Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Great 2019 Siege of Heavy Rain and Tornadoes Is Over

While there will certainly be more tornadoes and more flash floods in 2019 (like there are every year), the great siege of 2019 is over tonight.  

The low pressure system and quasi-stationary front that triggered all of this vast destruction have finally de-coupled and moved away. But, not before untold billions in damage and destruction.

There are many aspects of this unusual event that deserve comment.

The Forecast:
The most amazing thing is that this highly unusual event was forecast well in advance on this blog and elsewhere.
The first extended forecast of high numbers of tornadoes, including violent tornadoes, was published May 12 here. Five days before the first of the tornadoes. More on the forecast of flooding, published May 17, here. I believe you'll agree they were remarkable forecasts five days before all this began..  Take a look at the red areas above and compare it to the tornado map (ending this morning).
Not only were the high numbers in the Great Plains forecast, note the extension through Illinois, Indiana and western Ohio.

Creating Safety in Chaos

This forecast was only possible through the amazing progress in meteorological science. And, the warnings saved dozens and dozens of lives. Think about it: 207 tornadoes (more occurred today), including four in four densely populated metropolitan areas, and just seven lives lost. Seven. While each is a tragedy to their friends and families, that is a spectacularly low number.

And, this time, our work seems to be appreciated and understood. In addition to dozens of ordinary people, this showed up in my Twitter feed this morning.
Thank you to everyone who thanked meteorologists!!

Storm Chasing
Why do I, and others, chase storms? One is to help with the warning process.

Yesterday, Kathleen and I chased in eastern Kansas. I took the photo below and sent it out via Twitter (tagged: KSwx so meteorologists would see it).
The photo was taken just before the tornado tightened the rotation and produced this major, EF-4 (upper 1.5% in intensity), tornado. The location is noted on the map below. I'm hoping it contributed to the excellent warnings yesterday.
We stopped the chase south of Lawrence without seeing the tornado directly. It was completely surrounded by rain ("rain-wrapped") and invisible. Plus, tornadoes and cities do not mix from a chasing point of view: it is not safe and we should not be there clogging traffic. So, we moved southwest to an area of storms that was developing near Wichita. I did get to hear the coverage on WIBW-AM and KMBZ-FM, the latter with my friend, Bryan Busby. Fantastic job!

But, I have to admit I have other reasons for chasing. I love watching the weather and the beauty of the Great Plains. I took the photo below in the Flint Hills north of Cassoday looking northwest at a slowly rotating wall cloud.

There were many other chasers in the area. The gentleman below was part of two large vans full of meteorologists -- from Holland.

A few minutes later, as the storm moved east, the sun lit up part of the storm.

Minutes later, there was nearly continuous lightning.
It was an exhausting day but one that was professionally satisfying. By that I mean that it helps me be a better meteorologist to occasionally watch the weather firsthand and to hear/watch others cover it.

Some find beauty in Mt. Everest or at the bottom of the ocean. I find it in the Kansas sky.

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