Please make sure family and friends have done this.

Thoughts About Tornado Meteorology on the 8th Anniversary of the Horrific Joplin Tornado

On the eighth anniversary of the notorious Joplin Tornado, I have a number of thoughts about weather forecasting, storm warnings and related issues.

As many of you know, the Joplin Tornado, the subject of my second book, is the most deadly tornado since the government’s tornado warning program began in the late 1950’s. Scores of excess deaths occurred because of terrible flaws in the warning system that day. 

Unfortunately, we have not learned some of the lessons from Joplin. As discussed in When the Sirens Were Silent, one of the issues was their overuse of the tornado sirens. When interviewed by KMOV TV in St. Louis a few days later, I criticized St. Louis’ emergency managers (EM) for sounding the tornado sirens the day before 50 miles behind a tornado!! When they interviewed the EM for their story his reply was, “We’d rather be safe that sorry.” Nonsense! What they are unwittingly doing is training people to disregard the sirens.
Yesterday, via Twitter. Tornado was headed for St. Louis
So, yesterday evening, when I was covering the St. Louis area tornado on Twitter, I turned on KMOV and they were commenting on EM’s sounding the sirens outside the tornado warnings! It is a shame things have not changed in the intervening eight years. 

Much has been made of Monday’s tornado overforecasts (including mine). I’m going to cover that in a separate posting. What I want to comment on now is the over-coverage of the tornado forecasts and the under-coverage of the flood forecasts. As I walked into the barbershop yesterday I believe I overheard someone say, “I wasn’t expecting all this flooding.” I’ve often wondered why meteorologists under-cover floods. My best guess is that tornadoes threaten lives immediately, often occur during the day, and are “photogenic” on television. 

Floods, on the other hand, take at least hours to develop, often develop at night and – because they close roads – are tough for news crews to get to. Helicopters don’t like to fly in extremely heavy rain. Yet, when all is said and done, it is almost certain the floods caused by the rains of the last three days will do more damage – and displace more people – than the tornadoes. Finally, it takes a basic knowledge of hydrology to forecast floods and that is something most meteorologists don't learn in school. Flood forecasting and flood coverage is an area weather science and broadcast meteorologists need to improve. 

This last item is addressed to meteorologists: Challenge yourself to stop over-relying on the computer models. I strongly recommend divorcing yourself from the models for 24 hours and then try to make short-term forecasts (24 hours) in a changing weather situation completely without them in differing weather conditions. My willingness to disregard the models allowed me to make a superior heavy rain forecast MondayIt can be done – and, it will save humiliation when the models are wrong. 

Today's Tornado Risk

The brown area is a significant risk of tornadoes this afternoon and evening. The yellow area is an enhanced risk with the hatching signifying the risk of violent tornadoes. Please keep up on the latest weather information. I'll update this later today.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Whole New Level of Stupid -- And, Nastiness

From Dana Wright of KMBZ Radio (where I began my career!) in Kansas City.
Earlier yesterday evening, my friend, and superb meteorologist, Lisa Teachman, the chief meteorologist of KSNW TV in Wichita received this.
You may click to enlarge but you will probably regret it.

Lisa was covering this tornado.
A horizontal vortex makes it certain this was a violent tornado. The kind that kills people; sometimes in large numbers. And, Lisa is supposed to ignore her viewers in that area and risk them dying so people can watch Jeopardy!? Really?

My son's inlaws live near the path of this tornado. I called them because I wanted to make sure they knew about the storm. They did not. Television meteorologists cannot assume people have 'weather rodeos' (whatever those might be).

It is astounding to me that television meteorologists have to put up with this. Although I cannot prove it scientifically, it seems that women meteorologists get the worst of it. It should stop.
One other note about Lisa. I saw her responding to viewers on Twitter during that stressful coverage yesterday and she, as always, did it with kindness and grace. Lisa and Cat Taylor at KAKE TV in Wichita are two of the very best. We are lucky to have both.

What I Was Doing 62 Years Ago Today

On May 20, 1957, an F-5 intensity tornado struck the south side of Kansas City. It was the day that determined the course of my life, especially because of what happened 62 years ago today: My mother drove a neighbor, my brothers and me through ground zero. We went right down Bennington Street (circled). A closer view would reveal the supposedly indestructible girders of the brand new Ruskin High School twisted near the ground. The dazed looks on peoples' faces were unforgettable.

I remember thinking that I wanted to study what did all this. It is corny to write but, the rest is history.

Flooding With Agricultural Impacts to Continue

Here is the new ECMWF model's 10-day rainfall forecast.

Here is the GFS model's forecast.
Both indicate more than ten inches of rain over the western corn belt. This is more than sufficient to keep rivers above flood stage and, perhaps, cause additional rises.

The Flooding Isn't Anywhere Near Over

A great deal of additional heavy rain is forecast the next seven days.
That is a seven inch bullseye near St. Joseph, Missouri. The orange is another 5+ inches.