Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Severe Storms, Other Threats Widespread But At Least It's More Springlike

A good chunk of the Midwest should be on the
lookout for severe thunderstorms with
big hail today and tomorrow.  
The first severe thunderstorm watch of the year was issued for parts of the Midwest this afternoon, the latest in the year on record such a watch was issued.

There were a couple tornado watches earlier in the year, but not severe storm watches.

It's a sign of the season that there is some severe weather due. And it's well north of the Gulf Coast, too, on up into eastern Oklahoma, northwestern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri.

That the severe weather threat is drifting to the north a bit is a sure sign of spring, so I guess that's the silver lining with this thing.

The other silver lining is that although a couple brief tornadoes might spin up in the area under threat from severe storms, it doesn't look as if there's going to be any of those big honking EF3, EF4 or EF5 monsters that can blow away whole towns.

That's not to mean people in the watch area should kick off their shoes, put their feet on the ottoman and relax for the evening. I'd pay close attention to the forecasts and warnings it I lived out there.

There could be gusts as high as 70 mph and hail bigger than golf balls in some of the storms within the watch area.

The severe thunderstorm watch is in effect until 10 p.m. local time tonight, and there's nothing stopping the National Weather Service from issuing more watches either in the same spot or more likely elsewhere later tonight.

There are a few things going on that make this whole thing feel like spring. For one thing, areas near and to the southeast of the storm watch could get some flooding from heavy rain and thundestorms.

West of the storm system causing this, it's very dry and windy in through eastern Colorado, western Kansas -- that general neck of the woods. There's a red flag warning for a high fire danger in those regions.

Again, that kind of situation happens a lot when there's severe weather a few hundred miles to the east.

North of the severe weather zone, there's some wintry weather to talk about. This, too, sometimes happens during springtime severe weather, especially early in the season.

There's a winter weather advisory in a stripe from northern Iowa through central Wisconsin and into northern Michigan later tonight and tomorrow for a few inches of wet snow.

The severe weather will likely continue Wednesday, especially in and near Oklahoma. This storm really isn't the type to create a lot of tornadoes, so at worst, there will only be a handful of relatively weak ones.

However, damaging winds and giant hail are probably even more of a widespread threat on Wednesday than they are this evening.

The storminess and wet weather is going to head northeast over the next couple of days.

It'll get to New England eventually. The good news for that region is for once this isn't going to be a snowstorm. Yay!

No severe thunderstorms up that way, either.
An ice jam caused this flood in Montpelier,
Vermont in 1992. If ice jams form in
New England this week, we'd better hope they
form in unpopulated areas.  

The bad news is there's already a lot of snow and ice around, and it's going to rain on top of all that.

Areas of northern and central New York and much of New England could get some flooding out of this.

There's not going to be a widespread flood. There won't be enough rain for that. But snow and ice-clogged drains could prevent water from flowing away.

The bigger threat is ice jams. There's still an awful lot of ice on rivers in New York State and most of New England. Not much of it has melted, and the ice probably actually strengthened in the past couple days.

After all, it was below zero in some towns in northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine just this morning.

Enough thawing and rain will come down to maybe get some of the ice breaking up and moving on some rivers. If the ice gets stuck behind an obstruction, it can very quickly dam the river and flood areas behind the area where the ice is all jammed up

If these ice jams happen in the middle of nowhere, so what? A few fields might get flooded and littered with ice chunks.

But if the ice jams happen near a town along a river, there could be a very damaging flood. People who live and work in Montpelier, Vermont are still spooked by a March, 1992 ice jam that seriously flooded pretty much the whole of downtown Montpelier

I don't know if that will happen again, but it probably wouldn't be the dumbest idea in the world for Montpelier shopkeepers to start hauling stuff out of basements, just in case an ice jam dumps water into town again.

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