Saturday, April 30, 2022

Storm Shelters: The Other Half of Storm Protection

Reposted from April 18
I'm delighted to announce I am working as a consultant for with Survive-A-Storm Shelters.

For 50+ years I have worked to provide better and better storm warnings for the public and for enterprise customers. That is half of the storm protection equation.

The other half is making sure you, your school or your business has a robust place to go when a tornado, hurricane or derecho is approaching. 
We have some exciting things to announce in the near future, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you are in the market for a shelter, please contact Mr. Taylor DeVane by clicking here

1,000 Buildings Affected; No Serious Injuries

The aftermath of the Wichita-Andover Tornado of 2022 is astounding: One thousand buildings damaged or destroyed and no deaths and no serious injuries. It has a preliminary rating of a high-end EF-3. 

Below is the Andover YMCA where the staff heard the warnings and took everyone to the basement. Imagine if the tornado had struck without warning!

Part of this is good luck. But, the majority is due to weather science training people what to do and then the forecasts and warnings by dedicated and skilled meteorologists. 
Congratulations to all meteorologists involved in warning the people of south central Kansas. 

Addition: After posting this, it was brought to my attention that three storm chasers from the University of Oklahoma were killed on the way back to Norman last night. 

As it turns out, they were chasing the tornado Kathleen and I saw touch down and reported.

Meteorologists and storm chasers go into field to report on these storms to keep everyone else safe. What we do is not without risk. This tornado did not show up on radar. One of the TV mets in Wichita has slept "20 minutes in the last two days" because of the storms. 

This is why I suggest you drop a note to the NWS office that serves your area and a note to your favorite television meteorologist.

As to Drake, Nicholas and Gavin: may they rest in peace. 

Spectacular Video of Last Night's Wichita-Andover Tornado

This is among the most amazing tornado videos I have ever seen. 

Based on the damage I have seen, it will likely be rated at least EF-3 intensity. As far as we know, there were no deaths and no serious injuries -- in spite of destroying or damaging more than 100 homes and other buildings. At the badly hit Andover YMCA, the staff got everyone to shelter after hearing the warning. 

This was another case of weather science saving lives through timely, accurate forecasts and warnings. 

Friday, April 29, 2022

Unfortunately, The Forecast Was Correct

I took this photo just after 8pm. The tornado touched down ~100 yards in front of us and crossed K-15. The tornado is east of the road in the photo above. Our exact location is below. [Addition, NWS rated it EF-1.]
This tornado damaged or destroyed two homes northwest of Herington. 

If you've ever wanted to know what it looks like when a tornado first touches down, it is seen below (taken through my windshield). It is about 100 yards in front of us. There is no visible funnel! That came 2-3 minutes later. In the background is the thunderstorm that produced the Andover Tornado.

There was a far worse tornado which struck far southeast Wichita (50-100 structures hit, per our mayor) and then hit Andover. You'll recall Andover was struck by an F-5 tornado on April 26, 1991.
The supercell thunderstorm that caused the Andover Tornado
as seen from Durham, Kansas. 

Here is the approximate path of the 2022 Wichita-Andover Tornado. The circles are rotation centers every four minutes.

Below is video from Donna and Jeff Taylor. Looking toward Andover from 127th and Pawnee, which is far southeast Wichita. 
I'll have more on the storms tomorrow. Goodnight. 

© 2022 Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC

Tornado Watch: Kansas and Nebraska

A second tornado watch has been issued for Kansas and Nebraska until 11pm CDT.

While there is a chance of tornadoes throughout the watch area, I am especially concerned in areas north of U.S. 54. 

In addition, 3" hail stones are forecasted to fall with the stronger thunderstorms. 

Safety rules suggestions are below, scroll down.

Note: this will likely be the end of my blog coverage today. I hope to get out and observe the storms. However, I will continue to post on Twitter @usweatherexpert.

Tornado Watch: Nebraska and Kansas

This tornado watch is in effect from now until 9pm. Large hail, damaging thunderstorm wind gusts above 70 mph and tornadoes -- with strong tornadoes possible -- are likely. 
See posting below for safety recommendations. 

There will likely be another tornado watch issued for eastern Kansas within the hour. 

This Afternoon and Tonight's Tornado and Damaging Wind Risk

After 2 hours of analysis, here is my forecast on the tornado and severe thunderstorm risk starting at 3pm today and continuing until 3am Saturday morning. Giant hail (> 2") is likely with any thunderstorm in the extreme or high risk areas. Let's break it down:
  • Extreme Risk Area: Keeping in mind that this a relative risk scale of tornado damage or injury, I have used the rare extreme category because of the risk of strong tornadoes and the risk any thunderstorm in this area could be accompanied by 90mph straight-line winds. Power failures and tree damage are likely.
  • High Risk Area: Any supercell thunderstorm in this area is a candidate to produce a tornado, perhaps a strong tornado. The thunderstorms could also produce 70 mph winds. 
  • Enhanced Risk Area: If strong thunderstorms develop south of I-40, they are candidates to produce a tornado or two. In northern Kansas to the west of U.S. 81, an isolated tornado or two is possible. 
Noon Addition

While my forecasts are independent of theirs (but we both use the same data), the NWS's Storm Prediction Center has come to almost the same conclusions as I in their 11:30am forecast.
This situation is potentially similar to that of May 8, 2003. It is potentially the worst tornado threat in the eastern half of Kansas since 2012. 

Critical Safety Information:

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)
These are available from your smartphone. While they sometimes suffer from reliability issues (thus the reason for use of multiple sources), they have the advantage of being able to awaken you during the night if you place your smartphone next to your bed. 

If you haven't already activated WEA, here's how to do it for an iPhone. 

1. Go to "Settings" and Scroll Down to Notifications.

2. After tapping "Notifications" scroll all the way down to "Emergency Alerts." Turn them On. 
Other Warning Sources Beyond WEA
  • Weather apps. Make sure you have "location" turned on. The AccuWeather app (scroll down to bottom of page) is a good one. 
  • Weather radios, sample here
  • Television, when on a channel with a professional meteorologist, provides excellent extended coverage. 
  • While sirens are not designed to provide indoor warnings, there's nothing wrong with cracking your window so you can listen for them. 

When You Under a Tornado Watch
  • Make sure friends or relatives who are infirm or handicapped know there is a risk of tornadoes. 
  • If they would have difficulty getting to shelter during a tornado warning, go pick them up and bring them to your home. 
  • Remember: Your basement under heavy furniture (pool table, if you have one) or the lowest floor of your home in a closet or bathroom in the middle part of your home. Put on a helmet if you have one. 
  • Make sure your shelter has footwear (or plan to wear footwear), a couple of bottles of water, diapers (if needed), flashlight and a radio/television/smartphone = a way to obtain weather info while you are sheltering. Clear out cobwebs, etc., before storms arrive.
  • Charge your smartphone and laptop when the watch is issued but take out the charger cord when thunderstorms approach (a power surge may damage your equipment). 
  • If you go to bed during a tornado watch, take your smartphone (with WEA turned on) and put it on your nightstand. 
Tornado Warning
  • Shelter when a tornado warning is issued. Do not go outdoors to try to see the tornado, especially since some tornadoes are invisible. 
  • If you feel uncomfortable during a thunderstorm, shelter whether there is an official tornado warning or not. 
  • Bring your smartphone with you. 
  • Wear shoes into shelter. 
I will have much more on Twitter this afternoon and evening @usweatherexpert. Please follow me.

Please also make sure friends and family, especially the infirm, are aware of this situation. 

48-Hour Rainfall Amounts

Yes, I am currently working on an updated tornado and severe thunderstorm forecast. In the meantime, here is a map of 24-hour rainfall amounts ending at 8am across the winter wheat belt.

And, here are the 48-hour amounts. 

And, the forecast rainfall amounts for the next five days.
The rains are extremely beneficial for the wheat but are delaying corn planting. 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Tornado Forecast Friday Afternoon to Pre-Dawn Saturday

Here is my forecast of the tornado risk in the central Great Plains from 4pm Friday until 3 o'clock Saturday morning. 

This is the first time I have used an "extreme risk" on my 4-category scale (I'm not using the lowest category of "significant" because of the nature of this event). This one of those events where, if the cap (a layer of warm air about 10,000 feet above the ground) holds, nothing will happen in the two higher categories. But, if it breaks, violent tornadoes become likely, especially in the extreme area. Let's break it down:
  • Extreme Risk = Violent tornadoes possible; some occurring after dark. It is possible this area will be modified depending on where the warm front is going to end up. 
  • High Risk = Strong tornadoes possible; some occurring after dark. 
  • Enhanced Risk = A few tornadoes; north of I-70 the tornadoes will likely end before ~8pm. 
Throughout the high and extreme risk areas, giant hail is likely. 

If you live in these areas, please make sure your shelter is ready to go! 

I'll have more tomorrow morning. 

Desperately Needed Rain in the High Plains

Far more is needed in the region but this is helpful.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

31st Anniversary of the Wichita-Andover F-5 Tornado

Duke Evans
By request, here are links to my two-part coverage of that tremendous tornado:

Here Come More Shortages

You may have seem my tweets pertaining to the horrific lockdown in Shanghai and how it will deal another blow to the U.S. supply chain. There is a more detailed article here. I believe the situation is why the stock market has been suffering so much the past week. 

The volatile situation in China is one of the reasons I have recommended keeping extra supplies of essentials. 

Changing the subject, now that Twitter has freed by Elon Musk, how about following me @usweatherexpert?

Monday, April 25, 2022

Forecast Rainfall Through 7am Saturday

The winter wheat belt is forecasted to miss most of the rain this week. 

Below is last week's rainfall (ending 7am this morning).
While the rain in the High Plains was appreciated, it was little more than enough to settle the dust in most areas. The rain in northwest Texas and southern Oklahoma was needed and enough to lessen the drought. Meanwhile, it continues to be too cool and wet for corn planning in many areas. 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

72-Hour Rainfall Ending at 8am

Here is the 3-day rainfall across the winter wheat belt. 

Sunday Fun: Whale Hail!!

The 50th anniversary of one of the greatest TV news reports in history. Too bad the television stories are no longer long enough for this type of in-depth reporting. 

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Today's Tornado Risk

The brown areas have a significant tornado risk this afternoon and tonight.

If you are in the brown areas, please keep up on the weather today and tonight. 

7-Day Rainfall in the Winter Wheat Belt

Rainfall to 7am today. Most all of this rain has fallen the last 72-hours. 

Another Doom Forecast From Big Climate Falls on Its Face

"The end of the Maldives...could come sooner if drinking water supplies dry up by 1992, as predicted."

We covered the announcement of all of the new hotels and the four airports on the 'doomed' Maldives. I didn't realize the airports were completed.

On the 9th, a climate scientist asked on Twitter, "What can I do?' She believes global warming will be a catastrophe. [I believe it is a significant problem.] I replied, "Tell the truth!" Stop trying to make forecasts of things we cannot possible forecast with accuracy. Every time Big Climate (of which she is part) tries to do this, it kills the credibility of the science. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Today's Tornado Risk

The brown areas have a significant risk of tornadoes.

The bigger threat late this afternoon and tonight is damaging thunderstorm winds accompanied by large hail.
Please keep up on the latest weather information in these areas!

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Blizzard Warning: Northern High Plains

Yet another blizzard is forecasted to occur in the northern High Plains from late Friday into Saturday. It is likely I-94 will be closed again. 

Color code:
  • Orange = blizzard warning.
  • Purple = winter weather advisories 
  • Deep green = winter storm watch
  • Green = flood advisories 
  • Maroon = fire danger warning
  • Browns = high wind watches and warnings
Please factor this information into your plans. 

Extraordinary Wildfire Risk Friday

Don't smoke outdoors, don't drag chains, don't do anything that risks starting a fire!

Tornado Watch for Kansas

Tornado watch with "a few" tornadoes and hail up to 3 inches in diameter. 

Iowa Flood Risk

More than ten inches of rain is forecasted to fall in Iowa over the next five days, with much of it coming tonight through Sunday night. It is important to consider what you would do if flooding threatened your home. And, always, the #1 thing to avoid in floods is this: Never try to cross a flooded area by foot or by car. 

Today's Tornado Risk

The brown area has a significant risk of tornadoes if any strong thunderstorms develop. And, if strong thunderstorms develop in the brown or green areas, hail ≥ 2" is likely.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Tornado Risks Today and Thursday

There is a significant risk (brown) of tornadoes over eastern Oklahoma later this afternoon and evening. 

Thursday, there is a significant risk of tornadoes in central Kansas and far northern Oklahoma. 
Within the tornado risk area is the likelihood of giant hail ( ≥ 2 inches).

If you live in these areas, I urge you to keep up on local weather information. 

Some Reminders About Flood Forecasts

With heavy rain in the forecast, please keep these definitions in mind.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

With the Supreme Court Considering the Fate of Roe vs Wade... is nice to know the White House is in favor of striking it down!

What To Do When Tornadoes Threaten?

Wichita's Meteorologist Lisa Teachman
With the festering issues in the tornado warning program, I had a Twitter follower ask a few minutes ago ask the question, "If we can't trust the tornado warnings, what do we do?"

I'm not saying you can't trust the tornado warnings: Most NWS's output is reasonably good. However, the quality of tornado warnings is clearly inferior to a dozen years ago. So, here's what I recommend:
  • Get off the trash apps and trash Twitter accounts. If a Twitter account is not associated with a meteorologist you can verify online, unfollow it!!
  • Television is your friend: When a tornado watch is issued or when a severe thunderstorm warning is in effect, get off the internet and turn on TV.  For example, in Wichita (my home TV market) both Lisa Teachman (KSNW-TV) and Jay Prater (KAKE-TV) are both willing to "tell it like it is" when tornadoes threaten. In Kansas City, Bryan Busby will, too. Unfortunately, I haven't recently watched enough severe weather coverage in other markets to comment. Most TV stations in the Plains, Midwest and South verify the meteorologists they hire along with their qualifications. 
Yes, I know that television is out of favor with young people but it is more essential than ever in times of dangerous weather. 

James Spann on the Increasing Issues With the National Weather Service's Tornado Warning System

James Spann, one of the meteorologists I most admire, has written an outstanding piece on the crisis in the tornado warning system. The entire essay is here. I encourage you to read it in its entirety.

Some excerpts:

I write this to point out a systemic issue that is growing, and is creating significant deterioration of the current NWS Watch/Warning system. Which in turn, will put lives in danger as people lose faith in weather warnings.

I can only hope this debacle sheds light on the increasing issue of the number of high false alarms, constant hyperbole, and fear mongering prior to and during severe weather events. The public is being desensitized, and tornado warnings are losing their meaning. 

Some NWS offices choose the “carpet bombing” method during severe weather threats, leading to False Alarm Ratio (FAR) values over 80 in some cases. Warning after warning after warning with no verification is simply crying wolf, and it has to stop. 

We can’t catch every EF-0 tornado that is down for two minutes. It is simply impossible. We have to realize there are things we just can’t do, and things we just don’t understand. Humility is missing in our science.

In addition to reducing the number of false alarms, I also believe we have to take a look at the tornado warning system. Do we simply need to do away with tornado emergencies since some people seemingly have stopped paying attention to “regular” tornado warnings? This is a question for social scientists, but we need answers.

In my opinion we are a fork in the road. No, we can’t control the social media hypesters and rogue chasers with no training, but those of us in the professional weather enterprise can control OUR products and services. We must keep the warning system from going down the tubes...

I agree with every word James has written. I wrote on this same topic Saturday evening. If you missed my piece, it is here

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Happy Easter Everyone!!

It is the most important day of the Christian calendar: the day Jesus saved us by overcoming death. 

Hope it is a holy and joyous day for you and your family!

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Investigative Report: Was the National Weather Service Bamboozled Into Issuing False "Tornado Emergency" Warnings Friday Evening?

Investigative Report
© 2022 Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC

As of Saturday evening, there are numerous accusations the National Weather Service (NWS) was hacked, tricked or trolled into issuing false tornado warnings for northern Arkansas Friday evening. It may have been a deliberate effort to induce false warnings. 
I, and some of the most prominent meteorologists in the United States, believe this is an extremely serious situation as the credibility of the NWS's vital storm warning system is at stake. A formal, independent investigation is needed. In addition, some meteorologists have come to believe that Tornado Emergency and similar products should be retired. 

Normally, because of Easter tomorrow, I would wait until Monday to publish this report. However, because of the issue of debris and damage, it is important to do any investigating as quickly as possible after the storm. 

The Background

Within the National Weather Service's now ultra-complicated tornado and storm warning hierarchy of products, the very highest and most urgent is the "tornado emergency." 
"Tornado Emergency" warning for northern Arkansas Friday
These are supposed to be very rare --  less than 1% of tornado warnings -- issued only when there is "high confidence" that a violent (EF-4 or 5) tornado is going to attack an area. Last night's warning called for literally "complete destruction."
Note the "weather spotters confirmed tornado." That is key and we will return to this point.

Friday evening, the NWS issued a tornado emergency (TE) for northern Arkansas, even though the radar did not display the evidence one would expect to see if a major tornado is present. Without going through a frame-by-frame review of the radar (which I have done), the velocity data just before the TE was issued was simply not what a meteorologist would expect to see if there was a major tornado present.
7:43pm Friday. Little Rock Doppler radar wind velocity data.
Average rotational wind: 54 mph
Yellow and tans are winds away from the radar, greens toward the radar.

For comparison, here is the Doppler wind signature from the Salado, Texas, EF-3 tornado from Tuesday evening (April 12).
Average wind speed is 102 mph, roughly double the observed wind speed in Arkansas. And, this is far from the most impressive major tornado wind signature I have seen.

The other missing evidence is a lowered correlation coefficient (CC) in the dual-polarization data. Lowering CC's are nearly perfect evidence of lofted debris. There was none at any time yesterday evening. 

In spite of the lackluster radar presentation, the Little Rock NWS office (LIT) issued the Tornado Emergency based on spotter reports. This report was one minute before the TE and, evidently, was the inducement for the Tornado Emergency.
It appears this report...and others from yesterday evening...were false.  

With all of the "spotter reports," one would expect to find a trail of damage. But there was so little damage that the TV stations in the area don't even feature storm damage at the top of their home pages (screen captures 5:15pm Saturday).

Amazingly, after three continuous hours of tornado emergencies and tornado warnings, there were no tornadoes!

Evidence of a Hack or Deliberate False Reports

During and after the series of tornado warnings last night, weather Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree with accusations the NWS had been fooled. 
Peter's tweeted review is here

Here's another:
There are many others.

In addition, there were false photos published in the false 'correct' places and the 'correct' times. The photo below was one of them. In reality, it was taken during the December 10 tornado outbreak yet some named "Saul" lightened it (tornado at right center) and labeled it as being from northern Arkansas as the storms were in progress. These likely increased the pressure on the Little Rock office to issue high-end warnings.

Three Related Issues That Jeopardize the NWS's Tornado Warning System
Matthew is right on the money. There are actually three serious issues here:

The Hack
How did this person or these persons "hack" the NWS so effectively, complete with false geocodes? There is the real possibility that this was a crime (wire fraud, for example). Guessing at a motivation? Perhaps to see if they could get an "emergency" warning issued. If so, they succeeded. And, they will have likely caused the people of northern Arkansas to be less likely to take shelter the next time a tornado warning (of any kind) is issued. The result could be unneccessary deaths or injuries. 

As Aaron correctly states, there needs to be an investigation. Unfortunately, there is no organization to do so. If there were false air traffic control instructions issued, the National Transportation Safety Board would immediately spring into action. But, since the United States does not have anything like a National Disaster Review Board, there is no organization with the task and expertise to do so. We desperately need to create and empower a NDRB immediately. 

Why Were These Warnings Issued and Continued?
The radar image below, from the Memphis radar shows no rotation at all yet their tornado warning continued in effect.
Memphis radar with reflectivity data on left and Doppler winds on the right as of 9:36pm
Why didn't the radar operator/warning meteorologist in Little Rock and then Memphis (the storm crossed the Mississippi River into Tennessee) eventually figure out they were being had?

This is likely related to whatever issues(s) are causing NWS tornado warnings to be less accurate

Inadequate training? Inexperienced people? The tornado warning system being made too complex? I don't know why tornado warnings have become less accurate but we need to figure it out and fix it -- fast!

The Tornado and Storm Warning System Is Now Far Too Complex

This is something I have written about on many occasions (see here and here for two examples). All tornadoes are emergencies! We do not need, 
  • Tornado Warning
  • Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Warning
  • Tornado Emergency
This complexity causes confusion, is ripe for error (as in last night) and our science does not have the skill to do this consistently well.

Evidently, I am not the only one with this opinion.
Nate is the chief meteorologist for all of the NBC owned and operated television stations and Harold is a senior researcher at the National Severe Storms Laboratory. Unfortunately, I have little confidence anything will be done absent outside pressure on the weather service. 

To summarize the points in this report:
  • This and other instances of hacking and attempted hacks of the National Weather Service needs to be fully investigated as soon as possible. The NWS should not investigate itself.
  • It is urgent that the issues within the NWS tornado warning programing be determined and fixed as quickly as possible. Again, the NWS should not investigate itself.
  • The NWS should repeal all of the new types of tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings that it started in August 2021.