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SAT. UPDATE: Some observations from Friday's tornado/severe storm outbreak....
(1) Storm chasers. Well....it was bound to happen sometime....too close + a lack of common sense + a lack of respect for Mother Nature = DANGER. This time around none of the "too close for comfort" storm chasers were killed. But if this kind of tomfoolery continues, someone will be killed. I speak from experience as I spent 3 years at Oklahoma University & have a number of chases under my belt going back to the 1980s. Then chasing was popular but not as in vogue. The primary reason for chasing was research....live comparisons of the storm in the field vs. Doppler radar....& understanding the stages of supercell storms. I spent many a day in the OU lab hand plotting surface weather maps in an attempt to try to forecast where & when storms would erupt. Believe me it's not like the movie "Twister".....there's not a tornado around every corner. In fact, there are many more chase "busts" then "hits". We (meteorology students) were skilled at the craft. Sure....there is a rush when seeing in person the greatest, most violent storm on Earth. But there was also a tremendous amount of respect. The so-called commandments of storm chasing:
* Stay dry - don't "plunge the core" of a storm. The visibility is poor, & you might find yourself face to face with the tornado upon exiting the core. A chaser's "coat of armor" is returning from a chase dry, no hail damage to the vehicle & great pictures/video/research.
* Keep a safe distance with a "escape routes" -- plenty of roads & make sure the roads are not dirt roads (become muddy & impassable in heavy rain).
* Stay calm & keep a level head.
* If a storm is moving into a city, back off. It becomes too difficult to maneuver around traffic not to mention poor escape routes due to speed limits, vehicles & pedestrians.
* Never -- EVER -- chase after dark.
* Lookout for sharp/severe lightning strikes that can extend far from the parent storm. Many supercell storms have what's called a flanking line. This is a line of new/building thunderstorm cells ("towering cumulus") that extend out the backside -- usually to the south or southwest of the main storm & often times not yet producing rain at the surface. But there can already be a great deal of charge separation occurring which leads to sudden bolts of lightning.
* Be aware of "satellite" tornadoes or newly forming wall clouds that could quickly produce a tornado while you're fixated on the storm in "front of you".
In the 1980s it wasn't uncommon to see maybe 10-20 storm chasers on a single storm upwards to -- in extreme cases -- 50 chasers. Now there can be hundreds & there are storm chasing "safari's". It's clear that things have gotten out of hand. I don't have a solution....I don't think there really is one. Storm chasing is not something that can be legislated. But cooler heads have got to prevail. During my years of storm chasing, there was never an accident & certainly no vehicle ever was hit by a tornado. We did have one car accident shortly after I left OU where an underclassman crashed while chasing. His car was totaled, but he was o.k. Friday there were multiple instances of chasers ignoring many of the above "commandments". Check out the crazy video several paragraphs below (underneath hurricane tips) from "Wicked Wind Media". I'm guessing their experience was similar to The Weather Channel crew, but TWC wasn't as lucky. Their SUV was thrown 200 yards & totaled! Only 1 minor injury. But how stupid can one be? They put themselves & others in danger. If the car slams into another vehicle or building, even more harm would have resulted. TWC became part of the nightmare that was bumper to bumper stalled vehicles & supposedly they knew what they were doing(!). I beg to differ. It was T.V. sensationalism at its best that almost cost them their lives. Mother Nature -- is by nature(!) -- unpredictable & follows no norm. Mother Nature always wins in the end & deserves our utmost respect. Nothing is gained -- from a scientific or warning standpoint -- when chasers get too close. I fear that those without proper training & expertise will try similar stunts & end up paying the ultimate price. Shame on TWC & any & all other media & storm chaser daredevils that have taken Mother Nature far too lightly. Click ** here ** for the story of the TWC's death wish from "Daily News". TWC failed at the #1 rule of Journalism 1-0-1: Never Become Part of the Story. That's something that seems to have been lost in the modern world of journalism.
(2) Global Warming -- come on, really??!! This storm -- or series of storms -- says nothing about global warming but only serves to show us "who's boss". If the weather cannot be commanded, she should be obeyed. If we -- as a society -- live by that mantra, we will be able to mitigate damage & casualties. But storms will never go away nor should they go away. Our earth & its weather -- which at times will be punishing -- is a delicate balance that includes - & always has -- a series of extreme ups & downs. There simply is no "average" when it comes to the weather. Such a term is a mathematical statistic that is achieved by taking a bunch of extremes & dividing it by how ever large you wish your sample size to be. There have been as big -- or even bigger -- storms in the past going back 500+ years. There weren't as many people, there certainly wasn't a way to document them but trust me....it happened. Storms, heat, cold, drought....we see evidence in the historical record from Thomas Jefferson to the Pilgrims to Columbus to tree rings to ice cores. Our weather occurs & changes because Mother Nature wants a balance. When & if that perfect balance is ever achieved, our world as we know it will cease to exist. But Mother Nature will always strive for that perfect balance. And so our weather will forever be very changeable & -- I sometimes hate to admit it -- unpredictable.
(3) I was surprised to see so many storm-savvy Oklahomans take to their vehicles & the roads as the storms approached. That's a big no-no. More than a third of all tornado deaths occur in vehicles. There's a better chance for survival -- when stuck in a vehicle on the highway -- if one gets out & lays flat in a ditch or ravine along the side of the road. But one has to beware of flooding & snakes when taking such a refuge. Several people were swept away in flash flooding Fri. evening while trying to get to a low place as the tornadoes approached.
The photo below was snapped by Major Ron Mott from our St. Augustine Salvation Army. That cloud could be the wall cloud as the storm moves near Moore, Ok. Fri. evening. Wall clouds are often the precursor to tornadoes. Major Mott -- along with other many other divisions of the Salvation Army -- continue to help with recovery efforts in Oklahoma.
The photos below from the Associated Press:
The weekend will be very warm & humid & breezy. Long parts of Sat. & Sun. will be dry but expect at least a few showers near the coast, especially the first half of the day transitioning to scattered inland showers & storms in the afternoon. Storms will produce heavy rain & frequent lightning with the greatest coverage Sat. between Highway 301 & I-75 west of Jax....but should manage to push farther east Sunday afternoon/evening & could affect metro Jax. Radar imagery below courtesy S. Fl. Water Management District.
Thereafter, the pattern turns decidedly wetter. The combination of a weakening, slowing cool front & tropical air flowing northward will make for several bouts of very heavy thunderstorms Mon. through much of next week. And there could be a boost in rainfall from weak low pressure that might try to become tropical in the Central &/or Eastern Gulf of Mexico. At this point, it doesn't appear the system -- if it develops -- will become real strong, but it's still early in the "game" on this one & at the very least the system could enhance the heavy rain threat even more for the First Coast. Both the American GFS long range model & European model are now indicating the potential development in the Eastern Gulf later in the week. This represents a shift to the east by the European model.
So the hurricane season begins with our eyes trained to the west & southwest. The list of this season's Atlantic Basin names:
Hurricane Preparedness Tips, the needs for parents and pregnant women are unique
Florida, June 01, 2013 — Natural disasters can make life more complicated for pregnant women and infants living in high risk areas. While we can’t change the weather, we can change what we do to deal with whatever Mother Nature delivers.
“A weather emergency or other disaster is a nerve-wracking time for anyone, but especially for pregnant women and new parents,” says Julie Samples, Chair of the March of Dimes Program Services Committee. “March of Dimes urges you to be prepared and have a plan in place to save time in an emergency and help reduce unneeded stress.”
Women should discuss any concerns and their delivery plans with their obstetrician or other health care provider. Families should follow local hurricane readiness guidelines and put together an emergency bag in the event they need to evacuate quickly.
The March of Dimes has brochures with tips to prepare for an emergency including timely and relevant information about food, water, breastfeeding and infant formula, and signs and symptoms of preterm and normal labor. It’s vital that all pregnant women in areas affected by a disaster know to seek medical care immediately if they have any of the symptoms of labor.
Download these handy March of Dimes guides to prepare for a storm.
Prepare for Disaster – Families with Infants or Anyone Caring for a Newborn Click ** here ** Prepare for Disaster – Families with Infants or Anyone Caring for a Newborn - Spanish Click ** here ** Prepare for Disaster – Pregnant Women Click ** here ** Prepare for Disaster – Pregnant Women - Spanish Click ** here **. For general planning and preparation information visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida Department of Health, and Publix Super Markets, Inc.
Yet another major severe storm/tornado outbreak in the Southern Plains & Midwest. The worst of the storms Fri. were from Oklahoma to Missouri to Illinois. Info. is still coming in as I write this but there have been confirmed fatalities on Oklahoma interstates & the St. Louis N.W.S. office had to evactuated for a time when tornado moved nearby. Click ** here ** to see truly wild ( & crazy) video from "Wicked Wind Media" near Union City, Ok. W/NW of Oklahoma City. The chase vehcile gets pummeled by debris & cracks the windshield at one point. Near the end the passenger mentions "RFD" - he's referring to the very strong rear flank downdraft that can produce winds equal to that of at least an EF-1 tornado.
The photo below is from a friend of our own Action News anchor Tera Barz in Tulsa, Ok. when a tornado Thu. hit near the area.
Earth Gauge: Get Ready for Hurricane Season
May 26-June 1, 2013 is Hurricane Preparedness Week. Hurricanes come with many hazards – storm surge, high winds, heavy rains, inland flooding and even tornadoes. The official Atlantic Hurricane Season begins on June 1 and ends on November 30. As peak season approaches, it is important to understand and prepare for hurricane hazards, even if you don’t live right on the coast.
Tip: These videos (click on each topic) from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center will help you learn more about hurricanes and prepare for hurricane season.
• Overview of a Hurricane: Learn the basics about hurricanes and hurricane season.
• Storm Surge: Storm surge and large waves produced by hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property along the coast
• Wind: Hurricane force winds can destroy buildings and mobile homes, and send debris flying – like signs, roofing materials, siding and small items left outside.
• Inland Flooding: Flooding from hurricanes is a major threat for people living inland.
• The Forecast Process: Learn how hurricane forecasts are developed.
• Get a Plan! Make a disaster plan and know what to do if you have to evacuate.
• Take Action Before, During and After the Storm: Tips on what to do before, during and after a hurricane.
Climate Fact: Hurricanes Remain Uncertain in the Climate Context
Infamous hurricanes like Sandy and Katrina will be on the minds of many when the nation observes Hurricane Preparedness Week, and questions will continue to swirl around climate change and how it will, or already has, influenced hurricanes. Unfortunately, the scientific community is still searching for many of those answers. Scientists need a substantially long period of hurricane observations to detect any trends or changes in hurricane activity and there simply isn’t enough reliable data to analyze – especially before 1966 when satellite observations began.
In addition, the trends that scientists have been able to identify are relatively short-lived and dominated by high degrees of inter-annual and multi-decadal variability, both in terms of hurricane frequency and intensity. Therefore, scientists aren’t sure if any of the past changes in tropical cyclone activity have exceeded the level they’d expect from natural forces. However, despite these limitations, scientists have still made progress by using novel techniques and research approaches to find answers to these questions. Some of their most robust findings about tropical cyclone behavior are listed below.
• Frequency: Even though several studies have claimed that Atlantic tropical cyclones have increased substantially over the past century, closer investigations have revealed that most of this jump can be explained by how scientists detect tropical cyclones. Before 1966, scientists used ships to find hurricanes and there weren’t enough around to catch every storm. When satellites became available, less storms went undetected so the number of storms seemed to spike. Even in the satellite age, no significant changes in global tropical cyclone counts have been detected from 1970 to 2004. Scientists have improved the “hindcast” ability of sophisticated computer models, but replicating past climates with insufficient data only yields inferences that aren’t as definitive as hard, observational data.
• Intensity: The global number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has nearly doubled from 1975 to 2004, but many scientists have cautioned that this time period is not sufficiently long to account for the considerable multi-decadal variability of the North Pacific. Therefore, it’s especially difficult to ascribe this change to natural variability or higher greenhouse gas concentrations. Again, better data coverage would greatly enhance science’s ability to detect trends and find their causes.
(Source: Thomas R. Knutson et al. 2010, “Review Article: Tropical cyclones and climate change,” Nature Geoscience, doi: 10.1038/NGEO779.)
Climate in the News: Sullivan, B. “Science Can’t Pin Powerful Tornadoes on Climate Change” – San Francisco Chronicle, May 22, 2013 – Tornado frequency has varied over the past few years, but NOAA research meteorologist Harold Brooks says that patterns cannot be linked to climate change.
Have a great & safe weekend!.........