Are We Getting the Full Story About the Latest Baby Formula Outage?

Did an inch and a quarter of rain really cause this?
When I saw this and other headlines about a flood and wind damage, I recalled Monday's derecho. While winds of 50 to perhaps 70 mph occurred in the area, I didn't recall any unusual rains. So, I did a little investigation.

The derecho at 8:26pm EDT

Below is an image from the South Bend National Weather Service (NWS) radar. It estimates rainfall with each scan. Its estimate was about 1.2 inches after the storm had moved out of the area.

The NWS and University of Oklahoma developed a system that combines radar, rain gauges and data to create a more sophisticated rainfall amount estimate. 
It displays an amount between 1.0 and 1.5 inches, which is consistent with the South Bend radar's estimate. 

So, this may not be the full story:

'Severe thunderstorms and heavy rains came through southwestern Michigan on Monday evening, resulting in high winds, hail, power outages and flood damage throughout the area,' Abbott said in the statement. 'These torrential storms produced significant rainfall in a short period of time -- overwhelming the city's stormwater system in Sturgis, Mich., and resulting in flooding in parts of the city, including areas of our plant.'

Sturgis averages 38 inches of rain a year, so a storm that causes 1.2 inches of rain, by itself, is unlikely to backup the city's water system. What may be more likely is the plant suffered some wind damage which allowed rain to get in. 

Regardless of the precise reason for the latest outage, it is astounding that a plant which produces a quarter of the nation's baby formula is not better weatherized. Derechoes are hardly rare in southwest Michigan. 

Weather is often used as an all-purpose excuse by America's business community. Examples are here, here, and here. But it isn't 1922, its 2022. Weather science is able to mitigate the risks of extreme weather in amazing ways. Every business of any size should take advantage of weather science's capabilities. 


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