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.

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 Trainorders.com, 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 Trainorders.com
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.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Just Shut Up, Already!

National Geographic
Big Climate will never stop. It is relentless in its quest for power and money. And, the fact they are using children as propaganda tools demonstrates the lengths to which they will go to attain their goals. We cannot give them power.

Small Business and Washington

President Reagan knew that small business was the lifeblood of the economy and did everything he could to empower it. I started WeatherData, Inc., my highly successful commercial meteorology company, in the first six months of his administration.

After he left office, about all I, and my entrepreneur friends, got from Washington was request for donations. I remember one day, with severe weather in progress and as I was on the forecast floor, picking up the phone (after my assistant said it was urgent) and it my was congressman asking for a rather large donation.

You may not be aware of "party dues." It is the system where a new congressmen arrives at the Capitol, is sworn in, and is immediately in debt. The amounts of money are in dispute but I am told for the newest members is around $150,000/year. If you raise more, you get better committee assignments, et cetera. So, to a large extent, all of the fund raising calls are understandable.

In the current crisis, it is vital that small business bounce back 100%. I have my doubts.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

One More Time: Don't Take Photos on Railroad Tracks

I am appalled that Associated Press published this photograph  yesterday. Those are active railroad tracks (you can tell by the polished rails). Over and over and over people die needlessly because they are on, or are very close to, tracks. Please don't be one of them!

Something an Enemy in a James Bond Movie Would Do

Don't these people ever watch James Bond movies?

Don't they ever watch a disaster movie that begins with a warning from a scientist not to do something?

Seriously: we don't know how to control the weather and I guarantee there will be serious, negative, unintended consequences if this is done. Decreasing earth's temperature seems to increase the amount of storminess around the world.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Upgrade to Tornado Risk This Afternoon and Tonight

NWS SPC has upgraded the tornado risk area and sharpened it a bit. The yellow area is an enhanced risk of tornadoes and the hatching means strong tornadoes are possible.

The brown is a significant risk of a tornado.

Please keep up on the weather across this area the rest of today and tonight. 

Please follow me @usweatherexpert on Twitter for updates.

Today's Tornado Risk

The brown area has a significant risk of tornadoes. Please monitor the weather as the day progresses in this area.

Thank You, Thank You!!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Severe Storm Outlook

Update: Please cancel the forecast below. 
Any threat of violent winds has ended. 

There is a marginal chance of thunderstorms with damaging winds and, literally, a brief tornado or two in the area outlined. The tornado threat will not occur until near and an hour or two after sunset.

There is a chance of scattered areas of large hail over much of Kansas tonight.

This is a Very Real Concern to Me

comment on Twitter about the coronavirus social isolation
Agree completely. Months from now, when all of this is over, President Trump will need to take a look at all of this nonsense, including the TSA, but now is not the time.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Stuck Inside? Two Great Books Available in E-Book Form

On top of the coronavirus raging, we are moving toward the peak of tornado season, with tornadoes forecast in a small part of the Great Plains Monday (I'll cover that on the blog tomorrow). Since your local bookstore may be closed, both of my books are available in print or e-book. If you don't have a Kindle, you can get the free Kindle Cloud Reader. With the Kindle Reader, you can use your computer to read the books just like paper copies. 
My book, Warnings, may be the perfect book for this crisis. It is the uplifting story of how heroic meteorologists risked their reputations and careers to build the tornado, hurricane and aviation warning systems that save literally thousands of lives each year. The link will take you to the e-book version which contains extra photos we couldn't get into the print version.

When the Sirens Were Silent is the story of the 2011 Joplin Tornado and how the rare failure of the tornado warning system. That failure caused the storm to become the worst killer tornado in the modern era.

If you like this blog, I think you'll like these highly rated books. 

From Twitter: Two Perfect Responses

And, the second...

No, That's Not How It Works

No, Daily Mail, in the United States, generals do not govern the nation if something happens to the President and Vice President. There is -- in law -- a succession list if something were to happen to President Trump (e.g., he died from COVID-19). Here is the list of Presidential succession.
For years(!) I have been advocating dispersing the federal government (see here, among many others). The abundance of good reasons for doing so is only enhanced by  COVID-19. For example, Sedgwick Co. (which includes Wichita) has a population of 513,289 and yet has just a single case of COVID-19 while, at the same time, hospitals are seriously threatened from Washington to New York. If the Department of Agriculture was here (as I propose), the Secretary of Agriculture, who is in the line of succession, would be able to function more easily than his counterparts in the District of Columbia as it is unlikely a crisis would affect all locations of the United States simultaneously.

Finally, this type of headline plays into the (inaccurate) stereotype of President Trump.
I seriously doubt the President has even seen this proposal. If it is anything like what is described in the article, Attorney General Barr needs to shoot it down, immediately.

Sunday Fun: A Terrific Book

Looking for a great book while you are avoiding people?

In this situation where we are trying to ramp up production of medical equipment, the story of how we ramped up production during World War II is not only pertinent, it is fascinating. When Freedom's Forge came out in 2003, it was one of the rare books I couldn't put down.

You probably think, how could a story about industry during a war be fascinating? Author Arthur Herman did a great job of weaving in the people (especially Bunky Knudson) who used their ingenuity to not only produce the greatest military force the world has ever known yet still produced a reasonable number of civilian washing machines, automobiles and other goods.

Five Stars!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Stay Home Tonight!

What The Heck Are These Tax-Free Endowments For?

Bumped and updated:

The endowments of Harvard+Yale+Stanford+Princeton = 
More than a Quarter of a Trillion Dollars (before market crash)
There will be many, many losers in all of this but universities and other 'non-profit' institutions will be among the top. While there are dozens of stories about taxpaying businesses performing heroically, institution after institution has behaved abysmally in this critical situation. I came close to posting a quote from a university administrator who "laughed out loud" when asked if he would be giving refunds for unused room and board this semester. 

Given the fact their students are going to get a taste of distance learning, their awful behavior (which has been going on the last two decades behind the scenes) will be out in the open for all to see. 

It is way past time for Congress to start taxing the endowments and to begin setting limits on them. 

-- original posting -- 
What?! The Met has a tax-free endowment of $3.6 billion! Why can't it spend a tiny part of that endowment to keep its people on staff?

The exact same thing is true of universities. Harvard has a tax-free endowment, the last time I checked, of $55 billion [unknown given market crash]. I don't know whether they are planning any layoffs but other universities are. If this isn't the type of situation where endowments are tapped, why are these tax-free endowments allowed?

While You Are At Home With Your Children...

...have you thought about a model train set? Lionel, and others, make some incredible sets that require little wiring and zero technical expertise. If you purchase a set, get enough extra track to have a switch and siding. It greatly increases the play value.

Just to let you know, most of the train and hobby shops are small businesses that could really use your support right now. And, almost all of them ship.

Of course, some of us have gone far beyond a basic train set.

'Nuff Said

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Update on Today's Tornado Risk

There are two areas of tornado risk.
  • The yellow is the area of enhanced risk. 
  • Brown is the area of signifiant tornado risk.
If you are in either area, please keep up on the weather the rest of the day and this evening. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020


This is a perfect illustration of why "social distancing" is vital!
Please, please follow this advice and we'll be through this much faster with a much better result. 

Thank you, Dr. Oz. 

Don't Second Guess the President At This Time

The above sign couldn't be more apropos. 

The "second guessing" has already begun. See this column by Dennis Prager. It is my opinion that column was written so he can point to it later and say, "I was right!" It is obvious that Mr. Prager has never been in a precedented (i.e., has never occurred in modern times) situation where there are dozens of unknowns.

Scott Adams, the creator of "Dilbert" has the perfect reply.
Are there dumb ideas floating around? Yes. The idea that Boeing should get $60 billion from the taxpayers to fix its incompetence  (like TARP did for the banks, we don't need to repeat that awful mistake) is ridiculous. There are, I'm sure, many others. That is why President Trump and his team are taking their time making these decisions. Will some or many be flawed? Certainly. But, that is the nature of war and we are at war against coronavirus.

As many know, I don't personally care for Mr. Trump. But, he is our President and we owe him our support at this difficult time. As Scott Adams says, we need to judge how he fixes things when more is known and how he implements policies to fix the rot at CDC, FDA and CIA (yes, CIA) when the crisis has passed.

In the meantime: Please support your fellow citizens and, especially, small businesses in your area. Maybe even consider how Christians helped their fellow man during Roman times.

Enhanced Tornado Risk Thursday

There is an enhanced tornado risk Thursday for the Ozarks and Middle Mississippi Valley. Please check back tonight and tomorrow morning for more specific forecasts.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Things Meteorologists Know About Storm Warnings That May Be Applicable to Coronavirus Warnings

Weather science has learned a great deal from social science pertaining to how people react in pressure storm warning situations. I'm listing the lessons meteorologists have learned, in no particular order, in case they are helpful in the cornonavirus (CV) situation. 
  1. Stop telling people, "don't panic." It is both patronizing and unhelpful. Social scientists know genuine panic is rare. When does it occur? Two situations: a) When people's lives are threatened and they don't know how to save them; and b) When something prevents people from taking the measures they know are needed to save their lives or things dear to them. Want to prevent panic? Then, tell people what they need to do and enable them to do it. 
  2. There seems to be a developing gap between what we are being told about CV and the actual situation. Last week, we were being told CV is 6-9 times more contagious than regular flu and 10 to 25 times more lethal. Various publications stated this would be the week where hospitals would be starring to overflow with cases. As far as I can see, outside of the Seattle area, this is not the case. It is too early in the week?
  3. In order for people to conduct themselves in a manner they do not prefer (e.g., crawl into a bathtub for a tornado warning and stay there for 20 minutes) to save their lives, the people advising them to do so must have credibility and that credibility can be easily lost. That is why officials need to be addressing #2. Are the forecasts off? Fine! Is the strategy to "flatten the curve" working? Even better! But, #2 needs to be explained. For all of our sakes, public health officials must keep their credibility high. 
  4. Finally, people will not take precautions without "confirmation." In tornado warnings, this means that once the meteorologist announces "tornado warning," people will look out the window, call a relative, or will switch to another television station. Until the "confirmation" requirement is met, they will not take shelter. Right now, we are putting businesses, especially small businesses, in mortal danger. Asking a small business to shut down for CV is like asking a person to crawl into the bathtub. The level of skepticism about the seriousness of the CV threat, as reflected on my Twitter feed today, has never been higher. A couple of tweeters, people I really respect, are claiming this is massively overblown. I don't think it is. But, our officials desperately need to show the overflowing hospital ER's or explain why they are not [yet].
Daily Mail
We are in completely uncharted waters and I do not envy President Trump, the governors and others who are making these decisions. But, if they want people to cooperate, for everyone's sakes, they need to immediately begin considering factors #1 to #4 and perhaps even contact some of the social scientists with whom meteorologists have been working to improve storm warnings.

                    (c) 2020, Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC

In This Time of Chaos

Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places on earth. If you need a bit of beauty while you are stuck indoors, the link to the Yosemite Falls webcam is here.

Not Such a Bad Gift, After All!

How things change!