Saturday, May 26, 2018

Update On Alberto: Flood Risk Rising In Southeast

Subtropical Storm Alberto looks like a disorganized
mess of thunderstorms in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Still, it is threatening to cause a lot of flooding
in the southeastern United States in the coming days. 
Subtropical Storm Alberto continues to splatter around the Gulf of Mexico.

It's disorganized and struggling against strong upper level winds and dry air trying to intrude on the system, but it still poses quite a danger to the eastern Gulf Coast.

Flooding is the main worry from this storm as it nears the Gulf Coast around Alabama or the Florida panhandle around Monday.

Alberto is being called a subtropical storm because it has characteristics of both a tropical storm and a regular old storm system. It looks like Alberto will transition to a fully tropical storm over the next couple of days.

But these semantics don't really matter in terms of the impacts from this storm. The storm's winds will probably increase from the current 40 mph sustained to perhaps near 65 mph as it approaches the coast Monday.

However, the wind isn't the big worry here. As noted, flooding is going to be a big factor. Six to 12 inches of rain, with locally more, will come down with Alberto, making the flooding inevitable.

What makes this worse is that as Alberto approaches and then crosses the coast, it will slow down, and linger for a few days. (A high pressure system that is causing a record heat wave in parts of teh Plains and Midwest is slowing Alberto's forward progress.) That prolongs the rainfall, causing precipitation totals to rise and increase the risk of flooding.

The remnants of Alberto will likely cause local flooding in many areas of the East through next week as it slowly lifts toward the north and east, possibly reaching New England by the end of next week.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Do You Still Like Winter? You Should Have Been In Newfoundland This Week

A lovely view of Gander, Newfoundland on Thursday.
Summery weather has engulfed most of the United States. Even in New England, it's going to be in the 80s today, and relatively mild all through the holiday weekend.

There are still probably a (very) few of you out there who miss winter, I know.

The Killington Ski Resort is finally closing down for the season Saturday so hitting the slopes is soon out of the question.

But winter manages to hang on in a few spots, and if you were up in northern New Brunswick and especially Newfoundland, you had a nice blast of winter this week.

Ground zero was Gander, Newfoundland. Now, that city is not known for its tropical beaches and balmy sunshine. Still, what they got this week was quite a blow.  Check out the video at the bottom of this post.

Springtime on an outdoor deck this past week in Gander, Newfoundland.
Thirteen inches of snow fell on Gander on Thursday, which is a lot, even for them. This was the city's second largest snowstorm on record for May, and the biggest for so late in the season. It was also the biggest snowstorm in Gander this, um, winter.

Normally this time of year, high tempertures in Gander in the mid to upper 50s with lows in the upper 30s. Not balmy, but not frigid either.

Instead of buying outdoor grills and deck chairs, people in Gander scrambled for snow tires and snow shovels, which of course aren't in stock this time of year.

Schools shut down because of the snow, and businesses opened late because of snow-clogged streets.

Northern New Brunswick, really not that far from Maine, got snow, too. In New Brunswick, trees were already starting to leaf out when the snow hit. Bathhurst, New Brunswick picked up 2.5 inches of new snow.

The forecast for Gander and the rest of Newfoundland and environs still isn't great. Environment Canada says high temperatures in Gander today are forecast to be only around 40 and in the upper 30s on Saturday. More light snow might come down tonight. Ouch!

It's been a nasty weather pattern in far eastern Canada lately anyway. Record low temperatures occurred in parts of northern Quebec and western Labrador last week.

Meanwhile, in Vermont, there's still skiing at Killington Resort, although
they'll close down for the season on Saturday. 
This weather pattern has contributed to some really nice May weather in Vermont and the rest of northern New England.

The dip in the jet stream that has caused the ugly spring weather up in northeastern Canada has suppressed persistent clouds and rain to the south over the Mid-Atlantic states.  

Vermont is also too far south to get the brunt of the cold air from Canada, so temperatures have been either close to normal, or warmer than normal under the frequent May sunshine.

The temperature in May so far is averaging about five degrees warmer than normal in Burlington so far this month. Caribou, Maine, closer to the cold Canadian air, is only running less than a degree above normal this month.

Back up in Gander, there is still a bit of hope for spring. Temperatures should rise to near normal up there toward the middle of next week.

Here's a video of Gander on May 24. Looks like a nasty January day in Vermont, but nope, May 24:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Time For A Deeper Dive Into Two Tropical Storm Threats

This map from the Weather Channel depicts insane amunts of rain
from Cyclone Mekunu in Oman and Yemen. In an area that gets
normally gets roughly five inches of year, up to a foot and a half
could come down in just a couple days. 
There are two odd threats looming in the tropical storm department:

A powerful storm is threatening to bring disaster upon Oman and Yemen this week, and a messy tropical system threatens flooding in the southeastern United States early next week.

Let's go overseas first, where the bigger of the two problems is looming.

CYCLONE MEKUNU

As of last night, Cyclone Mekunu was a borderline Category 1/Category 2 hurricane. (They're called cyclones where this one is, but a hurricane and a cyclone are the same thing.) Sustained winds are in the dangerous 90 to 95 mph range.

Mekong could easily end up becoming the strongest tropical cyclone on record to hit the Arabian Peninsula when it makes landfall near the Yemen-Oman border, says the India Meteorological Department.

According to Bob Henson in the Category 6 weather blog, Mekunu is worrying for two principal reasons: It's going to hit land at a nearly perpendicular angle, which would increase the winds, waves and storm surge in Oman.

It's also likely hitting near a populated area: The city of Salalah, Oman, population about 340,000, can expect a nasty storm surge and major flood.

The normally arid area where Mekunu is expected to hit will probably get eight to 16 inches of rain, with more in the nearby mountains. This in an area that normally gets just roughly five inches of rain per year. You can imagine, then, how destructive the floods will be with a storm that brings two year's worth of rain in a day or two.

This will be a major, deadly disaster, folks.

WANNABE TROPICAL STORM ALBERTO

A big area of the Southeast can expect flooding rains from a
tropical system to form in the Gulf of Mexico in the coming days
Areas in red and oranage at this point look to be at most risk.
It looks almost certain now that some sort of tropical system will affect the eastern or central Gulf Coast of the United States in the coming days.

What exactly that will be is still open to question, but dangerous flooding is becoming an increasing risk.

That weather disturbance that was near Belize the other day has moved north to near the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and will emerge into the Gulf of Mexico in the next day or two.

Normally, this time of year, upper level winds are too strong in the Gulf of Mexico to support a tropical system.

These upper level winds rip apart thunderstorms that would form into a tropical storm, so they don't happen. Over the next few days, those upper level winds over the Gulf aren't all that strong, so this thing has the potential to develop.

It'll probably form into a tropical or subtropical depression in the coming days. (A subtropical system has characteristics of both a tropical storm and a regular old storm system.) There's a chance this storm could become strong enough to be declared a tropical storm, with sustained winds of 39 mph.

If it achieves tropical storm status, it will be named Alberto.

Whether or not this thing becomes a tropical storm, it will bring boatloads of moisture into the southeastern United States, so flooding is a real concern in that part of the country. It doesn't help that parts of the area that are in for a soaking from Wannabe Alberto are already quite wet from previous rains, so this could be a real troublemaker.

Wannabe Alberto will never become one of those nice pinwheel shaped tropical systems or hurricanes that you often see in satellite photos. It'll be a messy mass of clouds and downpours that will slowly invade the Southeast.

The Atlantic tropical storm season officially begins on June 1, so this might form before then. But tropical systems sometimes form before the "official" start of the hurricane season. Just because this is early doesn't necessarily mean the overall hurricane season will be especially nasty, like last year.

It's too soon to tell how bad the upcoming hurricane season will be, but here's one hopeful sign: Water temperatures in the area of the Atlantic where the most powerful hurricanes tend to form in August and September are cooler than average. If this state of affairs continues, that could cut down on hurricanes since these things need warm water to thrive. And the warmer the better, as far as hurricanes are concerned.

Then again, the National Hurricane Center today issued a forecast calling for a near normal to busier than normal hurricane season. We shall see!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Jump To Mid-Summer: Summer Heat, Tropical Trouble, Sluggish Thunderstorms

A pleasant, summery, humid morning today on the golf course behind my
mother-in-law's house in Yankton, South Dakota. Summer heat
has arrived early in this neck of the woods. 
The nation's weather has taken a total jump from spring to what we would expect in mid-summer. And it's not even Memorial Day yet.

Parts of the nation - even some northern areas - are or are about to endure days of near 90 degree heat.

There's a messy tropical system that might affect the Gulf Coast states - the kind that usually waits at least until July to develop.

And there are thunderstorms around. As I mentioned yesterday, the type of thunderstorms that seem to be scattered around the nation are typical of mid-summer: A few severe ones pop up, but they're not parts of big massive storm systems.

These thunderstorms are sluggish, part of weak weather systems, and have the potential to unleash heavy rains and local flash flooding.

Like I said, typical July in the United States.

Oh sure, there are cool pockets. There's a frost advisory tonight in northeastern Maine, for example. In Vermont, there will be probably be one hot day on Friday when temperatures will get into the 80s, but otherwise temperatures will generally be in the seasonable low 70s over the next several days.

At my temporary spring headquarters in Yankton, South Dakota, it's humid, like July. Starting today and going through next Monday, daily high temperatures will approach or exceed 90 degrees.  (Normal high temperatures this time of year in Yankton are in the low to mid 70s.)

Some of the northern and central Plains States - mostly the Dakotas, parts of Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, could have record highs over the next few days.

This same area was ground zero for the intense cold that afflicted much of the nation in April. This area had the coldest April on record, now it's suddenly full-blown summer in May in the northern Plains.

Then there's that tropical trouble.  There's a weather disturbance near Belize that could turn into a very early season tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico later in the week or toward the weekend. Whether or not it actually develops is open to question, but regardless, it threatens flooding rains for parts of the Deep South this weekend.

The early arrival of summer doesn't mean it's going to stick around. Who knows? June could be cool, for all we know. It's really impossible to tell at this point if the United States summer will be unusually hot or not.

However, over the course of the next week or two, the general consensus is almost all of the nation will be warmer than normal. 

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Late May Often Terrible, Dangerous Time For Tornadoe. Not This Year

A deadly EF-5 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, May, 20, 2013. This was
the most recent  EF-5 tornado recorded in the United States.
As I do every year for about a week to 10 days, I've moved myself and this here blog thingy out to the lovely little city of Yankton, South Dakota. The main reason to do this is to visit my outlaws, er, I mean inlaws.

Southeastern South Dakota is also a decent vantage point this time of year to observe spring thunderstorms. And they're often severe. And there's sometimes tornadoes here and there.

That might be the case this year, but I'm not counting on it. Which is a good thing. Tornadoes are dangerous, after all, and like I said, Yankton is lovely, and I'd hate to see any damage here.

As I think I've mentioned before, this remains a slow severe weather season, with a definite dearth of tornadoes, notwithstanding the nine tornadoes that struck the Northeast last week,

Often, during the final 10 days of May, there are very, very often dozens of tornadoes spinning out of the supercells and storm complexes that typically cross the nation this time of year. There were pockets of severe storms yesterday, but nothing spectacular.

Devastation from an EF-5 tornado in Parkersburg, Iowa in 2008
One weak tornado was reported Monday in Colorado, and it caused no damage. Some places had strong winds and hail, particularly in Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio and North Carolina.

Today and tonight, there will be new pockets of severe storms, especially in and near eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. Also, there might be some, especially tonight, in parts of the northern and central Plains, including here in Yankton.

But the tornado threat is very low, and these patches of severe storms won't be nearly as extensive as they often are this time of year. The rest of the week also looks quiet.

This is a huge contrast to many late Mays. The devastating Moore, Oklahoma EF-5 tornado, for instance, came on May 20, 2013. And thirteen days later, an immense 2.6 mile wide tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma killed storm chasers trapped in its path.

On May 29-31, 2004, a total of 170 tornadoes killed five people and injured 150 people in 16 states.

On May 23, 2008, 80 tornadoes touched down in just Kansas alone, and two days later a huge EF-5 tornado wiped out much of the city of Parkersburg, Iowa. 

Stunned survivors after the EF-5 tornado in Joplin, Missouri, May 22, 2011.
On May 31, 1985  30 tornadoes touched down, mostly in Ohio and Pennsylvania. This included an EF-5 tornado, the strongest you can get, that pretty much wiped out Wheatland, Pennsylvania. (the Moore tornado was EF-5, too.)

We also can't forget the EF-5 tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011, that killed 161 people.

Notice I'm mentioning all these EF-5 tornadoes that often come this time of year. These are the ones that make most of the tornado news every spring or summer. They're rare. The United States has had only 59 of them since 1950. But EF-5's cause the most damage and are the most deadly. These are the worst tornadoes you can get, with winds of over 200 mph.

There's a couple videos of EF-5 tornadoes at the bottom of this post to give you an idea of how scary they are.

The nation, mercifully is now in one of the longest streaks in history in which no EF-5 tornadoes touched down The last EF-5 tornado the nation endured was that Moore twister in 2013. That's five years without such a tornado. That's the second longest period of time we've gone through without such a strong tornado since 1950. (There were no EF-5 tornadoes in the eight year span between May 3, 1999 and May 4, 2007.)

Regular tornadoes are also in relatively short supply this spring. So far this May,  there have been 52 confirmed tornadoes in the United States. During the entire month of May, there's typically more than 200 tornadoes in the U.S.

Greensburg, Kansas was destroyed by an EF-5 tornado in 2007
So why has this May been so benign in terms of tornadoes and other severe weather?

And why has each year since 2012 been relatively calm in the tornado department? Unlike many climate trends, I don't think we can clearly pin climate change on this fortunate turn of events.

It's probably just dumb luck. This year, the first part of spring was dominated by blasts of Arctic air that suppressed the warm, humid air needed for tornadoes well to the south. So there was not much severe weather back in April.

In late April and early May, the weather pattern shifted dramatically and abruptly toward a summer pattern. The jet stream, which energizes storm systems, usually comes across the middle of the country this time of year, helping spawn severe weather outbreaks.

This year, the jet stream shifted far north, mostly over southern Canada or the extreme northern United States where it usually resides over the summer.  That means there's not as much energy to produce big storm systems.  Which means we just have relatively small weather disturbances that produce modest outbreaks of severe storms.

You can still get a lot of severe weather in June, and in the northern United States in July and August, so we're not out of the woods.

But in a time period over the past five years in which the United States has endured incredibly severe wildfires, deadly floods, severe winter storms and, last year, devastating hurricanes, the general lack of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms is a gift.

Here's a video of the Moore, Oklahoma tornado on May 20, 2013 as it rapidly intensified from something small to an EF-5 monster:



Famous surveillance video of the EF-5 tornado blowing away a house in Parkersburg, Iowa
back in 2008:



Storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski and his companion go from excitement to terror to horror as they watch an EF-5 tornado destroy much of Joplin, Missouri.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Like Somalia Needed This: Tropical Storm Causes Death, Destruction

Tropical Storm Sagar hit near Djibouti, on the far western end of
the Gulf of Aden. 
A terrible tropical storm struck Somalia over the weekend, killing at least 16 people and causing widespread destruction.  

Tropical Storm Sagar was reported the strongest tropical storm on record in Somalia. It packed 60 mph winds and heavy rain.

Here in the United States and other developed countries, a storm with 60 mph winds and downpours would cause relatively light damage. Plus, we're used to storms of that caliber.

But poverty-ridden, dry Somalia does not normally get anything near anything like Sagar. This storm made landfall further west than any tropical storm in 52 years or record keeping on the northern Indian Ocean basin, according to the Category 6 blog. 

Tropical Storm Sagar caused flooding in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Photo by Feisal Omar/Reuters 
The storm was able to travel westward threading the needle between Yemen and Somalia in the Gulf of Aden before moving inland over flat, arid areas of far western Somalia.

What's worse, unusual rains hit Somalia in April - causing a lot of damage to agriculture and infrastructure. The April rains also primed the pump for even worse flooding.

Somalia remains an unstable country, with the terrorist group al-Shabab continues to spread terror and misery across that nation. So a tropical cyclone didn't help a lot.

Meanwhile, forecasters say another dangerous tropical storm is threatening to develop and could hit in or near Oman later in the week. It could attain hurricane strength, and also could cause very destructive flash floods in Oman and eastern Yemen later in the week.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Hail And East Coast Storms Seem To Be The Trend This Spring. Videos

Not a snowstorm. This is a remarkable hail storm in
Parker, Colorado earlier this month. 
So far this spring, the traditional mega-tornadoes in the Middle and the South of the nation have been blessedly absent.

It's been a slower than average tornado season. Oklahoma, normally ground zero for tornado destruction has had only a few twisters, none of them particularly destructive.

It seems this spring, the trend has been both big huge hail storms and tornadoes in odd places, like the Northeast.

The confirmed tornado count from last Tuesday's outbreak in the Northeast is up to nine. On May 4, New Hampshire had its longest tracked tornado in its history.

Here in Vermont, no tornadoes so far this year, but we had our share of severe weather back on May 4 with a couple of supercells, and some remarkably destructive microbursts and downbursts in a few locations.

Following is a few videos of this spring's severe weather trends

 Imagine dealing with hail so deep you have to shovel the driveway on a sunny, warm spring day:



Here's one news report showing the hail, and the plows that were out because of how deep it was.



Here's another  news report in the aftermath of the Colorado hail:



Going back to last week, more footage is emerging from the unusually large severe weather outbreak in the Northeast last week. Here's a video of the challenges of driving through either a tornado or microburst in Southbury, Connecticut:



Beacon Falls, Connecticut got an EF-1 tornado. Not sure if this video was taken inside the tornado, or the supercell thunderstorm's microburst. Still dramatic though. And I know that type of deck furniture in the foreground. It's fairly heavy and shouldn't move around in the wind, but...