Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wisconsin, Minnesota Slammed By Floods, Storms; More Coming

Highway 11 washed out in Wisconsin after torrential
rains this week. Photo by Jeff Peters/AP
As expected, severe thunderstorms and torrential downpours have been roaming the edges of a nasty heat wave in the middle and southern parts of the country.

Some of the storms are even extending southward into the heat zone, producing some nasty storm this afternoon in Missouri and surrounding areas.

By far the worst storms so far this week have been in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A few tornadoes touched down in Minnesota Monday. Worse, thunderstorms formed a "train" going right after another in a series over north central Minnesota and northern Wisconsin.

The storms dumped up to 11 inches of rain, so as you can imagine, there was some terrible flash flooding.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declared a disaster in eight counties. One person drowned in the flooding, and many roads have been washed away.

Some rivers in northern Wisconsin rose to record levels. Two rivers flow into Saxon Harbor at the edge of Lake Superior. The huge rush of water from the creeks flushed boats away, damaging and destroying 85 of them, says USA Today.

The flash floods in Wisconsin and Minnesota are part of a widespread pattern across the United States and much of the world of increased extreme precipitation events.

There's no way I can conclusively tie this week's Wisconsin disaster to climate change, as a lot of factors were at work to produce the storms.

But the Wisconsin and Minnesota floods fit the pattern of ever more torrential rain storms that keep cropping up.

That makes sense. A warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor. If climate change is under way, there can be more water in the air. Under the right conditions, this added moisture is released in sometimes unprecedented downpours.

In many areas, says the EPA, a greater percentage of precipitation is coming in blockbuster one day events like the one in Wisconsin this week. This is occuring even in areas where overall precipitation is showing a decreasing trend, like in the American Southwest.

For the rest of today the target areas for severe storms are in a broad area in the Midwest and southern Great Lakes, from Wisonsin to Missouri and from Iowa to Ohio.

Some areas in this zone will be hit with strong gusty winds, maybe some hail, dangerous lightning, and of course those scary local flash floods.

Thursday, the severe risk shifts to a wide band stretching from almost all of  New England southwestward all the way to Oklahoma and Texas. (Where I am in Vermont is included in this zone of possible severe storms)

Again, the risk in most of Wednesday's alert zones are locally strong gusty winds with storms and also local flash floods.

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