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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The Wild, Wild West

Map of National Weather Service Watches/Warnings/Advisories, November 22nd.

Lots to hit on tonight. The map to the left is the NWS map of watches, warnings, advisories, etc. Just a royal MESS in the West right now. But this is really a phenomenal storm. I give the West a lot of flack for having relatively boring weather overall, but when things like this happen, it’s pretty darn neat. This is round two of wild western weather. Round one is now in the Midwest (more on that in a minute). Let’s go west to east and look at some of what’s going on.

First up, in Alaska, the Fairbanks area (remember they were recently breaking fair weather records) is getting rocked by an ice storm, which is considered “unprecedented” by local standards. According to The Weather Channel’s Stu Ostro, the precipitable water measured at Fairbanks (which is just essentially a measure of how “juicy” the air mass is…measured in inches) came within 0.01″ of setting a November record for that area. These are things you don’t often see in Alaska this time of year. But I think this speaks to the amount of blocking that’s setting up in North America, which is going to make for a very intriguing couple of weeks across the continent.

Next, down south to Seattle. 2.0″ of new snow fell at Sea-Tac today, which is a record for the date, breaking the old record of 1.5″ in 1977. It’s the snowiest November day in Seattle in 25 years, and marks only the 6th time in November since 1948 that Seattle has accumulated 2″ or more. Snow wreaks absolute havoc on Seattle. Here’s all the latest news from the Emerald City. Closed roads because of ice, including some major ones, a 747 cargo plane slid off the runway at Sea-Tac, and Snoqualmie Pass and I-90 is chains only. Down the road in Portland, not as much snow, but they are also expecting some bitter cold, with temps getting to or below freezing tomorrow and overnight lows dipping into the teens.

National Weather Service Description of Blizzard Impacts in Spokane, WA and Adjacent Idaho

Inland from there, blizzard warnings are flying for much of eastern Washington, including Spokane, as well as northern Idaho. The map to the right is the NWS in Spokane’s description of how events should unfold tonight. The latest on news from Spokane is here. I don’t want to say this whole storm caught people by surprise in the Northwest. Much was known about it coming in, but it did get a little stronger than expected, so the impression of a “surprise” exists. Forecasting in the West is extremely difficult sometimes.

from the weekend were exceedingly impressive. Here’s a recap from the NWS in Reno, NV:

 ...LAKE TAHOE AREA...

 HOMEWOOD...              59 INCHES
 TAHOE CITY...            36 INCHES
 SQUAW VALLEY USA...      48 INCHES
 SQUAW VALLEY (8000 FT)...67 INCHES
 ALPINE MEADOWS...        56 INCHES
 ALPINE MEADOWS(TOP)...   77 INCHES
 TRUCKEE...               36 INCHES
 NORTHSTAR...             61 INCHES
 TAHOE DONNER...          59 INCHES
 GLENBROOK...             18 INCHES
 DAGGETT PASS...          28 INCHES
 SOUTH LAKE TAHOE...      30 INCHES

 ...WESTERN NEVADA...

 CARSON CITY...           6  INCHES
 MINDEN/GARDNERVILLE...   12 INCHES
 FALLON...                3  INCHES
 RENO...                  2  INCHES
 RENO (NORTH HILLS)       4  INCHES
 STEAD...                 4  INCHES

 ...EASTERN SIERRA...

 CEDARVILLE...            16 INCHES
 SUSANVILLE...            4  INCHES
 PORTOLA...               16 INCHES
 DOYLE...                 3  INCHES

 ...MONO COUNTY...

 BRIDGEPORT...            6  INCHES
 LEE VINING...            12 INCHES
 MAMMOTH LAKES...         45 INCHES
 MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN(TOP)... 81 INCHES

So those are some crazy totals (specifically the 81″ atop Mammoth!). So how much new snow? Looks like an additional 1-3 feet above 4,000′ seems likely in the Sierra, and it’s likely places like Mammoth (up around 11,000′) will exceed 100 inches for 5 day totals.

Record low temperatures will build in behind this next front..just brutally cold in the interior. Even the potential for a widespread frost or freeze in the San Joaquin Valley…the agricultural capital of America. Here’s a brief article on how farmers will handle it.

In Salt Lake City, they are preparing for a blizzard as well as this system spreads East into the Rockies. Here’s an NWS briefing on the storm.

Storm Prediction Center Radar, Surface, and Watches Map

As we move into the Midwest, the weekend storm that hammered the West has moved in and is creating some very intriguing severe weather…almost like springtime! So far, seven reports of tornadoes have been received from Illinois and Wisconsin, and with a wide area of watches in effect and a potent late autumn cold front moving through, I think we’ll see a few more isolated reports of tornadoes, but more than likely a lot of reports of damaging winds. The upper level support helping to fuel this mess will gradually diminish as we go into tomorrow, so as the front slides to the south and east, we won’t see quite the active severe weather day tomorrow.

In the meantime, here’s a radar capture from Chicago, IL earlier today, showing some of the supercells that had formed in that area and had recently produced tornadoes west of the city.

Those storms produced this tornado:

So all in all, extremely active today across the western two thirds of the country.

A couple other quick links…

A summary of the 2010 hurricane season in the Atlantic…but a cool collection of satellite images from all the hurricanes.

An interesting article from the NY Times that explains how South Dakota has had a pretty terrible year weatherwise (you may need to login or register to read).

The blog will be heading on to Thanksgiving break like most of the rest of you. Heading back to visit family in the East. So have a wonderful holiday!

Catching Up

Been out of town the last few days for a conference, so here’s a rundown of some things I’ve marked of interest. Plus we’ll talk about the weather for the weekend.

 

CIMSS Satellite Blog Capture of Satellite Loop/Lightning From Weekend Midwest Snow Blitz

So the Upper Midwest got absolutely spanked over last weekend. Just a massive snowstorm, even for that part of the country. Here’s some information on that storm.

 

The image on the right is courtesy of the CIMSS Satellite Blog, showing the development and movement of the storm as it lifted through the Midwest, along with lightning strikes. Thundersnow isn’t too rare or uncommon, but it still seems to be surprising when it happens. That usually means though that you’re dealing with a bigtime storm or some very heavy snowfall.  The storm set a few daily records at Minneapolis and Duluth. But the snow was quick to compress…it is still somewhat early in the snow season. Overall, the maximum totals looked to sit around 6-12″ in a band from Duluth back through MSP, Mankato, and down to the Iowa border.

The NWS in Minneapolis has a fantastic write up on the storm.

Another solid write up from the NWS in Duluth for Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin.

Also a good write up from Minnesota Public Radio on some of the more unique aspects of this storm…particular the convective aspect, as well as the fact that temperatures were in a prime range for good accumulations.

Keeping on the topic of winter weather and convection: Big Sky Convection’s Dann Cianca has a good write up and very nice pictures from catching some convective snow in Denver on Tuesday.

Congrats to the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang for having the phrase “Snowmageddon” make the list of the top words of 2010. They were likely the original ones to coin this term. I’m not sure who coined “Snowpacalypse,” but while it was clever and useful for last winter, I hope this trend of coming up with clever catch phrases for every snowstorm stops. I’m still comfortable with “Super Bowl Snow” or “President’s Day Storm.” But in rare instances (and last winter was very rare), it’s manageable.

Shifting gears to climate stuff. Here’s the statement from Judith Curry for today’s Rational Discussion of Climate Change. The word is that the hearing was relatively uneventful, save for a few occasional heated discussions here and there. Setting the tone for the next couple years perhaps. More details and links for the testimony from the Dot Earth blog at the NY Times. So check that out if you have some interest.

A lot of times you’d think supercells were strictly an American thing. But you’d be mistaken. Check out some photos from this beauty off the French coast. The article is written in French, so if you don’t know French, oh well..the pictures tell the story.

As hurricane season winds down, Greg Nordstrom has a look at how the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) stacks up compared to some other hyperactive years. This year isn’t in the top 5, despite I think being there for actual *number* of storms. There was some pretty pathetic named storms this year (Nicole and Bonnie come to mind). Now, ACE is a decent gauge of a season or storm’s intensity, but it only factors in wind velocity and duration. We’ve learned in recent years especially that there is a LOT more to a hurricane than wind speed, pressure, surge, etc. Not all 125 mph storms are alike. So while this season may go down with the perception of sort of a bust (since the US was spared) and even ACE to some extent, this season was definitely hyperactive and worth the insane forecasts put out prior to the start of the season. I think we just simply dodged a bullet this year. It doesn’t make anyone more overdue or less overdue or anything…it just is what it is.

Here’s just a pretty simple overview as to why this may have been…sort of explaining how the pattern from last winter translated into what occurred this summer/autumn.

In the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic this morning, what a mess. Some crazy gusty winds, as well as tornadoes. A friend of mine had some family in and crazy pictures from the Town of Ghent in Upstate NY, which was hit by an EF-1 tornado. Wind gusts seemed to be widespread in the 35-55 mph range from Virginia up through New England. The wind did a lot of damage to an inn under construction in New Canaan, CT. The Trenton-Mercer Airport in Ewing, NJ was especially hard hit with a number of small planes that got flipped over. A link to The Trentonian here. This sort of thing is more common earlier in autumn, but still wicked, but I don’t think too unprecedented. And lastly, the CIMSS Satellite Blog with some mountain wave captures…never fun if you’re flying.

Lastly, in what could be the coolest minor league sports move ever, the Omaha Royals have changed their name to the “Storm Chasers!” I don’t know if the Royals “brand” has been tarnished in recent years, which prompted the change, but it’s really cool regardless. The article does point out that things have changed in recent years (see: Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Richmond Flying Squirrels, etc.). I’m all for cool minor league team names.

PSU E-Wall GFS Model Map for Saturday Evening

Just a quick synopsis here on what’s coming. The image to the left shows the GFS model’s depiction of weather on the West Coast come Saturday evening. This is a MUCH different look than we’ve seen of late out here, with almost 60-70% of days I would suspect having offshore flow, dry weather, and oodles of sunshine…a nice respite after an awful summer. Well, the storm door has officially opened. And it starts this weekend. Strong low pressure off the British Columbia coast is driving a series of cold fronts, rain, and snow into the Northwest and eventually down the coast. By Saturday evening, that low pressure parks along the Oregon coast. As we go through the next few days, each one of the cold fronts swinging through is going to reinforce and strengthen cold air over the Northwest, driving down snow levels to around 2,000′ initially, then below 1,000′, and then perhaps down to “ground level” by the time we get to late in the weekend, so places like Seattle and Portland may not be exempt from snowfall. And this could set the stage for a White Thanksgiving for a lot of places in the Northwest.

Down here in California, it’s going to get colder as well, with Sierra snowfall likely, and even snow in the SoCal mountains. Just assuming from the maps, without specifically forecasting, that snow levels will approach or dip below 5,000′ in the San Gabriel and/or San Bernardino Mountains early next week. The question I guess becomes whether or not we see any precipitation at that time. This is a very interesting and cold pattern for the West Coast though, so the next few days definitely should be fun to watch.

This cold air should also work its way to the east during Thanksgiving week, bringing a  pretty strong cold shot to the East cities just after Thanksgiving. Stay tuned!