Author Topic: Year of the tornado?  (Read 2773 times)

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Offline Ziel

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Year of the tornado?
« on: April 03, 2012, 11:00:34 pm »
What better topic to kick off this new section than the weather!

There have been a lot of tornadoes this year so far, including some in unusual places and some unusually strong for this time of year. The latest installment happened today near Dallas. It sounds like there may have been multiple tornadoes that touched down in the area.  Many were without power as of this afternoon, and I assume most of those still haven't gotten it back yet.

My thoughts and prayers go out to those from the area, and their relatives. I can't imagine losing everything in one afternoon like that.

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Offline Mylo

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2012, 12:10:10 am »
I used to go to school in Denton, Texas (about 45 min northeast of Dallas).  At about this time last year (in fact, almost exactly this time last year), there was a similar system of supercells in the Dallas area that did spawn tornadoes; however, nothing hit the majorly populated areas.  The tornado alarms were going off on campus, and I actually shot some video of one of the cells (with some circulation).  Fortunately, nothing touched down in our area.   

On a not-covered-as-much-in-the-news note, just a few weeks ago, tornadoes spawned about 20 miles from where I live in outside San Antonio.  The houses in the small towns were decimated...

And on a not-tornado-related note, a lot of odd weather has been happening recently.  In the valley (the southernmost part of Texas), we recently had a severe hailstorm that hadn't happened in forever.  It's been unseasonably hot up north, and like you said, there are a lot of tornadoes.  Plus, it barely snowed at all in Boston.

However, I think this is a consequence of my relatively short lifespan. XP

Offline Jet

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2012, 12:54:02 am »
THE SKY IS FALLING! (:

But seriously, maybe there's some major climate change affecting these tornadoes. I wish anyone in these areas the best. All we can do is hope.
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Offline Narei Mooncatt

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2012, 03:19:40 pm »
A friend of mine (also a furry and trucker working for the same company I do :) ) was at our Dallas terminal yesterday when the tornados blew through. The terminal is less than a mile from the Schneider one that took a direct hit. Ours didn't get hit, but he was able to snap this pic as that one came by.



To give you an idea of just how close the terminals are, here's a LINK to a Google map satellite view of the two. In the very upper right by the map/satellite toggle button is the Schneider terminal. Our terminal is at the very bottom left, bordered by the interstate, S Lancaster Rd., and Cherry Valley Rd.
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Offline furtopia02

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2012, 06:16:27 pm »
I can't even begin to capture in this reply what has been going on here. It's.. well, it's gone.  Mile wide tornado ripped a line I think over 90 miles long through here and wiped out everything in its path, including my wife's hometown which is completely reduced to rubble now, and what isn't obliterated to the foundations by the tornado must be torn down now anyway because it's structural unsound.

Google search to get you started. https://www.google.com/#hl=en&output=search&sclient=psy-ab&q=west+liberty+tornado&oq=west+liberty+tornado&aq=f&aqi=g10&aql=&gs_l=hp.3..0l10.6337l12374l1l12540l23l22l1l5l5l3l759l5225l0j6j3j2j1j3j1l16l0.frgbld.&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=bb242dc4ab43ba95&biw=1366&bih=674

National TV media greatly downplayed the entire thing and even flat out skipped over it in most cases except for Weather Channel (who was here). So.. it's not much surprise that most people I've showed this to from other places or told about it either scoff at it as some sort of exaggeration or don't believe me. The pictures and videos don't even do it justice. Luckily there is a lot of help coming from federal money; if it were not for that it would be even worse right now. People really pitched in with donations (my wife and I included) and search, rescue, and cleanup efforts. I'm amazed there were not more fatalities than we had with such amounts of debris getting piled on top of people and trapping people beneath the buildings in town.









« Last Edit: April 06, 2012, 06:24:31 pm by Buckshot »

Offline GregHoofen

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2012, 09:20:37 am »
considering how bad last year was around this time, I suspect my state to be hit harder this year.  I wouldn't;t mind going storm chasing either always been A dream of mine.

Offline Narei Mooncatt

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2012, 12:03:56 pm »
I've kinda thought about taking a skywarn class, if for no other reason than to better read the sky to know if I'm about to head in to trouble like this.
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Offline Sk Skunk

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2012, 02:23:33 pm »
As bad as it has been this year, I recall the tornado outbreaks of April 3-4, 1974. There were many areas that were destroyed.
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Offline Jet

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2012, 02:28:02 pm »
You know there have always been a lot of tornadoes here. This isn't something new. The only difference is that we have been building new towns like crazy. So now there are a lot more places, and a greater chance, for a tornado to hit.
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Offline Hoagiebot

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2012, 05:18:37 am »
I've kinda thought about taking a skywarn class, if for no other reason than to better read the sky to know if I'm about to head in to trouble like this.

I have been a certified advanced-level SKYWARN severe weather spotter for several years now.  Since I am also an amateur (a.k.a. "ham") radio operator, during times of severe weather I participate in "severe weather nets" with other local SKYWARN-trained hams.  During a severe weather outbreak, ham radio operators spread-out across their local county to act as spotters and report their position to a net control operator over their two-way radios.  In addition to being able to talk to the spotters, the net control operator also has a direct line of communication to both the National Weather Service office in Chicago, and with some of the adjacent counties' net control operators.  When any of the ham SKYWARN spotters observe something that should be reported, we radio to net control and call it in using a standardized procedure and format.  Our reports will then be forwarded to the National Weather Service.  The communication can also go the other way as well-- should the National Weather Service see something suspicious near a storm spotter's position on their WSR-88D Doppler RADAR they can radio to that spotter and ask them what they are seeing at that location.  Since my amateur radio license and car-mounted mobile two-way radio gear is considered to be a useful asset by the county, I am encouraged to take the advanced-level training courses offered by my county's Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which is the same level of training given to local Police, Fire, EMS, and Emergency Management personnel.  I retake the advanced level course every year to refresh and update my training.

If you are interested in getting SKYWARN spotter training for yourself, be sure to check out the section labeled "How Can I Get Involved?" on the National Weather Service's SKYWARN page here:

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/skywarn/

For those wondering if this year's tornado season thus far really has been that much more severe than in recent years, I have looked up the tornado occurrence statistics provided by the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center for you.  For the months of January and February of this year the U.S. had 79 and 53 tornadoes respectively.  This is definitely above the three year averages for those months, which are 17 and 33 tornadoes, respectively.  I can't give you these same types of statistics for March and April of this year yet since there are only preliminary figures recorded for those months at this point, and the preliminary figures are not very accurate.  While January and February were definitely above average for that time of year, if you want to compare those months to the most active months of tornado season, they aren't anything extraordinary.  To illustrate what I mean, the 3-year averages for the heart of tornado season, April, May, and June, had 371, 279, and 251 tornadoes respectively.  So while this year's tornado season has had an energetic start, it is not like we saw anywhere near late-spring numbers of tornadoes during the beginning of this year or anything like that.  Also keep in mind that an above average start to the tornado season doesn't necessarily indicate either way about whether or not the rest of the tornado season is going to be above average.

In addition, Ziel calling 2012 "the year of the tornado" at this point in time shows just how short everyone's memories really are in this day and age of sensationalized media reports.  2011 actually had the month with the most  reported tornadoes of all time, which was April of 2011 with 758 tornadoes.  In comparison, even if you take into account preliminary tornado reports for this entire year so far (which generally run much higher than the later verified results), we have only had 393 tornadoes for all of 2012, which is only a little more than half as many tornadoes that occurred in that one month last year alone.  Also, so far at this point in time we are also way behind last year in reported tornado-caused deaths (not that that is a bad thing by any means).  At this point in 2012 we have had 57 people killed by tornadoes, while last year at this point we had 362 tornado caused deaths.  So while people may have had some cause to call last year "the year of the tornado," Ziel is really jumping the gun trying to apply that kind of label to 2012 this early into the season.  According to recent trends the United States suffers from around 1300 tornadoes a year, so we still have a long way to go yet before we hit that average.

Luckily, this year has been very quiet for me personally so far and I have not had to do much storm-spotter-wise.  Since I usually spot from my house I consider the relatively quiet local weather to be a very good thing, because when I do report severe conditions that means that they are happening near my house.  However, with that said, last year for me was pretty wild since an EF1 tornado touched down less than a mile away from where I live.  I was outside at the time spotting that storm, and while I never saw the tornado itself (the tornado had no visible convective funnel and it occurred at night), I was still more than busy reporting electrical transformer explosions and tree damage, and calling in estimated flat-line wind speeds.  I surveyed the damage that the tornado caused after the storm was over, and it had flattened some fences, wrecked the nearby high school's tennis courts, bent some utility poles, and seriously mangled some trees.  While an EF1 is the second-weakest rating that a tornado can be labeled with using the Enhanced-Fujita Scale, and the damage done by it was nowhere near the degree of severity of the damage shown in Buckshot's photos, it was still too close for comfort as far as I was concerned.  I used to do a lot of mobile spotting from my car in past years, but in my area there are lots of car traffic, hills, buildings, and trees and as a result it is just not safe to do mobile spotting without having a partner riding along in the car with me.  Because of that I gave up on spotting from my car, and as I mentioned above now I just generally spot from my house or wherever I happen to be when severe weather strikes.

But seriously, maybe there's some major climate change affecting these tornadoes. I wish anyone in these areas the best. All we can do is hope.

As far as climate change effecting tornado formation goes, to quote the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center's Online Tornado Frequently Asked Questions page:

Quote
Does "global warming" cause tornadoes? No. Thunderstorms do. The harder question may be, "Will climate change influence tornado occurrence?" The best answer is: We don't know. According to the National Science and Technology Council's Scientific Assessment on Climate Change, "Trends in other extreme weather events that occur at small spatial scales--such as tornadoes, hail, lightning, and dust storms--cannot be determined at the present time due to insufficient evidence." This is because tornadoes are short-fused weather, on the time scale of seconds and minutes, and a space scale of fractions of a mile across. In contrast, climate trends take many years, decades, or millennia, spanning vast areas of the globe. The numerous unknowns dwell in the vast gap between those time and space scales. Climate models cannot resolve tornadoes or individual thunderstorms. They can indicate broad-scale shifts in three of the four favorable ingredients for severe thunderstorms (moisture, instability and wind shear), but as any severe weather forecaster can attest, having some favorable factors in place doesn't guarantee tornadoes. Our physical understanding indicates mixed signals--some ingredients may increase (instability), while others may decrease (shear), in a warmer world. The other key ingredient (storm-scale lift), and to varying extents moisture, instability and shear, depend mostly on day-to-day patterns, and often, even minute-to-minute local weather. Finally, tornado record keeping itself also has been prone to many errors and uncertainties, doesn't exist for most of the world, and even in the U. S., only covers several decades in detailed form.

You know there have always been a lot of tornadoes here. This isn't something new. The only difference is that we have been building new towns like crazy. So now there are a lot more places, and a greater chance, for a tornado to hit.

This statement of Furryglowstick's is actually very true, and the lecturers at my SKYWARN training seminar remind us of this fact every year as it is a real nightmare from an Emergency Management perspective.  They do this by showing us the damage caused to the then small town of Plainfield, Illinois when it was directly hit and leveled by an EF5 tornado in 1990, and then they overlay the much larger town of Plainfield as it appears today over that same tornado's path-- the massive increase of homes and structures that would been obliterated today if that tornado had hit now instead of 22-years ago is jaw-dropping to say the least.  And that kind of urban sprawl is happening all over the place, so there definitely are more people and property that are at risk from tornadoes than ever before.

In any case, I am very sorry to learn what happened to your wife's hometown, Buckshot.  I can't even imagine how hard it must be to see your home or even your entire town get devastated by one of these storms.  I wish both you and her the best.

Offline Hoagiebot

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2012, 09:16:01 am »
*UPDATED*



Speaking of tornadoes, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center has forecasted that a tornado outbreak is likely on Saturday, April 14th (today), across the Southern and Central Plains northward into the mid-Missouri Valley from the afternoon into the night.  Additionally, there is a high risk of severe storms today across Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska.  If you live in or near the pink region shown on the map above, pay very close attention to your NOAA Weather Radio and/or your local news media this afternoon and evening for updates about the storms, and be prepared to head for safe shelter.  To quote the National Weather Service Website:

Quote
With a HIGH RISK event, the potential exists for 20 or more tornadoes, some possibly EF2 or stronger, or an extreme derecho potentially causing widespread wind damage and higher end wind gusts (80+ mph) that may result in structural damage.

The last time the National Weather Service made a prediction for a tornado outbreak like this was during the April 25–28, 2011 tornado outbreak that occurred last year, where 322 people died.  This is a potentially dangerous situation, and should be taken seriously.

For more information, refer to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center Day 1 Convective Outlook.

  • EDIT 4/14/2012, 5:35AM: Now that it is Saturday, the day that the severe weather outbreak is forecasted to occur, I updated this post to reflect the latest information and show today's NWS SPC Convective Outlook as opposed to yesterday's.
  • EDIT 4/15/2012, 3:55AM: Now that April 14th is over, I replaced the live constantly-updating NWS SPC convective outlook map with the archived one from the 14th so that the map continues to match the date of the post.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2012, 04:59:23 am by Hoagiebot »

Offline Chaosfurry

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2012, 10:42:42 pm »
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« Last Edit: August 22, 2018, 03:27:37 pm by Chaosfurry »

Offline Hoagiebot

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2012, 06:11:58 am »
As a quick follow-up to my last post to this thread which warned about the imminent danger of yesterday's events, here is the preliminary reports for the aftermath of the April 14th, 2012 severe weather outbreak:



Some of the biggest storm highlights from the event as reported by the Associated Press:

  • 5 people died when a tornado struck Woodward, Oklahoma at 12:18AM early on Sunday, April 15th.
  • In Wichita, Kansas, a reported tornado caused damage to McConnell Air Force Base, the Spirit AeroSystems plant, and the Boeing plant.  A mobile home park was heavily damaged, but with no reported injuries or deaths.  Sedgwick County, where Wichita is located, declared a state of disaster and preliminary estimates suggest damages could be as high as $283-million.
  • A tornado was on the ground for a half-hour north of Dodge City, Kansas.
  • 75% of the 250-person town of Thurman, Iowa, was obliterated by a tornado, but no one was injured or killed.
  • A hospital in Creston, Iowa, about 75 miles southwest of Des Moines, suffered roof damage and had some of its windows blown out.  No patients or staff were injured.
  • Also in Iowa, strong storms knocked out power in Des Moines, Council Bluffs and Sioux City.
  • In northeast Nebraska, Boone County Sheriff David Spiegel said baseball-sized hail had damaged vehicles, shattered windows and tore siding from houses in and around Petersburg, about 140 miles northwest of Omaha.

For additional information:

As for what I was doing yesterday, somewhat ironically I was actually attending a 5-hour long severe weather seminar that was at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and hosted by Tom Skilling, the Chief Meteorologist for WGN Television and the Chicago Tribune newspaper in Chicago.  This is the 32nd year that this weather seminar at Fermilab has taken place, and it had weather-expert guest speakers from around the country, including: Dr. Louis Uccellini, President of the American Meteorological Society and Director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction, Dr. Russell Schneider, Director, NOAA-NWS Storm Prediction Center, Edward Fenelon, Meteorologist in Charge, Chicago-National Weather Service Office, Brian E. Smith, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, National Weather Service Omaha/Valley, NE, Jim Allsopp, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, NWS Chicago, and Dr. Jim Angel, State Climatologist, Illinois State Water Survey | Prairie Research Institute University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  This is the fourth year-in-a-row that I have taken the time to attend this annual seminar, and I plan to keep on coming back.  Hearing about topics ranging from how the forecast models are actually run on the National Weather Service's IBM POWER6 supercomputers to situational awareness during storm chasing to the safety of large public buildings during tornadoes from the country's leading weather experts is always a fascinating experience for a weather geek such as myself.  Naturally, with the severe weather outbreak going on in the great plains at the same time as the seminar, the audience kept on getting weather updates during the event and many of the speakers when they weren't giving their presentations were busy manning the phones and keeping in contact with their local offices so that they could assist them.

Lastly, according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, their is a moderate risk of severe thunderstorms today (Sunday, April 15th) across portions of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Northwest Illinois.  If you live in those areas keep yourself updated on the weather situation, especially during the late afternoon and evening.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2012, 08:28:29 am by Hoagiebot »

Offline Shim

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2012, 01:35:42 pm »
I don't know about tornadoes around here, but we got one helluva thunder storm last night in northern 'burbs of IL :o.

Offline Old Rabbit

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2012, 12:39:33 pm »
As said the urban growth is increasing the chance of property damage and injury
from natural disasters no matter what they are.  Here in Missouri. The city of Joplin
was devastated with over 160 people killed by a f5 tornado in 2011.

After such events people do build more shelters and safe rooms. But with the
energy costs increasing I think people should consider earth sheltered or
underground homes and structures where practical. They would be resistant
to storm damage and much easier to heat and cool.




« Last Edit: April 19, 2012, 12:43:41 pm by Old Rabbit »
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Offline Hoagiebot

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Re: Year of the tornado?
« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2012, 04:19:39 pm »
But with the energy costs increasing I think people should consider earth sheltered or underground homes and structures where practical. They would be resistant to storm damage and much easier to heat and cool.

Count on a rabbit to suggest that everyone should live underground!   :D