Raleigh, Tuscaloosa/Birmingham, Joplin….Springfield, MA

2011: Raleigh, NC….Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, AL…Joplin, MO…Springfield, MA
1953: Flint, MI…Worcester, MA…Waco, TX

Not much to say about this…it was awe-inspiring to watch as it happened yesterday, and it happened in an area I’m very familiar with, so it hit close to home. But a couple words on it….

Tornadoes don’t have personality….they don’t pick and choose to destroy some houses and spare others. They don’t choose to form on certain days and choose not to on others. If the right ingredients come together over any given location, a tornado can develop. And in 1953 and now in 2011, it’s just so happened that several of the areas impacted by tornadoes have been large communities and unfortunately they’ve been large tornadoes in many cases.

Weather Scope App for iPad image of Doppler Velocity near Monson, MA

If Springfield, MA should teach you one thing, it’s this: It does not matter where you live or what you remember or were taught about the weather in your town: If the right set of ingredients comes together at the right time, a large, destructive tornado can develop and can do serious, life threatening damage. What you see on the left…that’s something straight out of the Midwest or Plains. But that’s over Massachusetts. It can happen to you, and yesterday is a textbook example of why you need to pay attention when warnings are issued. If you take one lesson from it…that’s the one.

In the end, I think we’re looking at a solid stripes of EF-3 damage in between widespread EF-1/2. The radar presentation of this thing was as good as anything I’ve seen this spring, and hands down the most well developed supercell I’ve ever seen on radar in the Northeast, so it has the potential to be an EF-4 in a few spots… especially near where this radar image was taken. It was at its best (worst) I believe between Monson and Southbridge. But we’ll see. NWS Boston won’t have an official answer until tomorrow it appears.

Pick of the Weekend

Just trying something new here. My pick of the weekend is the Pacific Northwest. After months of rain and misery, at least a couple nice days are on top with 80s likely in Portland Saturday and upper 70s in Seattle as well into Sunday. As long as the dry, offshore flow develops as expected, it could be a chamber of commerce type weekend in the Northwest. Long overdue!

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Briefly Updating Snow Chances

Just wanted to throw down a brief entry to outline snow chances more specifically.

Snowfall Forecast for the Friday Storm (click to enlarge)

To the left is my first and last call snow map for the Thursday night and Friday “storm.” Again, this will be a quick mover and really not a big system at all. It may get its act together to throw back some briefly heavy snows into New England, and dump mainly a 2-4″ sort of snow back in the red area. Most other areas will only see a coating-2″, with an isolated 3″ amount report or two possible. Timing…arrives in the Philly area after midnight Friday and exits the Boston area Friday after sunset. Quick mover.

Next week’s storm continues to show up on the models today. It does look as though this will be a rather large and strong storm. But the overall track is going to be what is impossible to nail down for several more days. I do expect someone in the interior Northeast to see a decent shot of snow, some areas with potential for a mix, and some areas with a cold, raw rain potentially. I still would avoid hyping this one in the big cities, as it’s far too early to even try and guess how it will unfold specifically. A lot of what does happen is dependent on how a system plowing into the Northwest US this weekend behaves. I’ll be traveling much of the next week, and I’ve been watching forecasts for northern New Mexico fluctuate between sunny and dry to heavy snow for the last several days. Why do you care? Because that shows you the volatility of what that Washington/Oregon storm will be doing…we simply can’t say, and in order to peg down who gets the snow next week in the Northeast, we need to know what will happen out west. So stay tuned.

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State of Occlusion is on Facebook! I’m posting some additional cool links and videos, quick model status updates, and snow maps earlier than you’ll get here. All kinds of cool stuff available on our “Like” page. “Like” the blog by clicking here!

Wrapping Up the Midwest Bomb

What a storm it was for sure. It looks like the lowest pressure was around 28.20″, or 954.96mb, recorded at Orr and Bigfork, MN. This blows away the previous mainland US record set in Cleveland, OH in 1978 of 28.28″ or about 958 mb. In terms of the damage, yesterday alone had 287 wind reports and 24 tornado reports. The previous day had about 150 wind reports (a lot though from another system in the Carolinas) and one tornado report. So, all in all, it looks like we probably ended up with close to 400 wind reports and 25 tornadoes from this storm in the Midwest, which is remarkable. Lots of links on this one:

SPC Mesoanalysis for 10/26/10 at 5 PM Central Time, near the peak of the storm.

A full recap on the pressure record is here.

A few tornadoes were confirmed in Ohio.

About eight tornadoes were confirmed in Central Indiana.

A couple of stronger tornadoes were confirmed around Chicago. Some good imagery and information here.

Here’s some video from WSBT in Indiana of a tornado destroying a pole barn.

The highest confirmed wind gust I can find is about 77 mph in Greenfield, IN. In addition to all the wind and storminess, there’s also the snow aspect of this storm! As with most fall storms, this one dragged down some cold air, enough to change any liquid to snow in the Dakotas and Minnesota. Thus far, Harvey, ND is the champ with 8″ of snow. Duluth, MN isn’t far behind though with 7.4″. Blizzard, High Wind, and Winter Storm Warnings continue today for much of the Upper Midwest.

The strong winds also helped to change the lake level of Lake Michigan, with westerly and northwesterly winds shifting water from the Illinois/Wisconsin side to the Michigan side. This is actually not terribly uncommon, but still pretty cool. I recall several instances of this happening on Lake Erie when I worked in Upstate NY.

More info on the storm in Minnesota here.

And some really cool loops and imagery on the pressure falls from the NWS in LaCrosse, WI here.

But is it really the record?

As is always the case with almost any record, there will be claims, disputes, etc. that, “Well, it’s not REALLY the record.” And of course, this time around, we have that as well. Folks in the Northwest are amused by the shock and hype of this storm in the Midwest…because storms such as this routinely impact them every winter. They’ve got a good point, as some of the pressures measured in past winter storms there (specifically one in 1995 measured at 958 mb, not even near the center of the storm) have indeed been routinely close to some of the “record” readings.

A slightly sarcastic tone in this entry from Dr. Cliff Mass, who publishes a great Northwest weather blog.

A great, great history of wind storms in the Northwest is here.

That all being said however, the truth is that in terms of actual measurements on land in the lower 48, away from the East coast, this storm is currently king.  But I’m sure one day, with better monitoring now in place in the Northwest, we’ll shatter this record as well.

But let’s not forget, this storm actually started in the Northwest too!

Quick Saturday Update

Watching the Rutgers/Pitt game and trying to accomplish a bit before the Phillies tonight, so just some items of interest from the last couple days.

Tropics

The tropics are quite active globally as of late. Cyclone Giri absolutely unloaded yesterday on Burma (Myanmar) the same nation that was ravaged by Cyclone Nargis back in 2008.  Giri is a bit of a scary situation as well, as it exploded right before landfall, which caught a lot of forecasters offguard, and it may have led to considerably less warning time for residents of that region. We’ll have to wait and see how bad the impacts of wind and rain are on that region.

Super Typhoon Megi, downgraded to a category one Typhoon Megi, hit China opposite of Taiwan today. So far it looks like its impacts on China will be minimal, but mudslides and the damage in the Philippines has taken close to 50 lives and caused substantial damage to parts of those countries.

NOAA satellite image of Tropical Storm Richard near the Honduras coast this afternoon

Lastly, and of more direct interest to people here, Tropical Storm Richard continues to churn in the Caribbean. Maximum sustained winds are at 65 mph now, and it’s likely, as Richard gradually eases away from the close pass to the coast, that it will become Hurricane Richard tonight or tomorrow. A tricky forecast, as the current movement (just north of west) and the proximity to the Central American coast means any little wobble or shift in direction will have a major impact on how strong Richard becomes and exactly where it will strike. The guarantee is that a lot of rain and strong winds will be impacting Honduras, Belize and the southern Yucatan over the next few days. Beyond that, it’s likely what is left of Richard will make it into the Gulf, but truthfully, the pattern when it gets there appears awfully hostile for any sort of development. So at this point, this is not a major concern to the US, but we’ll keep an eye on it in Mexico and Central America.

Stormy US

The pattern across the US is turning decidedly stormy, thanks in part to a raging jet stream crashing into the West Coast. Those are 150-175 kt winds slamming into Oregon. We’re seeing additional storminess in the Plains and the potential for some pretty decent severe weather provided by the departing system from earlier this week that hit California. This morning it’s the Dallas/Fort Worth area getting it worst (probably a good thing the Rangers/Yankees series didn’t go to game seven). Later today, areas further north should get it.

The storms in the Northwest and Northern California look extremely powerful, enhanced by tropical moisture that can be traced across the globe to where Typhoon Megi was! Here are some links to follow the powerful snow, wind, and rain that will impact some parts of the Northwest:

NWS Portland’s weather story

NWS Seattle with information on Winter Storm Watches in the Cascades

NWS Medford, OR’s weather story for today.

NWS Sacramento video briefing on the storm

Some other interesting links today

Texas universities will begin studying what exactly is blowing apart the universe.

Discovery Online discusses whether or not tornadoes are increasing in the US. I did a similar analysis of hail reports in the Northeast US when I worked there, and I found that in the last 10-15 years there had been an explosion of hail being reported, whereas some of the reports from the Plains had actually begun to diminish or hold steady. But I really think this primarily has to do with the increasing connectivity of the world and the National Weather Service presence online that makes storm reporting easy for almost anyone. The NWS to their credit has also done a good job in fostering and improving their relationships in the communities they serve, which allows them to get reports a lot more easily. I imagine the tornado report increase is likely due to the fact that storm chasing has exploded in the last 10-15 years, and it’s now rare for any storm that produces a tornado in that part of the country to go unnoticed. I can’t really see much else being at work with this. Reports are easier to make and the NWS has become more proactive, and the combination has led to a much better net to capture reports.

More Storms For SoCal and Windy Links

Lightning flash in Pasadena, CA, 10-20-10

The picture at left represents the best I could do after midnight to capture lightning. Tough around here when you’ve got such a low ceiling and a lot of ambient light to capture much of anything. Still, it was a nice little show…and rather unexpected at midnight in SoCal. Remember, weather doesn’t occur here. Yesterday broke that rule big time as many areas, especially Orange and San Diego Counties got absolutely pummeled by thunderstorms… pretty much all day long. A few records to share from the NWS around SoCal:

Daily Maximum Rainfall
-Long Beach, CA 0.57″ (0.14″ 1979)
-Sandberg, CA 1.49″ (1.24″ 2004)
-San Diego, CA 0.81″ (0.58″ 2004)
-Palm Springs, CA 0.38″ (0.11″ 1963)
-Thermal, CA 0.51″ (0.03″ 1962)
-Barstow, CA 0.66″ (0.06″ 1977)
– Needles, CA 0.06″ (0.03″ 1963)

Some pretty impressive numbers for mid-October. Also impressive were the non-record totals from Orange and San Diego Counties:

– Oceanside: 2.76″
– Escondido: 2.52″
– Segunda Desheca: 2.44″
– Laguna Niguel: 2.40″
– San Onofre: 2.37″
– San Juan Capistrano: 2.32″
-Ramona: 2.31″
-Temecula: 1.81″

Inland OC and SD County Mountains got slammed with 1-4″+ of rain, including 4.17″ at Mt. Laguna. In addition to all this, Ventura County got hit hard, with hail, lightning strikes and a few fires. A 1″ diameter hailstone was measured near Simi Valley as well. That’s impressive for any time of year here. So all in all, this is very positive, given that the presence of a strong La Nina means we’re going to get far less than our normal allotment of rain this coming winter.

Here are a few links to round things out:

– Some additional info on the stormy pattern heading into the Pacific Northwest. Looks quite active still!

VORTEX 2, the awesome tornado chasing project in the Plains, is finally starting to present data and has things lined up for future information. This should hopefully help us understand the anatomy of severe weather, specifically tornadoes a lot better.

– NASA is being asked to develop a Planetary Defense Coordination Office to help devise plans and solutions in case asteroids or comets threaten Earth. This should be somewhat interesting.

– An experiment was recently carried out to show how well built homes are so much better suited to handle hurricanes than older models. They used 105 giant fans to simulate 95 mph winds. Crafty!

– Boston.com’s The Big Picture posts amazing pictures. Today’s installment features award winning photos taken through light microscopes. Some really cool stuff here.

Short-Term Musings and Hitting the Links!

Some heavy rain/mountain snow in the Pac NW soon!

This time of year can be one of more intriguing times of year from a weather standpoint. The tropics are winding down, but can still produce some fun. Cold air is gradually building and occasionally flexing here in the US, so you can get some fascinating storms. We’re starting to see the pattern build a bit, especially starting over this coming weekend in the Northwest, where it looks like a series of systems promise to start building snowpack and bringing some widespread wind and rain to Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. The graphic shows this morning’s run of the GFS and the total amount of precipitation forecasted through day ten. Notice about 4-6″ showing up in the Pacific Northwest. Not a bad haul.

Outside of that, there’s not much exciting going on weatherwise this week here in the US. Keep an eye on Arizona and the Southwest again Tuesday-Thursday, as another one of these pesky cutoff lows (haven’t seen sun here in SoCal since last Wednesday or Thursday) gradually comes onshore and works inland. This one isn’t as strong as the one we had earlier this month that caused the tornado outbreak in AZ, but still could be enough to pop some decent storms there.

Link Exchange

This article suggests scientists really need to work on how they communicate their information. I think this sort of proves the point that the issue of climate change has been politicized to death. I wish we could move away from climate change as a policy issue and move back toward a “what’s causing it”  and “what does it mean” issue.

Super Typhoon Megi Satellite Loop Also, if you like satellite imagery and blogs, this one is one to bookmark, as they often produce some beautiful loops such as this. Megi made landfall in the Philippines and sounds as though it did a fair amount of damage and disruption. We’ll see. Here’s the latest on Megi, which may actually be headed for just south of Hong Kong now, a couple hundred miles further north than the thinking yesterday. Here’s a blog entry from Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground with a link to a beautiful satellite image of Megi. Additional satellite imagery here.

Interesting story in the LA Times today about how a water fight is underway about redirecting Colorado River water from the LA area to the Salton Sea southeast of Palm Springs to help desalinate it and sustain it. I suspect stories like this will become more frequent in coming years as the strain on the water supply out here continues to increase. Along those same lines… Lake Mead records its lowest level…ever.

Zoo With Roy is probably my favorite Phillies blog, and put together this awesomeness depicting Roy Oswalt blowing through the stop sign last night. As an aside, what a great game by the Phillies last night. Hopefully it puts the fan base at ease. I said Phils in six, assuming we beat Lincecum and lost to Sanchez at home. We did the opposite, but the same end result I expected I guess. Should be an interesting game in San Francisco tomorrow. Weather looks fantastic, with mid to upper 60s and a good deal of sunshine. Perfect fall weather by the Bay.

Waste time with the Global Genie! Takes you some random place on Google Street View. Neat way to experience new places.

And lastly, I have to share this link to send a get well message to Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand who was involved in horrific tackle in the game vs. Army over the weekend that has sadly left him paralyzed below his neck. Keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.