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The first reports of damage, deaths and injuries are beginning to trickle in from today’s monster tornado that moved through Moore, Oklahoma. The staggering numbers and images are hard to comprehend.
Just like after Katrina, Joplin, and Tuscaloosa we’re reminded of nature’s power, fury, and cruel indifference. Throughout my life the weather has fascinated me. Whether it’s a Tornado, blizzard, or nor’easter for as long as I can remember I’ve found myself glued to a TV or window or standing outside in any kind of storm. It’s days like today that we’re reminded that nature’s incredible power can change lives and towns in an instant. Forecasts are better. Warnings are better. Sometimes no matter how good the warning or forecast or preparation or communication some storms are impossible to survive.
Moore, Oklahoma is no stranger to violent tornadoes. The F5 Bridge Creek-Moore tornado on May 3, 1999 was one of the most documented, photographed, and well forecast tornadoes in history. Parts of Moore were simply swept away. On May 20, 2013 history found a way of repeating itself.
The 1999 tornado was tracked live by local TV stations via helicopter much like this storm. The National Weather Service in Norman issued the first ever “Tornado Emergency” for Moore in 1999 just like they did today.
May 3, 1999 tornado emergency from the NWS in Norman, OK
When a tornado become violent (EF-4/EF-5) surviving a direct hit, even if you take proper precautions, becomes difficult. This is how the radar looked through the storm’s evolution from Newcastle to Southwest Oklahoma City to Moore.
On radar you can see the monstrously large debris ball that gets larger and larger as more homes are chewed up and lofted along the tornado’s path.
This tornado will undoubtedly join the list of historic U.S. tornadoes – a list that has been growing too quickly in the last few years.
What meteorologist doesn’t dream about being able to go storm chasing? This year I’ll have my chance! I’m heading out to the Plains on June 8th for a week of tornado hunting with my buddy Chris.
Tornado season typically peaks in May in Oklahoma and then migrates north and northwest into the northern plains and high plains. Climatology tells us that as the jet stream retreats north from May into June the best tornado threat does as well. Here’s a look at the tornado climatology for mid May and the second week of June. Notice how the core of best tornado odds shifts north.
At this point all we know is that we’ll be flying into Denver. Our target area will likely be somewhere in eastern Colorado, Kansas, northwestern Oklahoma or Nebraska. Hopefully we won’t have to travel much farther east into eastern Nebraska since I-80 is one of the most painful roads ever paved (161 miles in Pennsylvania to and from PSU is more than anyone should have to drive).
Ultimately, the short term forecast will dictate where exactly our target area is but this is a broad idea. Whether or not this has to be shifted north or south will be dependent on the weather.
On the days we will be out there June 8-13 I went back and looked at how much severe weather there has been the last few years.
June 8-13, 2012
- Nothing on June 8th
- Numerous severe hail reports on June 9th well north into South Dakota
- Isolated severe hail/wind northeastern Kansas on June 10th
- Numerous severe hail/wind reports north of DFW and in southern Oklahoma on June 11th
- Several tornadoes and large hail/wind reports eastern New Mexico and Texas Panhandle on June 12th
- Large hail/wind southern South Dakota
June 8-13, 2011
- Several severe hail/wind reports in northern Colorado and also southern Kansas on June 8th
- Tornado and many severe wind/hail in southern Kansas west of Wichita on June 9th
- Sporadic wind/hail central Oklahoma and southeast Kansas on June 10th
- Several tornadoes and severe hail/wind reports in the Oklahoma panhandle and southeast Kansas on the 11th
- Several tornadoes and severe hail/wind in the western Dakotas and eastern Wyoming
June 8-13, 2010
- Tornado near Denver and several tornadoes and wind/hail reports near Wichita, KS on the 8th
- A number of giant hail reports in southeast Wyoming near Cheyenne on the 9th
- Tornado outbreak in the high plains of Colorado on the 10th
- Tornadoes in the high plains of Colorado and also northwestern Kansas and southern Nebraska on the 11th
- Tornadoes in central Kansas and Texas panhandle on the 12th
- Several tornadoes in the Oklahoma panhandle on the 13th.
There was also a large tornado outbreak on June 11, 2008 in Kansas and Nebraska. Storm chases are a crap shoot – but with some luck we’ll be in business. A tornado would be great but even some monster supercells on the plains would be awesome too.
In March we learned the National Weather Service was investigating a possible state 24-hour snowfall record following the epic February 8-9, 2013 blizzard. The old record of 30.0″ was set in 1969 in Falls Village. With this large swath of 30″+ snowfall totals it seemed almost a lock that one official weather station would break the record (note: public reports and Skywarn spotter reports are not acceptable for records).
The State Climate Extremes Committee established to investigate this record has determined that the 36.0″ measured by the Ansonia cooperative observer Michael Witek was a record breaker. The snow was measured at Witek’s home where observations have been taken since the mid 80s. Official records have been kept in Ansonia since 1941 and began at the Quillinan Reservoir to be used by the Weather Bureau and the water company that was located at the reservoir.
Location in Ansonia where record-breaking snow was measured.
The remarkable snowstorm was one of the most significant in the last 100 years. In terms of impact only the 1978 storm and the October 2011 blackout storm are in the same ballpark.
The “official” state records are updated below. We’re still left with those bogus high temperature records (I don’t believe either is accurate) but it’s nice to see a recent and accurate record up there!
Ansonia was one of the towns to fall under the super-band of snow that delivered occasional lightning, thunder, and small hail during the storm’s peak. It was so intense snowfall rates approached 6″ per hour.
While Connecticut was hit hardest by the blizzard the extent of 24″+ of snow across southern New England and Long Island was impressive.
What makes this record so remarkable is that all of the snow that fell did so in a 24-hour period (many storms that drop so much snow are spread out over a longer period) and the fact this amount of snow fell near sea level in the Naugatuck Valley just miles from Long Island Sound and New Haven. Getting such an event near New Haven and not up on a hill top in an area that can receive an “assist” from an upslope component to the wind is impressive. The 36.0″ of snow had a water equivalent of 3.24″(!!!!!)… this snow was nearly 11:1 snow to liquid. This was not one of those lame fluff storms – this was an honest blizzard.
For those of you who are interested here are some interesting links about the Ansonia 24-hour snowfall record.
It’s been dry. The last time there was measurable rain in Windsor Locks at BDL was on April 20th. That’s 15 straight days of no measurable precipitation. While it’s nowhere near a record it’s without question a notable stretch of dry weather.
What is the record for longest dry streak for the Hartford area? It’s an incredible 33 days – from October 9th – November 10th, 1924. The record streak was recorded in downtown Hartford. In more recent years, since records have been kept at Bradley, in 1995 there was a streak of 24 dry days at BDL from August 7 to August 30. Remember the Long Island wildfires that year? 24 consecutive days is tied for the 4th longest stretch with many other streaks (there’s 6 of them). You can look at all the Hartford area records here.
For the year BDL is running a 4.30″ rainfall deficit compared to normal. We aren’t currently in a drought but if the weather pattern remains unusually dry we may get there. While droughts can be quite problematic for agricultural interests in Connecticut our public water supplies can handle severe and even extreme droughts. Check out this post from 2010 about our worst droughts in Connecticut.
Regardless there are signs of a pattern change. The large omega block that has brought us day after day of high pressure and sunshine is beginning to break down. There are several chances for showers over the next 7 days.