Archive for the ‘Severe Weather’ Category

Storm Shots
June 3, 2013

Water spout at San Luis Pass Sunday right before the rain hit.


Photo by: Elaine Penick

To see video of this water spout and other pictures click image.


Satellite Tornadoes
January 30, 2012


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The Shawshank Redemption Tree
August 2, 2011


Last Friday afternoon a thunderstorm moved through Mansfield, Ohio, at 2:30 p.m. producing straight-line winds.  It severely damaged the tree made famous by the film “The Shawshank Redemption.”  The tree is on private property but that never stopped people from visiting it and even proposing under its vast branches.  Half of those branches are now gone.  The owner of the property has not said if the tree will be removed due to the damage.     

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Allison Ten Years Later
June 6, 2011

About 73,000 homes were flooded with property damage at $5 billion.  Allison was the only tropical storm ever to have its name retired.  Sixty-five percent of the homes flooded during Allison were not in a mapped 100-year flood plain.  This is exactly why flood insurance is vitally important. 

Check out house A.  It’s in a 500-year flood plain and has .02 percent chance of flooding this year.  But if you own that home 30 years, it has a 6 percent chance of flooding. That’s not very high, but when you get a storm like Allison you find yourself with that “once in a 500-year flood event.”  If you are out of the 100-year flood plain, flood insurance is relatively inexpensive. 

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Why Are Tornadoes So Deadly This Year?
May 24, 2011

Why are there so many tornadoes this year? What is going on? A couple of things: The United States averages 1,000 tornadoes a year. We are on track to record the busiest tornado season ever recorded.  As of Monday we’ve had an estimated 1,151 tornadoes in 2011. Tornado season goes though June with the numbers dropping off dramatically after that month.


As you can see, most tornadoes are the “weaker” ones. A much smaller percentage of tornadoes are the deadly and destructive kind. What is different this year is the monster tornadoes are hitting highly populated cities. One tornado myth is tornadoes don’t hit big cities but this simply isn’t true. Minneapolis, St. Louis, Raleigh, Tuscaloosa and now Joplin were all hit by powerful tornadoes. Unless you are in an underground shelter, it’s tough to survive the EF4s and EF5s. We are nearing 500 deaths this tornado season and that is tremendously above average. Usually we have 60-70 deaths in the USA, but a big factor is where the tornadoes are hitting.

How prepared are you for a natural disaster? Our greatest threat is flooding and hurricanes. According to a national survey, only 7 percent of American household have a disaster plan or disaster kit. I was at a weather conference a few months back and the speaker shared what the problem is: We don’t think it’s going to happen to us.

Research found that the young and those with low incomes perceive less risk. The optimistic feel less risk. Optimism is a great trait to have, but when it comes to severe weather we have to realize “it CAN happen to us.” Many people in our society feel invincible and that bad things happen to the other guys. The biggest factor in not preparing for natural disasters is the length between events. If where you live recently got hit by a hurricane or tornado, you are more likely to be prepared because you now know it can happen. My question for you is: Are you prepared for our hurricane season? Do you have a family plan and do you have a disaster kit? The prepared usually fare much better than those who wait until the last minute.

Straight Line Wind Damage
May 13, 2011

      100 year old oak tree brought down Thursday.

The severe weather we saw on Thursday came from straight-line or microburst winds.  These winds are a result of air being rapidly accelerated down from the mid and upper parts of the thunderstorm to the ground.  The downflow can occur due to several factors: by air being pulled down by rain or hail, by the increases in air density as the air is cooled by rain and by the cooling produced with melting ice crystals.  These three factors, if strong enough, can create massively intense and sudden downward movements of air.  Most microbursts last only five to 15 minutes.   

An interesting note: These winds used to cause quiet a few plane crashes in the 60s and 70s.  For a pilot getting caught in a downburst wind, the plane would experience a sudden headwind followed by a strong tailwind a few moments later.  An inexperienced pilot would accelerate trying to slow the plane down, but the tailwind would come right after that causing the plane to lose the air flow across the wings (the critical principle to maintain flight.)  Consequently, the sudden loss of air moving across the wings would literally cause the aircraft to drop out of the air.   The best way for a pilot to stay in the air is to increase speed as soon as the abrupt drop in airspeed is noticed.  This will allow the aircraft to remain in the air when traveling through the tailwind portion of the microburst.  Forecasting of downburst winds is a lot better today than it was in the 70s.  Planes can completely avoid these type of storms.   

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Why So Many Tornado Deaths?
May 11, 2011


This is a theory presented by Accuweather meteorologist Mike Smith.  It took a while to wrap my mind around this idea, but it makes sense and should be a lesson to us in southeast Texas as hurricane season approaches.  First, Smith says it isn’t about the strength of the tornadoes.  Remember St. Louis, the week prior, had an EF-4 tornado going through a heavily populated area and an airport and no one died.  The tornado warnings with the St. Louis tornado and the outbreak April 27 were excellent.  In fact, on average, tornado warnings went out 24 minutes before the tornadoes hit.  What Smith presents is power failures stopped many people from getting these important tornado warnings.  Prior to the tornado outbreak, power went out for much of state because of morning storms west of Alabama.  The image below shows 260,000 people didn’t have power the entire day.  Without TV or radio, some people didn’t know what was coming their way.  This highlights the importance of having a NOAA weather radio or a battery-operated TV/radio.  A lot of us went through this same type of scenario with Hurricane Ike.  We lost power and it took days/weeks for us to get it back.  Have we learned our lesson?  I sure hope so.

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Latest on the Killer Tornado Outbreak
May 5, 2011

The average lead time is 18 minutes.

  • Warnings were in effect for more than 90 percent of the tornadoes.
  • To date, NOAA estimates the outbreak spawned 305 tornadoes, making this the largest tornado outbreak in history – surpassing the April 3-4, 1974, outbreak with 148 tornadoes. So far, the National Weather Service has surveyed damage from 178 tornadoes and determined that two topped the scale at EF-5, four were EF-4, and 21 were EF-3. Dozens more have been categorized as EF-2 or lower.
  • NOAA estimates there were more than 600 tornadoes during the month of April 2011, shattering previous records. The previous April tornado record was 267, set in 1974. The previous record number of tornadoes during any month was 542, set in May 2003. So far there have been an estimated 881 tornadoes in 2011. The annual tornado record is 1,817, set in 2004. May is historically the most active month for tornadoes.
  • With an estimated 327 deaths, this is the 3rd deadliest tornado outbreak on record, behind 1925 with 747 and 1932 with 332. So far, 2011 is the 13th deadliest year for tornadoes on record with 369. The deadliest year on record is 1925 with 794.

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Most Tornadoes in April
April 26, 2011

 This record was set in 1974.

This month alone tornadoes have killed 44 people, and we are mostly likely on the way to setting a new record for the amount of tornadoes in the month of April.  I say “most likely” because the 574 reported tornadoes are sightings, not confirmed tornadoes.  Oftentimes multiple sightings of the same tornado are reported.  It will take some time until all of the data is sorted through and the number of confirmed tornadoes is determined.  The 574 tornadoes will probably end up being quite a bit smaller, but still likely to be the record for the most active April on record. 

Typically, May and June are more active tornado months but that may not be the case this year.  With all of the energy being spent most likely we’ll see the tornado threat move farther north and east with the numbers going down.  Looking at history, an active April leads to quieter May and June.   

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New Hail Record
August 13, 2010


It was in Vivian, South Dakota, that Leslie “Les” Scott heard what sounded like “big bricks” being thrown at his house.  Little did Scott realize that one of those hailstones was the largest to ever fall in the United States, in terms of both diameter and weight.  The hailstone was 8 inches wide and weighed 1 pound, 15 ounces, just a little smaller than a soccer ball.  It was much larger when Scott put it in his freezer, but his home lost power for six hours and that caused some melting.  The smallest hailstone he found was the size of a tennis ball.  There was a lot of roof damage, but no one was hurt.   


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