Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tornado Year Off To Bad Start; New England Ice

From WDAM: Tornado damage Monday in
Mount Olive, Mississippi. 
Four people died in Alabama yesterday as tornadoes tore through the Gulf Coast states, making a bad start to the year for tornadoes.

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logged at least 13 tornado reports Monday including one that toppled a big tree onto a mobile home in Alabama, killing four people.

This comes, as I noted yesterday after a year - 2016 - that recorded only 17 deaths nationwide from tornadoes. Only two years since 1912 had fewer twister deaths.

The tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods caused lots of damage from Texas to Florida as the day went on.  A man died amid flash flooding in northern Florida, the Weather Channel said. 

In Jackson, Alabama, north of Mobile, flash flooding created a state of emergency and at least one person had to be rescued from a flooded vehicle.

There's a couple storm-related videos at the bottom of this post.

A bad start to the year with tornadoes doesn't predict how the rest of the year will go.  The only thing that could provide hints is that the South has been much warmer than normal this winter and water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are above average.

If that trend continues, more moisture and instability could feed into storms this spring when tornado season really gets cranking. That, in turn, has the potential to make tornado outbreaks worse.

However, many factors besides warm water in the Gulf of Mexico factor into the severity of tornado outbreaks.

Besides, winter is still young. A pattern change toward cold outbreaks heading all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico could chill the water by spring. I don't know if that will happen, but it could.


In the short, today, the threat of severe storms in minimal at best in the Southeast. The storm system that caused yesterday's severe weather is moving northeastward, and will soon consolidate over the Northeast.

A wide area of rain has broken out in the Northeast with this storm and was spreading well into New England by early this afternoon.

In Vermont's Champlain Valley, it was above 32 degrees, so freezing rain isn't much of a problem.

The cold air was hanging in there in New York's St. Lawrence Valley, most of eastern Vermont and northern and central New Hampshire, so freezing rain is becoming a problem in these areas.

Since the storm will consolidate along the coast, chilly air will hang in there, so it there will be a mix of precipitation overnight. Freezing rain advisories are up overnight for all of Vermont except the Champlain Valley.

In fact, the coastal development could chill the air a bit further, so a slushy mix might come down late tonight even in the currently warm Champlain Valley.  This arrangement is creating a complicated temperature variation as you go up in elevation.

However, the upshot seems to be a layer of cold air above 1,500 in elevation to maybe 2,500 feet. There might be enough ice in these upper elevations to bring donw a few trees and power lines. (Luckily there aren't as many power lines in those elevations as there are in the valleys.)

Temperatures will trend colder for the rest of the week, and be a little colder than normal for January by the weekend.

At this point, I'm not expecting any big snows in the region through the weekend except for lake effect near the Great Lakes.

The weather pattern is still volatile, so surprises are definitely possible for the next couple of weeks at least.

Here's those Southern storm videos:

From Operation Chase, a YouTube video of close lightning, rapidly moving clouds almost forming a tornado and storm damage in Louisiana and Missisippi:

Here's a video of possible tornado damage in Gulf Shores, Alabama:

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