Monday, June 30, 2014

Colfax, Wisconsin Surveillance Camera Shows Even Weak Tornadoes Are Scary

A neighborhood in Colfax, Wisonsin, not far from
the gas station in the video, below.  
An EF1 tornado, with winds estimated at between 85 to 90 mph, hit the town of Colfax, Wisconsin a few days ago.

A surveillance camera at a gas station captured it as it tore through the parking lot.

I have no idea why the owner of the car in the foreground left his window open, but that was probably the least of his worries when the tornado came along.

And the driver of the pickup truck looked like he saw the tornado coming, said "Oh, shit," and turned around.

Good thing. He still probably got caught in the twister, but at least he minimized the chances a two by four would go through his windshield and embed itself in his forehead.

Luckily, no injuries were reported in this tornado.

The surveillance camera video makes you understand why it was indeed a lucky break nobody was hurt:

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Season Of The Flash Flood

Flash flooding  covers a road near
Jericho, Vermont on July 4, 2013.  
In much of the nation, we've entered the season of the flash flood.  

Yes, flash floods can and do occur any time of year in almost any part of the country. But summertime, especially from now on into September, is when you are at most risk of such floods.

Right now, there are flash floods, or the threat of such, going on in parts of the country. The area in and around Memphis, Tennessee is having big problems this Sunday morning as torrential thunderstorms fill underpasses and creeks with water.

In the Upper Midwest and northern Plains, soaked by repeated rounds of bad storms since May, more thunderstorms threaten renewed flash flooding over the next few days. 

True, it's the hottest, sunniest part of the year in many parts of the country, too. So things dry out fast. So how do you get floods?

Easy. Weather systems move more sluggishly than they do in the colder months. A collection of thunderstorms might move slowly over a particular area, or not move at all. The result is inches and inches of rain, and a flash flood.

We had that here in Vermont last summer, several times during June and the first part of July. It was a very wet early summer, and slow moving storms causing several destructive flash floods in different sections of the state.

The hot, often humid air of summer can hold a LOT of moisture. A thunderstorm or complex of storms can collect much of this wetness and dump it onto the land below, and there you go, another flash flood.  
Another motorists takes a chance with
a flash flood in Richmond, Vermont in June, 2013.  

In the southwestern United States, the heat causes the air pressure to fall. Gradually, that draws in moisture from the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico to places like Arizona and southern Nevada, and surrounding areas.

This moisture sets off thunderstorms. The desert landscape can't hold onto the water that pours from these storms, and yes, you get a flash flood.

Finally, later in summer, the tropics get active. A tropical storm or hurricane moving inland can drop huge amounts of rain and cause a flash flood. In fact, inland floods are arguably the biggest threat from tropical storms and hurricanes.

Where I am in Vermont, we're too familiar with this phenomenon, too. In August 2011, Hurricane Irene moved into New England. By the time it got into Vermont there wasn't much wind, but boy was there rain!  It turned into a chaotic flood, easily among the Top 5 natural disasters in the Green Mountain State's history.

These tropical storms, or more accurate, their remnants, can set off floods a long, long time after they've seemingly dissipated.

In 1995, Tropical Storm Dean hit Texas with little fanfare. An area of disturbed weather, the remnents of Dean, slowly crossed the center of the country, where if finally collided with a cold front over northern Vermont.

The result was a huge, destructive flash flood, especially in the Lamoille River basin.

Flash floods, as is obvious, come on fast. If you see water going over a road, or any kind of flood threat when you're out and about, remember that hoary but true National Weather Service admonition: Turn around, don't drown.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Friday Morning Satellite Yielded Beautiful Fog Image

Yesterday morning, visible satellite photos showed clear skies over the Northeast, with fingers of fog extending up the river valleys.

With the clear skies and the rains that hit in the previous days, the cool air in the valleys, the wet ground and the rivers combined to form the fog.

The satellite image made the Northeast look like a block of exquisite, veined black marble. Beautiful.

And, as is usual in cases like this, the fog burned off and created a picture perfect summer day across basically all of the Northeast.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

ANOTHER Flood Hits Toronto, Canada; World Cup Soccer City Under Water, Too.

A major highway in Toronto last night.  
Yesterday, me and other weather geeks were watching a slow moving cold front slide through the Northeast.  

The front caused areas of torrential rain that prompted flood alerts in parts of central and southern New England, and parts of New York and Pennsylvania.

But I was surprised to learn this morning that Toronto, Ontario, Canada suffered a serious flash flood last night.

Surprised, because the main band of rain with the cold front seemed to have already gone by southern Ontario and the area seemed largely out of the woods in terms of super heavy rain.

But downpours lingering in a patch behind the main cold front dumped three inches of rain within about three hours on Toronto, flooding major highways, messing up the subways and screwing around with other forms of public transportation.  

Several people had to be rescued from suddenly inundated cars.

The flash flood in Toronto was reminiscent of a similar, even worse incident last year, when on July 8, 2013, a massive flood hit the city. The flood cost about $850 million and was billed as most expensive disaster in Ontario history. 


Meanwhile, we're all gearing up to watch the United States-Germany World Cup soccer match from Recife, Brazil today.  
From @CindyBoren on Twitter, the scene in Recife today.  

I suspect a lot of people are swimming to the event, as some major flooding has hit that city. 

There was some question as to whether the game could go on, but as it stood a couple hours before the match was scheduled to start, the event is still on.

The storm in Recife was very localized, with heavy rain falling on the city with nearby surrounding areas staying dry.


In Vermont, where this blog is based, there was some minor flooding in the southern parts of the state but nothing extreme.

The most rain I found was a rather impressive 2.92 inches at Union Village Dam, 2.52 inches in Putney and 2.45 inches in North Hartland. A lot of areas in the state received more than an inch or rain.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Scary: Houses Flying In Powerful Tornadoes

That large piece of debris on the right side
of this still from the Pilger, Nebraska tornado
is apparently a house.  
Remember that double tornado that hit and trashed the little town of Pilger, Nebraska earlier this month?  

When I saw videos of the tornado, I was struck by a huge piece of debris the tornado spat out as it tore through the town.

Analysis of the video shows that piece of debris was an entire house, or at least most of one.  

I wasn't able to confirm from any sources whether anyone was in the house when it sailed through the air.

There are pictures of a damaged house off its foundation, but I have doubts if it's the one that flew through the air. I'd think it would have disintegrated when it hit the ground.

This house in Bertram, Texas flew 100 feet through the
air during a tornado earlier this month.
The family inside suffered minor injuries.  
However, there was another recent, better documented case of a tornado that sent an occupied house flying.

 In early June, a house in Bertram, Texas flew 100 feet through the air during a tornado and landed 100 feet from its original location.

A family was inside, but the house was well constructed and ended up largely intact when the tornado ended. The family survived with minor injuries.

All this sounds like something out of the Wizard of Oz.

In a sense, the owners of these houses were lucky. Usually, homes disintegrate in a severe tornado, scattering possessions far and wide. The owners of these two homes were able to retrieve some of their belongings from the destroyed homes.

Here's what typically happens to a house in a strong tornado, in a surveillance video taken from a gas station during an Illinois tornado last November. (And it's amazing the gas station remained mostly intact)

Additionally, here's another video of the double tornado earlier this month in Nebraska. This one was not taken by a storm chaser, but a local resident. In some ways it's better than a storm chaser video. No yelling, no shaky cameras or blurry images of trying to catch up with a twister in a car.

This one is just a guy watching two terrifying tornadoes roar past him.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A (Needed) Rainy Interlude During An Awesome June

A gorgeous day in Vermont Sunday. And everytime the sun
threatens to last too long and dry things out
a rainstorm arrives. Perfect.  
Much of the Midwest is mired in torrential, flooding rain and the Southwest and California are praying for so much as a drop of rain in a historic drought.  The Mid-Atlantic states have had quite a bit of flooding lately, too.  

Meanwhile, I'm gloating because I live in a rare sweet spot in a season of weather extremes.

Here in Vermont, rainfall has been normal, and coming in installments that are not too big, not too small.

In between these rainy episodes, we've been getting days of perfect late spring and early summer, sunny weather.

Knock on wood, but so far, it's a Goldilocks kind of weather year in these parts.

Just when you think it's getting a little too dry, down comes the rain.  And so it is today.

As of today, we're coming off five days of sunshine and very low humidity, so the gardens are a bit dusty.

Rainfall so far in June has been right at normal, but the sunshine of the past five days has us looking to the skies for a bit of refresher.

Cue the clouds.  

A slow moving cold front is sliding into the Northeast. It doesn't look like we will have much severe weather in these parts, but it does look like it will rain pretty hard.  (Though a few scattered severe thunderstorms might crop up in the southern half of New England and Mid-Atlantic states on Wednesday.)

Here in Vermont, and most of the rest of the Northeast, we can expect one to two inches of rain out of this cold front. Some places might get a bit more. Although some of the heaviest downpours might cause a little street flooding and that kind of thing, there won't be anything super destructive.

Instead, gardens and crops will get another nice, perfect soaking, setting us up for another four or five days of sunny, dry, beautiful weather starting at the end of the week and into the weekend.

Eventually, the other shoe will drop and Vermont and surrounding areas will get some kind of extreme weather. Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry.

But for now, we're enjoying some relatively "boring" weather, and we'll take it gladly.

Monday, June 23, 2014

NOAA Says May, 2014 Was World's Warmest On Record

On a global basis, May, 2014 was the
warmest on record says NOAA.  
Backing up earlier measurements, NOAA National Climatic Data Center confirms that May, 2014, on a global basis, was the warmest on record in data dating back to the 1880s.

Both the ocean and land temperatures across the globe set new record highs in May, 2014, according to the report, released today.

So far, 2014 is the fifth warmest on record, based on data from the first five months of the year.

An El Nino pattern, which brings warm water to the eastern Pacific Ocean and tends to boost worldwide temperatures, seems to be getting started.

El Nino, combined with the effects of global warming, might be responsible for the record setting global heat in May.

Four of the five warmest Mays have occured in the past five years, according to the NOAA report.

The last time the world experienced a cooler than normal month was 29 years ago in February, 1985. The last cooler than normal May was in 1976, according to the report.

NASA and the Japanese Meteorological Agency each said last week that their measurements also indicated May, 2014 was the warmest on record.

The Perfect Summer Day?

My vote for the day with the best weather of the year was yesterday.  
My nomination for the most perfect weather day
was Sunday in western Vermont, as viewed
in Huntington, Vermont yesterday.  

Here in western Vermont, the sky was a deep blue, flecked with just a few small, puffy cumulus clouds.

The air was free of haze, so the Green Mountains practically glowed in their emerald glory.

It was the quintessential blue/green summer day in Vermont.

After a cool early morning that had me sleeping like a baby the day turned warm, but certainly not hot, and the humidity was low as could be for early summer. A very light breeze completed the perfection.

People always make a big deal out of and savor perfect weather. I know I do.

Of course, perfect weather is in the eye of the beholder. And you have to be in the lucky sweet spot geographically on a given day to get such sterling conditions.

For instance, just over the mountains from me in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, it was a nice enough day, but there quite a few clouds mixed in during the afternoon.

I, and many others regarded Sunday as probably having the most perfect day of the year, but I'm sure a number of people disagreed with me. Some people would have probably preferred it to be hotter and more humid, making it more conducive for swimming.

There's probably a minority who would have preferred a rainy day. A few probably hate summer, and would have been content with a cold winter day.

Unlike most weather phenonmenon, you can't quantify what constitutes a perfect day. Yes, you can precisely say the high temperature Sunday in Burlington, Vermont was 77 degrees, and you can say the dew points were very comfortably in the upper 40s most of the day.

It also didn't hurt that the great weather hit on a weekend.

But is that perfect? To me, yes. To you, maybe not.

Was it the most perfect weather day ever? How do you establish a record like that? You can't compare it to other days, like you can during big heat and cold waves to determine whether you actually set some sort of new record extreme.

It's also hard to give a head's up that a perfect day is coming. The forecasts for a sunny, pleasant day with low humidity ahead of Sunday's weather were accurate. But meteorologist couldn't exactly issue a "Perfect Day Advisory" in their forecasts the way they could issue a "Severe Thunderstorm Watch"

So you don't worry about what is a perfect day and what is not. You just savor it, like I did yesterday.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Storm Chasing: Good Entertainment, Life Saving Or Unethical?

Writing in Slate, Eric Holthaus has a provocative notion: Storm chasing is unethical.   
Storm chasing tourists near Bennington,
Kansas in 2013.

Maybe, he suggests, all those people running around the Great Plains in specialized vehicles, converging by the hundreds of dramatic supercells and tornadoes, are doing more harm than good.

Holthaus raises some good points.

One of his main concerns is that storm chasers are not saving lives by providing warnings. National Weather Service radar has gotten so good you almost don't need spotters verifying whether a tornado has touched down.

Instead, there is now the opposite risk. So many chasers converge on one storm that it crowds small, rural roads with photographers. That makes it hard for emergency vehicles to pass, said Holthaus.

In my opinion, it could trap the chasers, too, if the tornado turns on them and a traffic jam prevents chasers from getting out of the way.

Holthaus is also queasy about chasing for profit, by selling photos, video and tour seats, gives more incentive to take risks near tornadoes to document the most drama and thereby make the most money. He also is understandably sickened by viral videos in which you see and hear chasers just totally getting off on a tornado, and meanwhile, somebody might be dying in a house being hit by the twister.

The idea of chaser ethics got renewed attention from Holthaus and others this past week when one chase, having taken videos of a giant double tornado destroying much of the town of Pilger, Nebraska.

Moments after the town was devastated, he snapped a photo of a dying five year old girl who had just been pulled from the rubble. The photo went viral.

It sparked a debate: Was in exploitive, or did it show the reality of how a tornado can totally destroy lives and create unspeakable tragedies?

As Gawker's Dennis Mersereau wrote, the same photographer wrote weeks earlier that he wanted to see "some highly destructive tornadoes to make it rain for me financially."

The Pilger photographer made money off the tornado, and the death of the little girl. But he is also contributing money for the girl's funeral expenses. What do you make of all this?

As you might expect, Holthaus' article got a lot of response from storm chasers and others. To Halthaus'  credit, he linked to his critics on his Twitter feed.

Writing in his blog, Ben Cotten (@FunnelFiasco) said maybe Holthaus paints too broad a brush with his comments.

"The issue here is that in the age of social media, it's easier for the bad eggs to stand out. It's easy to find chasers behaving stupidly, sometimes they even get their own cable shows. The well-behaved chasers, by their very nature tend not to be noticed,"  Cotton wrote.

 James Samenow of The Capital Weather Gang also chimed in, correctly noting that chasers are often the first on the scene of a tornado disaster and often rescue people.
Storm chasers took this photo after twin tornadoes
trashed the town of Pilger, Nebraska. Then chasers
then participated in search and rescue. 

He noted how chaser Chad Cowan and other chasers rescued people trapped in wrecked houses after a tornado ripped through Wessington Springs, South Dakota last week.

However, in Cowan's account of the rescue, many other chasers in the area did not join in the rescue. However, chases Brandon Ivey and Marcus Gutierrez did help.  

Many professions have a code of conduct. There might be an informal one in storm chasing. I wonder if we can create a climate where a code of conduct is enforceable, and clear cut, in the storm chasing business.

In other words, can a code of conduct drub bad actors out of the chasing gig, while encouraging the ethical, helpful ones?  

I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with chasing tornados, running chasing tours and selling images and videos for fun and profit.

But some sort of formal code among chasers might help. The code could dictate that chasers drop everything and help endangered or injuried people they encounter. Many chasers already do this, (that's why tornado chase videos often abruptly cut out when a newly destroyed house comes into view. The chasers are trying to help the people inside.)

However, some chasers don't help others.

Sometimes chasers get in the way of emergency responders, or put themselves in too much danger trying to get that dramatic shot. I wonder if they could be fined severely, to make it financially hurt.

Ther have been proposals to fine hikers and skiers who act recklessly in the winter wilderness of New England   

What about storm chasers who get in trouble?

Then we have to talk about storm chase consumers, like me. Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm an avid fan of storm chasing videos and images.

Nature is fascinating, whether she's on a rampage or not. However, am I, and others, contributing to the problem by lapping up these storm videos? If so, how do we know if the storm chaser who took the video is ethical or not?

Even if we know whether the chaser was ethical, do we stop looking at their videos and images? How do you sift through all that?

The overall reaction to Holthaus' piece in Slate is that he makes some very good points, but he paints too broad a brush. And that maybe the situation with ethical chasers is more nuanced and complicated than Holthaus indicates.

I agree with that overall assessment. However, credit Holthaus for pushing a needed conversation. Lord knows more conversation is needed with this situation.

I don't have good solutions here, but maybe if we keep a critical eye on chasers, as Holthaus and others do, some solutions will emerge.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Suction Vortices Exposed! Incredible Inside Look At Tornado

Hat tip to Capital Weather Gang for highlighting this video of a tornado near Woonsocket, South Dakota this week.  
Suction vortices are visible in this tornado a few years
ago in a photo taken by Roger Edwards.  

In it, you can see many suction vortices dancing around the rotation of the tornado.

Suction vortices, little mini tornadoes within one main tornado circulation, are fairly common.

But you usually don't seem them that often in tornado videos, because the suction vortices are largely hidden in the dirt and debris and cloudiness of the main tornado.

This twister, however, showed how the suction vortices twirl around inside a tornado like a bunch of feverish ballet dancers.

Suction vortices are often why you see the capricious nature of tornado damage. One house is destroyed, while the home right next door has only minor damage.

The destroyed house was probably hit by a suction vortice. The spin of the mini-tornado, combined with the overall wind of the main twister, combine to as much as double the wind speed. Meanwhile, the house with minor damage probably got strong winds from the main tornado, but no suction vortices hit it.

Here's the video. Pretty fascinating:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Another Day, Another Town Wrecked By Tornado

In what seems to have become a daily occurrence another Great Plains small town was all but destroyed by a tornado yesterday.  
Wessington Springs, South Dakota after Wednesday's tornado.  

This time, it was Wessington Springs, in central South Dakota that took the hit.

Thankfully, no serious injuries were reported in the town, despite the extreme damage.

There was plenty of warning ahead of the storm, to the point where fire trucks were going back and forth through the town ahead of the tornado with firefighters ordering people into their basements.   

On the bright side, if there is one, the tornado largely dissipated before reaching the much larger city of Huron, South Dakota. Pretty minor damage was reported in Huron.

The severe weather, as it has almost every day this month, touched off renewed flooding in the region, and caused other damage from huge hail and high winds.

The flooding has gotten so bad that the state of South Dakota is going to turn part of Interstate 29 not far from Sioux Falls into a levee to protect some areas from an expected near record crest on the Big Sioux River.

Severe weather and possible new flooding is possible today in the region, but the storms are not expected to be as widespread or as intense as in recent days.

Here's a video of the Wessington Springs tornado, and its aftermath:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Another Huge Nebraska Tornado; This Time Sparing A Town

Another dramatic tornado hit Nebraska yesterday, but the good news is the town it threatened was mostly spared.
Huge tornado near Coleridge, Nebraska yesterday. 

That was unlike the double tornado that killed two people and trashed the town of Pilger, Nebraska.

This time, a huge tornado roared past just outside the small town of Coleridge, Nebraska, a town of about 500 not far south of the southeastern South Dakota border.

It did cause some damage, but at least the town of Coleridge is still pretty much there.

There is still a threat of severe weather, and maybe even a couple more tornadoes in the same area today, but the weather should calm down a bit in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota for the end of the week.

Which is great news, as even those places not hit be tornadoes have been repeatedly battered by severe floods, huge hail and terrible windstorms over the past couple of weeks.

Elsewhere in the nation, severe storms are also forecast in the Great Lakes area today. Strong storms hit the Northeast last night, and there might be a few more today south of New England.

Here's a video of it touching down and then becoming huge. Pretty amazing.


Here's another view of the same giant tornado. Note in much of the video how slow its forward speed is. Apparently, it sat just outside the town of Coleridge for as much as a half hour before moving on and dissipating:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Twin Tornadoes Are Rare, But Also Take Many Forms

Yesterday's giant twin tornadoes in Nebraska.  
Last night me, and a lot of other weather watchers, were hyperventilating over those twin tornadoes that wrecked the town of Pilger, Nebraska, killing a five year old kid and injuring several others.  

I, and many others, said they have never seen anything like it: Two strong tornadoes, shoulder to shoulder, roaring across the Plains.

But there have been a few similar incidents over the years.

However, it remains to be seen if there have ever been two tornadoes as strong as the Nebraska ones co-existing a mile or less apart.
The closest thing I could find to yesterday's twister: Twin funnels
Elkhard, Indiana, April, 1965  

The closest thing I could find to yesterday's Nebraska disaster was a tornado in Elkhart, Indiana on April 11, 1965.

The famous photo of the tornado shows two distinct, large, strong funnels. But it's unclear if that is two independent tornadoes, or a one multivortex tornado.  

Multivortex tornadoes are more common than two distinct tornadoes near each other.

Multi-vortex tornadoes are indeed one twister, but they contain mini tornadoes that swirl around inside the main circulation of the funnel.

The mini funnels help explain why you often seen tornado damage in which one house is destroyed while another just feet away has relatively minor damage.

Another example of twin tornadoes.  A view from Yankton, South
Dakota across the Missouri River to Nebraska shows these
two twisters in May, 2007. These storms were weaker than
the ones that hit Nebraska Monday.  
The mini-funnels inside a multi-vortex tornado focus and intensify the wind in small paths within the larger path of the parent tornado.

That's why the damage is so variable in many tornadoes.

In other cases, two tornadoes exist at the same time within one supercell thunderstorm. These giant storms often cycle tornadoes.

One forms, carves a path of destruction, then starts to weaken in favor of a new tornado nearby.

Usually, though, one of the tornadoes is weak, while one is strong. I wonder if yesterday's Nebraska tornadoes set some sort of record for two nearby tornadoes co-existing while maintaining their strength.
This looks like three tornadoes, but it's one multivortex tornado
The funnels are rotating around a main circulation within one twister.  

I'm sure the meteorologists will be studying this one really intensely.



Monday, June 16, 2014

Incredibly Rare, Tragic and Deadly Twin Tornadoes In Nebraska

Twin tornadoes leave Pilger, Nebraska after devastating
the town on Monday. Photo by Steve Silberman. 
I don't think I've ever seen this:

Two very large tornadoes marched through parts of Nebraska side by side this afternoon, killing at least one person and injuring many more

The two tornadoes teamed to devastate the tiny town of Pilger, Nebraska.   

I have seen cases in which a large tornado roars through an area, accompanied by a small, satellite tornado.

But I can't remember ever seeing enormous, strong tornadoes shoulder to shoulder, causing twin paths of destruction.

The severe weather outbreak has been going on all day, and continuous this evening.

Tornadoes continue to spin through the region. Winds gusted as high as 96 mph in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.   Once again, there have been numerous reports of basebaill sized hail.

Torrential rains falling from storms repeatedly raking over the same areas of South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska has touched off severe flooding.

As the storms continue tonight, the flooding will get worse.  Overall, this might not be the worst tornado outbreak the Great Plains has ever seen, but the combination of twisters, huge hail, incredible winds and Noah's Ark style floods is causing what will probably amount to billions of dollars in damage.

That's especially true that these severe storms have been going on almost daily in the region since the start of the month. This is truly an extreme weather event in a year of extreme weather events

Here's a video of the incredible twin tornadoes in Nebraska.

Igazu Falls Not A Place For Whitewater Rafting With This Flood

A waterfall in Brazil had a record flood recently, resulting in some dramatic video

The flow at Igazu Falls was 1.5 cubic feet per second, compared to 100,000 cubic feet per second for what normally goes over Niagra Falls. 

As you can see, even the best white water rafters would probably have been wise to avoid this spot

Here's the dramatic video:

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Watch Softball Sized Hailstone Embed Itself Into Windshield

It's been quite a month of severe weather in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa as wave after wave of big hail, big wind, big floods and a few tornadoes have repeatedly raked the region.    
Chris Sheen took this incredible photo of a tornado
in Nebraska on Saturday.  

So it was yesterday and last night, again. There were at least 10 reports of tornadoes.

Like previous rounds of severe outbreaks over the past four weeks, the main story was huge hail, incredible winds and floods.

There were multiple reports of hail to the size of baseballs or even larger in Nebraska and Kansas.

Winds were clocked at 89 mph near Atwood, Kansas and 86 mph near Wall, South Dakota and Phillipsburg, Kansas.

Torrential rains hit parts of the region. Sioux Falls, South Dakota reported its wettest 24 hour period on record, with 4.65 inches of rain and still counting as of early this morning.  Nasty flooding is hitting that area.

The forecast for this same area of the country isn't so good over the next few days, with more of the same kind of weather expected.

Here's a video of big hail from inside a storm chasing van. Watch how the hailstone embeds itself into the windshield. YIKES!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

National Hurricane Center Like Many of Us: Hot On Twitter, Cool To Facebook

If you live in any hurricane prone area of the nation this year and want immediate updates if a storm threatens, go to Twitter, not Facebook.  
Sorry, Facebook.  Hurricane forecasters say if you
want quick storm updates go to Twitter.  

That's the message direct from the National Hurricane Center. It turns out the hurricane center has the same frustration with Facebook that I and many others have.

Facebook's algorithms decide what they think is most relevant to what you want to read, and not necessarily a nice chronilogical feed of information onto your Facebook page.

That's nice for advertisers who want to target their marketing to you and whoever else is looking at Facebook.

It's not so nice if you are looking for immediate news updates. To me, the most relevant information of the day is whether a hurricane is going to wash my house away in an hour; updates on Justin Bieber's antics are not so important but what do I know?

Anyway, the National Hurricane Center says if you must use social media to get updates on storms they're tracking, go to Twitter. Your feed is usually at least somewhat in chronological order.

Hell, I often go to Twitter to see about breaking news, so that makes total sense to me.

National Hurricane Center updates that pop up on Twitter will direct you to their home page for more information.

It's probably just as well to just keep their page in mind if a hurricane or tropical storm is on its way.

Meteorologists and weather forecasters who focus on a wide variety of severe weather warnings also say Twitter has become more valuable than Facebook to issue alerts.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Forest Fire Crashes Wedding; Beautiful Photos Result

From Buzzfeed:        
Wedding photographer Josh Newton got this
awesome shot of newlyweds Michael and April Wolber
as a forest fire threatened to crash their Oregon
wedding recently.   

A couple got married last week in a beautiful patch of forest near Bend, Oregon.

Of course, the wedding had to be rushed because partway through the ceremony, firefighters crashed the event.

They told the couple, Michael and April Wolber, and their guests that a large forest fire was heading in their direction. The firefighters allowed the couple to get through the ceremony really fast, then evacuate.

Hmm. Weather is always a risk when you hold an outdoor wedding. But a forest fire? That's certainly unusual. But maybe not so in much of the tinder dry western United States.

(The reception was to be held in a spot away from the fire anyway.)

Before the party fled, the couple's wedding photographer, Josh Newton got some unexpectedly awesome shots for the Wolbers. One of them, the best in my opinion is in this post.

Everybody's wedding is memorable, but this one surely is especially so.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pilot Captures Supercell Storm, Amazing Wall Cloud Near Paris

When I think of supercell thunderstorms, wall clouds and tornado alerts, I'm more likely to think of Paris, Texas than Paris France.
As viewed from a plane: A dangerous supercell
thunderstorm near Paris, France.  

But western Europe this week had an outbreak of severe storms and supercells, which killed six people in Germany as winds knocked down trees onto buildings, people, cars, etc.

There were even some reports of tornadoes and baseball sized hail from the supercells.

As you can see in this photo, a airplane pilot captured a shot of a huge supercell with a rotating wall cloud (on the left of the storm, the thing that sort of looks like a rounded boot).

The photo rivals any of the dramatic shots of tornadic storms that regularly come out of the High Plains of the United States.

Supercells and tornadoes occasionally to happen in Europe, though. These storms aren't exclusively North American creatures. Still, this storm outbreak is one of the worst Europe has seen in quite some time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wild Security Camera View of Narrow, Intense Ark. Tornado

A skinny, but destructive tornado swept through parts of Batesville, Arkansas last week.  
Another view of the skinny Batesville, Arkansas tornado last week.  

The EF-1 tornado had winds of  between 86 and 110 mph. It was 75 yards wide and traveled for about 3.3 miles. It injuried two people at a day care center.

As tornadoes go, this wasn't the biggest monster you can get, but it's still impressive watching it on video.

Here's an awesome security camera video of the twister hitting:

Vermont Climate Assessment Offers Surprisingly Detailed Look At A Warm, Changed Future..

One of the shortcomings of the predictions regarding what will happen as the earth's climate warms due to our burning of fossil fuel is what will happen precisely where we live.
This Vermont home was destroyed in floods from
Tropical Storm Irene. A new climate assessment says
floods like this in Vermont will keep getting
worse and more frequent. 

That's understandable, given the uncertainty of warming's local effects and especially the sheer effort needed to examine what will happen in each specific spot on Earth.

But we're starting to get a picture now, starting with the state I live in, Vermont.

Vermont has become the first state to piggy back on the National Climate Assessment released by the White House last month.

Here in the Green Mountain State, climatologists, University of Vermont scientists, state government officials, and local business owners, farmers and others collaborated to create a Vermont-specific assessment.

The bottom line: Trends we've seen in Vermont will continue and get worse.

Having lived in Vermont all of my 51 years so far, I've seen the changes outlined in the report, which says the changes will get more intense.

We seem to be getting heavier, stronger storms, and especially more frequent and damaging floods. That's the biggest negative to climate change highlighted in the Vermont report. This trend toward intense storms and floods will continue to worsen in the Green Mountain State.

Of course, the increased risk of floods have the biggest implications: Extreme floods are of course life threatening. Since many of Vermont's towns, and many of our main highways follow the state's flood plains, we're really prone to damage and disruption to floods.

Just look to the devastating inundation from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 if you want an example. Or if you want a look at the constant disruption from stronger, wetter storms, just look to June and July of 2013, when repeated intense thunderstorms caused lots of flash flooding, power failures and other disruptions.

According to the report, the increased precipitation might lead to one short-term boon: It's snowing more in the winter, and the snow will continue to really slam us in the next couple of decades as the storms become more intense. That's good for the ski industry.

However, winter thaws are becoming more frequent, and as warming continues, these big snowstorms will become big winter rainstorms, so that doesn't exactly help the winter sports industry.

Another nice thing from global warming in Vermont is the growing season is getting longer, which could help farmers and other sectors of the agriculture industry. On the other hand, these longer, warmer growing seasons could also increase problems with pests and invasive species.

The state's famed fall foliage season might suffer some global warming consequences, too. Oak and hickory might find a more hospitable environment in Vermont as things warm up, while sugar maples might have a harder time.

Fall colors are more intense on sugar maples than on oak and hickory so the annual fall display might get a little dulled in the future.

The report says that the state's tourism industry could actually benefit from climate change, as longer, warmer summers keep tourists here for a greater part of the year. And since Vermont, being this far north, won't be as hot as the South, we might get more tourists coming to Vermont to escape the deadly heat in places like Atlanta, Houston, Washington DC and other southern hot spots.

The entire report is available by clicking on THIS LINK

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Florida Congressman Makes Silliest Climate Change Argument Yet

Congratulations this morning go out to Congressman Jeff Miller, R-Fla. who made the silliest argument to "prove" man made climate change doesn't exist.    
Florida Congressman Jeff Miller.  

In widely published comments, Miller noted the dinosaurs went extinct before we were all driving around in cars and otherwise burning fossil fuel, so therefore manmade climate change doesn't exist.

His point, I'm guessing, is there have been changes in the Earth's climate over the millenia (which is absolutely true).

So somehow, if there are natural changes in the climate, then there can't possibly be any changes caused by, or influenced by mankind.

Here's Miller's exact quote: "Then why did the dinosaurs go extinct? Were there men that were causing - were there cars running around at that point that were causing global warming? No." ......The climate has changed since Earth was created." 

Yeah, I don't get it either. The logic is kind of like, people didn't die in car accidents 500 years ago, so they can't die in car accidents today.

People have been yukking it up, saying how stupid Miller is for saying stuff like this but I dunno.

I honestly don't believe even he believes what he's saying. But Miller is probably under the thrall of the interests, like the Koch brothers, who don't want any restrictions on fossil fuels to offset climate change.

So he says ridiculous things like this, because there are at least a few dumb, or anti-intellectual voters out there who would fall for this sort of thing.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Saratoga, New York Lightning Strike Shows Why Standing Under Trees in Storms Is Bad Idea

Lightning striking a tree in Saratoga, N.Y., as captured by
a surveillance camera.  
A surveillance camera at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, New York captured lightning hitting a tree at the edge of one of their parking lots.

The video goes to show why you don't stand under trees in storms.

If you watch carefully, you'll note, too, how far and wide pieces of the tree rocket into the parking lot, especially early on in the strike.

You don't have to be that close to a lightning strike to really get hurt.

The clip is going viral, much like that one of the truck getting struck by lightning as it sped down an Alberta highway recently.

Here's the Saratoga surveillance camera drama:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Another Look At Most Insane Hail I've Ever Heard Of, In Nebraska

There's a storm chaser with an outfit called Extreme Instability, with a base in Blair, Nebraska.
From Extreme Instability: The storm blasts through
Nebraska on June 3.  

On June 3, forecasts indicated a pretty nasty tornado outbreak in the southern half of Nebraska and into Iowa and Kansas. The guy with Extreme Instability (hard to find his name in the web site) decided to go after them.

Meanwhile, a supercell thunderstorm got going in southwestern South Dakota and moved southeastward into northern Nebraska.

Though that storm was heading toward his hometown, he decided not to chase it. It was north of a warm front, not the right location for the storm to drop a tornado.

The supercell was impressive looking on radar, but not enough to really get into.

He jogged north to take some photographs of it, then went off for his tornadoes.
From Extreme Instability: Hail damage in Nebraska
after the June 3 storm.  (Click on image to really
see the damage) 

But the storm got so intense, that outflow from it, interacting with the warm front, reduced the amount of tornadoes that could get going.

That supercell that had originated in South Dakota got incredibly intense, and produced one of the most spectacular, destructive hailstorms this nation has seen.

And it slammed Extreme Instability's hometown of Blair. Within this supercell, hail the size of baseballs and larger were propelled by winds of 70 to as much as 100 mph.

Picture a horde of several hundred Major League Baseball players throwing pitches at your house and that's essentially what was going on.

This storm had to be big. I happened to be in Yankton, South Dakota, just across the Missouri River from Nebraska when this monster storm passed by. At its closest approach, the core of the storm was about 60 miles away from me.  
Ruined vehicles at a Nebraska car dealership after
baseball sized hail and winds of 70 mph. Photo
from Extreme Instability. 

Even so, the storm was such a monster its anvil top came overhead. It got remarkably dark for mid-afternoon, and there was this deep, rumbling thunder that keep rolling and rolling.

This storm even managed to throw a few small hailstones all the way up to Yankton.

I could tell this was a beast, and glad it wasn't hitting my relatives' house in Yankton.

But it did hit Extreme Instability's hometown. And the photos he took are a testament to the power of this incredible hail and wind.

It must have been terrifying to be in it.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Detailed Account Of Vermont Supercell Storm

The National Weather Service in South Burlington has just released a very, very detailed account of the supercell thunderstorm that hit Addison and Rutland counties, Vermont on May 27.
Via the Addison Independent: Morgan Huestis snapped this
photo of the May 27 supercell in Bridport, Vt. That lower
cloud near the mountain is not a tornado, but a scud cloud,
indicating moisture and heat feeding into the storm.  

Click here to see it.

The account and explanation is somewhat technical, but it's written in such a way a layman can follow it.

The fascinating part is how they compare photographs taken of the storm by people who witnessed it, then explained how the clouds reflected what was going on inside the storm.

The explanation also explains how a supercell got going along the boundary between warm, unstable, humid air ot the southwest, and cool, stable maritime air to the north and east.

It also proves how sometimes, huge storms aren't always predictable in advance, but can really be analyzed after the storm. (The warnings for the storm were excellent once it developed, but I don't think anyone anticipated the strength of it in the hours before it developed in the eastern Adirondacks.)

The rotating supercell prompted tornado warnings in Addison and Rutland counties, though no actual tornadoes touched down.

It was an unusual storm, and it's interesting to see how it developed in the explanation.

It's worth the read.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Vermont Among Fastest Warming States in U.S.

An interesting story by Seth Borenstein with the AP indicates Vermont is tied with Maine as the fastest warming areas of the United States as global warming takes hold.  
A hot summer day on Lake Champlain off Burlington, Vermont.
The Champlain Valley is among the fastest warming
regions in the United States.  

He did an analysis of temperature trends in the past 30 years - between 1984 and 2014, to come up with the regions in the United States that warmed the fastest and most slowly.

The five fastest growing regions in the United States include two in Vermont: The Northeast Kingdom and the Champlain Valley.

The other ones are the St. Lawrence Valley of New York, northern Maine, and the northeastern plains of New Mexico.

The fastest warming spot, including Vermont, are at least 2.5 degrees warmer than they were in 1984. That doesn't sound like much, but it does represent a significant shift in the overall scheme of things. It's almost as if the climate of Springfield, Mass. moved to Burlington, Vermont

Warmer winters are driving the increasing heat in Vermont and the rest of the Northeast. Hotter, drier summers are heating the Southwest, it seems.

The data show how randomness, local effects and other cycles that have nothing to do with human-caused climate change can cause varying rates at which places warm.

According to Borenstein:

"The continguous United States annual average temperature has warmed by 1.2 degrees since 1984, with summers getting 1.6 degrees hotter. But that doesn't really tell you how hot it's gotten for most Americans. 

While man-made greenhouse gases warm the world as a whole, weather is supremely local."

The theory is Vermont has gotten hotter faster in part because of global warming, and in part for whatever, reason, the North Atlantic was unusually warm during much of the past 30 years, which influenced the New England climate.

More importantly, Vermont's warmer winters are part of a feedback loop. It's milder, the snow melts, the dark ground reflects less winter sunlight than snow cover, so the lack of snow makes it even warmer than it otherwise would have been.

Meanwhile, the southeastern United States warmed more slowly than other regions. Those areas rely more on coal for electricity. The pollution from coal plants reflected away a little bit of sun, tamping down the warming there.

There's no guarantee that the regions that are warming the fastest will continue to do so. The rate of warming in Vermont might, or might not slow down over the next 30 years. But the world as a whole continues to get hotter.

Your kids will say that their climate is not their father's climate, that's for sure.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Nation's Spring Of Hail Storms Continues Its Destructive Path

Hailstorm approaches Norfolk, Neb. Tuesday.  
There was another huge severe weather outbreak in the Plains and Midwest yesterday and last night, and once again tornadoes weren't really the big story. It was the hail.

According to the National Severe Storms Center preliminary count of severe weather reports from Tuesday, there were 13 reports of tornadoes, 214 reports of wind damage and 251 reports of hail damage.

Most of this was concentrated in and near Nebraska.

Photographer Krista Kiese captured this storm
in Nebraska, Photo came via Twitter.  
This might have been the worst of epic hail outbreaks the nation has seen this year.

At one large car dealership in Nebraska alone, as many as 4,500 cars worth $152 million were damaged or destroyed by tennis and baseball sized hail driven by winds of 70 mph.  

When you get hail the size of tennis or baseballs and 80 mph winds propel them, houses get pretty much shredded. Roofs, windows, siding all get destroyed. You practically have to totally rebuild.

From @BTsullivan on Twitter, this Nebraska home
was shredded by huge hail propelled by hurricane force winds.  
The skies were interesting, too. When you get a supercell thunderstorm loaded with lots and lots of hail, the chunks of ice color the menacing storm clouds in shades of green and blue.

So right before people saw their houses and cars trashed by the hail, they were treated to some scary but beautiful skies.

Things will be calmer across the nation the rest of the week, though there's still the threat of severe thunderstorms, including damaging, large hail, for the next three days, especially around the middle of the country.

Here's a video of huge hail and strong winds blasting Norfolk, Nebraska.

The end of this next, dramatic video demonstrates why you should stay away from windows when the hail gets to be tennis ball sized, and propelled by high winds:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Big Severe Weather Event Today, And I (Might) Have A Ringside Seat

Anyone who has taken a quick glance at the this morning's weather news knows they're gearing up today for a severe weather outbreak across the middle of the country.  It seems Nebraska and Iowa are in the principal target zones.  
This map shows storm chasers
converging on Nebraska this morning.
Each dot represents a stormchasing team.  

Usually, I'm far removed from this kind of thing, as I live in Vermont. But I'm still in Yankton, South Dakota, visiting relatives.

Will I get a front row seat to this?

I was treated to Great Plains style, thrilling severe weather on Sunday, with hail and 68 mph winds in a severe storm that hit the town.

Today, Yankton, right on the Missouri River and near the border with Nebraska, is right on the edge of the expected core of the severe weather outbreak.

Will today turn out to be scary, exciting or boring for me? We'll see.

The media really hypes this sort of thing, which is probably good, since it gets people in the mood to hide in their basements when the tornado sirens go off. But otherwise, people are pretty nonchalant about the expected bad weather.

The web page for television station KSFY in Sioux Falls doesn't talk much about the severe weather, except to say the storm damage in Yankton Sunday was caused by straight line winds and not a tornado. The news from them is about a robbery spree and the state's primary election today.

Of course, Sioux Falls isn't in the heart of the storm threat area.

The lead story on KETV's web site  in Omaha, Nebraska is the expected severe weather, however.

So we'll see how this plays out. As of midmorning strong storms were already rumbling over southwestern South Dakota. I'm sure zillions of storm chasers are deployed in the region, and we'll have oodles of photos and videos of the bad weather.

Let's not get run over by these storms, guys.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Severe T-Storms Chase Me To South Dakota So I Don't Have To Chase Them

I arrived in South Dakota Saturday evening for a week long visit with family.
Visibility near zero in heavy rain, hail and 60+ mph
winds during a severe storm Sunday in Yankton, S.D.  

Yes, it's the pretty much the peak of severe weather season in South Dakota, but storm chasing is not on the agenda.

I don't think my in-laws would like me to go out into the middle of nowhere to have their vehicles wrecked by hail and flying debris.

Plus, I'm not an experienced storm chaser, so anything super huge, Great Plains style is out of my league. I don't want to get hurt or endanger others through my storm chasing stupidity.

Ominous clouds over Yankton, S.D. between two
severe thunderstorms Sunday afternoon.  
So, I'm up for a peaceful week in the pleasant small southeastern South Dakota city of Yankton.

My husband and I arrived in Sioux Falls Saturday evening, and his sister picked us up for the drive south to Yankton. Near Vermillion, we encountered, YES! a nice thunderstorm.

It definitely wasn't severe, but it had some dramatic dark clouds.

Just ahead of the main storm, a huge hail shaft and apparent weak microburst or downdraft created a dramatic heavy bluish black column, decorated with a rainbow from the setting sun.

Then, during a late lunch Sundy at my in-laws' house next to a golf course, I noticed it getting pretty dark out.  I knew some strong thunderstorms had been developing just to the south, across the Missouri River in Nebraska, and they were starting to head norht.

I saw a couple in a golf cart frantically driving at top speed in the gathering gloom toward the club house, and since I knew there might be drama coming, I grabbed my camera and went into the sunroom, which is surrounded on three sides by glass.
There's a house less than 50 feet away in this still
from a video I took, but the rain, hail and wind made it
impossible to see it.  

The result was a great view of not one, but two severe thunderstorms that swept through Yankton.

The wind officially gusted to 68 mph at the Yankton airport.

In the nearby town of Mayfield, a metal building was swept into the intersection of South Dakota Route 46 and U.S. 81.

When the storm traveled up toward Sioux Falls, meteorologists there spotted a funnel cloud nearby.

Thank you Yankton and South Dakota for bringing the storms to me. There's actually another shot of strong storms possible later Tuesday.

Here's a video of the storms I took from the Modereger family sunroom in Yankton, South Dakota.  During the more dramatic moments, I heard myself saying, "I'm not in Vermont anymore."


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Beautiful Sky High View Of Showers, Storms Over Midwest

I flew yesterday from Burlington, Vermont to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

In the final leg of the flight between Chicago and Sioux Falls, our flight went past clusters of showers and thunderstorms.

These views of the beautiful structures of even routine, garden variety storms might be old hat to seasoned travelers, but I still think the clouds are worth really, really looking at

And photographing. So I took out my iPhone during the flight and snapped away. If other passengers on the flight thought I was weird, too bad.

It's just nice to get a perspective on these complicated cloud systems from the air. It helped that it was evening, so the low sun angle made the clouds appear especially beautiful and dramatic.

So check out the clouds and storms from Saturday, somewhere over, I think Iowa.

As always, click on the photos to make them bigger and easier to see.