Severe Weather & Tornado Outbreak Likely Tomorrow

March 1, 2012

Good morning everyone! Enjoy the calm before the storm as we are expecting a major severe weather and tornado outbreak tomorrow from portions of the Ohio Valley all the way to the Gulf Coast. 

Let’s take a look at the set-up and why a widespread severe weather outbreak is likely:

A strong low pressure system will develop over the Southern Plains and move into portions of Northern Illinois by late Friday Evening. A strong southerly flow will help advect very warm and moist air into the Ohio and Tennesssee Valleys ahead of the low pressure system.

As the low pressure strengthens, a strong jet stream will interact with the system and create what we call directional wind shear. This wind shear is what helps storms form, sustain themselves and eventually begin rotating. Here’s a look at the wind shear tomorrow evening. The red and purple values are VERY high.

A strong southerly flow will usher in very warm and moist air into the Ohio Valley. Temperatures will climb into the 60’s as far North as North Central Indiana and Ohio. Here’s a look at what one of our forecast models is showing temperature wise tomorrow evening at 8:00 PM. 

Storms should begin to fire across portions of Illinois down into Eastern Missouri and Arkansas by the mid afternoon hours. These storms will quickly move into the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys and portions of Northern Mississippi and Northern Alabama. All of the ingredients are in place for a very violent day of severe weather with the potential for very strong and long lived tornadoes.

Here’s a look at what one of our forecast models is forecasting radar reflectivity for tomorrow afternoon:

The Storm Prediction Center has issued a rare Day 2 Moderate Risk from Indiana and Ohio down to portions of Northern Mississippi and Northern Alabama. Here is a look at the Storm Prediction Center’s Outlook for tomorrow:

The storm prediction center is forecasting a severe weather event in the moderate risk area with widespread damaging winds and potential for strong and violent tornadoes.

Here’s our outlook for tomorrow which is very similar. The areas we outline as numerous and outbreak likely should be prepared for a very rocky day of weather.

We encourage everyone to have their severe weather plans ready and to purchase a NOAA weather radio! Stay tuned to SWAT & IndianaWeatherOnline for the latest information.

Advertisements

Severe Weather & Tornado Outbreak Likely Tomorrow

March 1, 2012

Good morning everyone! Enjoy the calm before the storm as we are expecting a major severe weather and tornado outbreak tomorrow from portions of the Ohio Valley all the way to the Gulf Coast. 

Let’s take a look at the set-up and why a widespread severe weather outbreak is likely:

A strong low pressure system will develop over the Southern Plains and move into portions of Northern Illinois by late Friday Evening. A strong southerly flow will help advect very warm and moist air into the Ohio and Tennesssee Valleys ahead of the low pressure system.

As the low pressure strengthens, a strong jet stream will interact with the system and create what we call directional wind shear. This wind shear is what helps storms form, sustain themselves and eventually begin rotating. Here’s a look at the wind shear tomorrow evening. The red and purple values are VERY high.

A strong southerly flow will usher in very warm and moist air into the Ohio Valley. Temperatures will climb into the 60’s as far North as North Central Indiana and Ohio. Here’s a look at what one of our forecast models is showing temperature wise tomorrow evening at 8:00 PM. 

Storms should begin to fire across portions of Illinois down into Eastern Missouri and Arkansas by the mid afternoon hours. These storms will quickly move into the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys and portions of Northern Mississippi and Northern Alabama. All of the ingredients are in place for a very violent day of severe weather with the potential for very strong and long lived tornadoes.

Here’s a look at what one of our forecast models is forecasting radar reflectivity for tomorrow afternoon:

The Storm Prediction Center has issued a rare Day 2 Moderate Risk from Indiana and Ohio down to portions of Northern Mississippi and Northern Alabama. Here is a look at the Storm Prediction Center’s Outlook for tomorrow:

The storm prediction center is forecasting a severe weather event in the moderate risk area with widespread damaging winds and potential for strong and violent tornadoes.

Here’s our outlook for tomorrow which is very similar. The areas we outline as numerous and outbreak likely should be prepared for a very rocky day of weather.

We encourage everyone to have their severe weather plans ready and to purchase a NOAA weather radio! Stay tuned to SWAT & IndianaWeatherOnline for the latest information.


SWAT Gearing Up for the 2012 Chase Season

January 17, 2012

Things are busy here at SWAT as we get ready for the upcoming 2012 Storm Chase and Tornado Season! Preparation continues to take place not only on the business side of things, but preparation also continues on the vehicles as we continue to work diligently to make sure we have all of the necessary equipment installed in all of our chase vehicles to be successful during the upcoming chase season!

This past weekend all of the SWAT guys met to continue finalizing our plans for the upcoming season! Brad is missing from the picture since he is the one who took it 🙂

Over the past several weeks we continue to work very hard at getting both the SWERV and SWERV 2 ready for the chase season. SWAT’s Tech Guy, Jake Armstrong, has made all kinds of improvements to both vehicles!

We’ve added multiple amateur radios to the SWERV and a bank of Amateur Radio portables in case we ever need additional communications at the scene of a disaster/tornado damage, etc.

The SWERV has also been outfitted with a monitor and mount that will allow the backseat occupants or tour guests to have constant view of the radar and current weather information.

A new hail guard was constructed to help better protect the front window and side windows of the SWERV.

The SWERV was also rewired to ensure proper electrical safety! The fuse block is actually quite impressive!

Both vehicles will be operating with mobile internet, multiple computers with radar and weather data, iPads, MURS radios, Amateur Radios, GPS technology, Live Streaming Video, Medical and first air equipment and much more!

We are really excited about the upcoming Tornado and Storm Chase Season and even more excited about meeting all of our Tour Guests! If you haven’t booked yet, make sure you book your tour today! For more information, you can visit http://www.SWATTours.com or email Webmaster@SWATChasers.com.

And if you had any doubt whether the tour will be worth it, this is a picture of a rare double tornado that our Lead Meteorologist Brandon Redmond and Tech Guy Jake Armstrong caught back in 2010 outside of St. Anne, Illinois, and we will find plenty more this upcoming season!

Make sure you check out all of our Social Media sites!

http://www.SWATChasers.com
http://www.SWATTours.com
http://www.Facebook.com/SWATChasers
http://www.Twitter.com/SWATChasers
http://www.Youtube.com/SWATChasersf

Thanks for reading,

Brandon Redmond


Weather Wise: Hurricanes

August 2, 2011

Hey everybody! Have you ever been curious how a small thunderstorm in the open ocean can intensify and become a swirling force of nature capable of wreaking havoc on an entire coast line? In this, the latest posting in a series of weather education blogs we like to call Weather Wise, we’re gonna take a closer look at one of the most powerful forces of nature, Hurricanes.

Hurricane research, tracking and forecasting has come a long way in recent years. New technology has allowed us to spot these storms looming in open waters long before they come ashore. In 1900, Galveston, Texas was blindsided by a category 4 hurricane with winds estimated at 145 mph. The storm surge on that particular storm was responsible for the deaths of nearly 8,000 Texans. The Galveston Hurricane is still known as the deadliest natural disaster to ever strike the United states. Fortunately, our technology has improved enough over the last century so that hurricanes like this one will not go unnoticed. Satellites allow us to keep eyes on these monsters from space, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Computers help to process the large amounts of weather data and produce models to tell the meteorologists where the hurricane will track. These technologies and others like them, in partnership with several scientists have helped to increase the warning times and pinpoint the long stretches of coast lines that will be affected, days before the hurricane strikes. This has helped to cut back on needless deaths in recent years.

File:Galveston Hurricane (1900) SWA.JPG

-Surface Map of the Galveston Hurricane just before it made landfall.

So what is a hurricane exactly? When the oceans near the Equator get hotter than a $2 pistol, and other atmospheric conditions become favorable, thunderstorms form with ease in what you can call a breeding ground for hurricanes. Compare it to a college house party — when the music gets turned on, (and I’m not talking about Bob Segar’s Greatest Hits,) before too long you have a living room that gets transformed into a dance floor. Those party animals start bumping into friends and inviting others nearby and before long, you have a raging kegger on your hands. The same goes for the tropics. Once water temperatures near 80°, the slightest breeze can easily send some of that low level moisture mixing into the atmosphere. Once that moist air parcel rises and condenses, a cloud forms. It may sound silly, but the first step in hurricane formation is a cloud.

-Artist's depiction of such a cloud.

The general area of thunderstorm formation is a meteorological mouthful. The Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ for short, is an area primed for thunderstorms. In this same area just north of the equator (June-Nov), the southward and northward flowing tradewinds come together to form a crease in the atmosphere. At the same time, a jet of air flows across the Atlantic Ocean from north western Africa. Sometimes, this causes a kink to form in the crease, a beep in the boop, or we could just make things easy and call this a Wave. These atmospheric waves help to get our simple clouds and small thunderstorms to intensify and form tropical disturbances, the next big step in hurricane formation.

Fast forward from your lonely cloud, through the simple thunderstorm phase and all the way to a small cluster of thunderstorms known as the disturbance. This small shapeless blob may begin to form a closed circulation, or simply put, the thunderstorms start to tango and spin around one another. The cause of this spin is the Earth’s rotation on it’s axis, similar to why the water in your toilet bowl spins counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere, (or clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.) Soon enough, the pressure in the center of these thunderstorms begins to drop, forming a center of Low Pressure.  The storms spinning around the low begin to organize further and winds become sustained from 29-39 miles per hour, and what began as a small cloud has now turned into a tropical depression.

The National Hurricane Center starts to take note of the further organizing system and they might begin to start dispatching Hurricane Hunters to investigate. The probes they release into the storm are not containers filled with Prozac to treat the depression, * Que Rim Shot*, rather they are chock full of instruments to gather data on the impending threat. Sure enough, they note a closed circulation and that the overall shape is now more circular and that they are clearly rotating around an increasingly lower pressure center. The winds now pick up to sustained speeds greater than 39 miles per hour, and thus a Tropical Storm is born. At this time, the National Hurricane Center gives this developing monster a name.

-Note that the names alternate back and forth between male and female. Also, there is a separate list of names for storms that form in the Pacific Ocean.

Tropical Storms alone can drop torrential downpours and cause massive amounts of flooding inland if they make landfall, but they still pose a smaller threat than a hurricane in most cases. A hurricane is just a glorified tropical storm. Pressures in the center continue to drop and satellite images continue to show a developing “eye.”  So what separates a tropical storm from a full fledged hurricane? If this spinning top of thunderstorms contains sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or greater, the tropical storm gets upgraded to hurricane status.

Structure of airflow around the eye of a hurricane

-Cross Section of a Hurricane.

Hurricanes contain a wide variety of hazards that pose a danger to us as humans. Whether it’s flooding from the rains above, or flooding from the storm surge, winds toppling the trees or the embedded tornadoes tossing them, hurricanes really can pack a punch. Some people call tornadoes, “Fingers of God.” If that’s the case, a hurricane should be known as “God’s Fist.”

The most dangerous and deadly hazard presented by hurricanes that make landfall is the storm surge. Simply put, a storm surge is a large dome of water that rises under a hurricane due to the low pressure that moves over the shoreline causing extensive damage to beaches and structures. Like I stated at the top of this post, this is what wreaked havoc in Galveston over 100 years ago. Obviously the damage reaches it’s maximum potential if the hurricane also makes landfall at the same time as a high tide. There are 3 factors to determine the intensity of the surge. Wind speeds, water depth and the intensity of the low pressure center all determine the height of the surge. For a larger storm surge, you would look for high wind speeds, an intense center of low pressure and shallow waters. Category 5 winds combined with the other factors can produce a towering storm surge 25 feet high. The most intense surge of water occurs near the low pressure system and in the quadrant of the hurricane where the winds are blowing towards the shore. The surge is powerful and comes ashore like a small scale tsunami, destroying everything in it’s path. This is why forecasting lead times and coast line evacuations are extremely important.

Storm Surge

-Storm Surge - Courtesy Lutgens & Tarbuck, The Atmosphere, 7th ed.

The winds alone in an average sized  hurricane, 74 mph or greater, can spread out over 100 miles and the tropical strength winds, 39-73 mph can extend several hundred miles from the center of the storm. The hurricanes are categorized by their sustained wind speeds. The Saffir-Simpson Scale rates these storms from 1-5 with a Category 1 storm having winds from 74-95 mph and a Category 5 hurricane having sustained winds 155 mph and higher. The winds are measured by the anemometer, which can resemble a model airplane without wings, or 3 spinning ice cream scoops. The wind damage itself is exponential as it increases in speed. 120 mile per hour winds are not going to do twice the damage as 60 mph winds, rather they will do almost 100 times the damage.

-A cup anemometer, also known to small town folk as the "Whirly-Gig." Yes, while chasing we have gotten several people ask us what the whirly-gig does.

Embedded within the spiral rain bands are another, usually small scale threats… tornadoes. As the hurricane spins on it’s axis, there are usually isolated cases of some “spin-ups” or small tornadoes. Most of the time these do not go reported due to the limited visibility and the fact that the damage is hard to disseminate from damage the hurricane itself caused.

The final punch that the hurricane packs is torrential coastal and inland flooding. If a roaring storm surge, hidden tornadoes and winds so strong you can’t walk weren’t bad enough, add to the mix rainfall rates of more than a few inches an hour and you have a lot of cleaning up to do when it’s all said and done.  The slower the hurricane is moving, the more potential for flooding you have. It’s very difficult to accurately predict the amount of rainfall locations will receive that are impacted by a hurricane, but generally an average storm will drop anywhere from 6-12 inches of rain or more over a 12 hour period depending on speed.

So from disturbance to depression, from tropical storm to category 5 hurricane, the easiest way to avoid any and all of the above risks is simple. Move inland. The storms rely on the warm ocean surface to fuel their growth and sustainability. You will often notice that when a hurricane moves over a large land mass or onto the United States mainland, the storm rapidly deintensifies. So if you are wanting to avoid such risks, pass on buying the ocean front property.

Always Remember, some are Weather Wise and some are otherwise… don’t be the latter. Again, if you have any questions, comments, complaints or suggestions, please email them to Brad@SWATChasers.com. If your questions are good enough they may be featured in the next Weather Wise segment!

-Brad Maushart

www.SWATChasers.com and www.SWATTours.com


Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 Tornado Outbreak/Chase Summary

May 28, 2011

(All pictures taken by SWAT’s Brad Maushart & honorary SWAT member Chris Bergin)

The Storm Prediction Center had placed much of Central and Southern Indiana under a rare “high risk” for severe weather. As SWAT had been forecasting for days, a major tornado & severe weather outbreak was about to occur across Indiana.

SWAT began the day by heading Northwest towards Kokomo where a line of severe thunderstorms had developed. We moved North on US31 towards the Howard/Miami County line. We saw some beautiful cloud structures/shelf clouds as the storm moved over our area.

After intercepting the storm in Howard County, SWAT headed South on US31 to Indianapolis. We made a quick stop at Fox 59 to get the game plan for the day in order. After stopping at Fox 59, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat in Indianapolis. Unexpectedly while eating, the tornado sirens began to sound in Marion County/Indianapolis. Lunch was cut short and the chase was on. We first headed South towards Southern Marion County where we tried to intercept the developing storm, however due to a poor road network, we were unable to stay up with the storm.

Following the failed intercept of the first storm of the afternoon outbreak, we went South on I-65 towards Columbus. A storm had become tornado warned and was headed straight towards us in Columbus. We positioned South of Columbus and waited. As the storm grew and moved towards us, it began rotating and eventually was violently rotating and close to producing a tornado.

As the storm began to rotate more violently just to our West, while doing a live update with Fox 59, we decided we needed to move Northeast. As we tried to reposition the rotation continued to tighten above us. As the core and rotation over took us (directly over us) we were trapped as debris and downed trees had blocked our escape route. Nervously we waited the storm out (praying the hail and winds didn’t shatter the windows). Luckily the storm passed to our East without any major consequences for us, however the area was not so lucky. Trees were down South of Columbus with some structural damage.

As we tried to navigate through the debris, we finally got on an East/West road and headed back towards the tornadic storm which was approaching Greensburg, Indiana.

We never quite caught the storm but we did see the damage path it left behind. While coming into Greensburg we passed numerous semis blown over, significant tree damage, poles down on vehicles, factories and businesses with windows blown out and even structural damage. We also found the ground still covered in hail. The National Weather Service confirmed 2 tornadoes touched down in Greensburg, both being high end EF1 tornadoes.

After surveying the damage in Greensburg we had to hit the road back West again as additional tornadic storms were developing. We chased another tornadic supercell in Johnson County just South of Franklin. While we saw several rotating wall clouds, this storm never quite produced a tornado. It did have a very impressive radar signature though.

After being on the road all day and with the storms forming into a squall line, we ultimately decided to head back towards Muncie where we would wait for the squall line to arrive. Once stationary on the South side of Muncie, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning. While we never spotted any rotation, we did measure a 44 mph wind gust and capture a nice picture of the leading shelf cloud.

 


Severe Weather Update for Wednesday, 5-25-11

May 25, 2011

Hey everybody, Brad Maushart here. I’m writing this to update everyone on impending weather situation across most of the Midwest, including Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. This could be a very dangerous situation, similar to what has taken place this afternoon in the plains. I will remind you now to keep a weather radio handy at all times, especially one that is battery powered, so if the power goes out in a storm, the radio will still be operational. With that said, lets get to the briefing.

Tomorrow, severe weather initiation will take place sometime between 2 and 4pm in Indiana, a few hours earlier perhaps in Illinois, and later into the evening in Ohio. The same low pressure system that triggered the severe weather outbreak across the central plains will slide off to the east, into the Ohio Valley by mid afternoon. This will bring with it the counterclockwise flow of winds, and since we will be on the eastern side of the low, we will have a rich flow of moisture along with a predominantly southerly flow of winds that will help to raise temperatures and in turn help the storms to become even more intense as a warm front will then surge northward across Indiana in the afternoon hours.

According to the SREF “significant tornado ingredients” model, one of the tools that we use to forecast severe weather, it places an area of 40 over southern Illinois and west central Indiana by 21z, or 5pm. This number is very high, and could mean that the right factors are coming together at the same time to encourage not only severe weather but also the threat of tornadoes. Below is an image of the model.

SREF Model

Note the area of "40" draped over IL and IN. 21z = 5pm edt.

Again, all the models have come into an agreement with one another that a significant severe weather outbreak will be taking place tomorrow afternoon across the Midwest. Take precautions now so you are ready when or if the dangerous weather situations present themselves. Again, this is not to panic you, rather to inform. Just be alert and make good decisions.

If a tornado WATCH is issued, storms have the right ingredients to form a tornado. If a WARNING is issued, or if the sirens sound in your town, take shelter immediately. A WARNING means that Doppler radar has indicated a strong area of rotation within a storm or that a spotter or chaser has visually confirmed a tornado. Get to a basement or storm shelter. If one is not available, the next best options would be a crawl space, a neighbors home, or the most interior room in your home. Never stay in a mobile home or trailer, get outdoors in a low lying spot and lie flat or move to a neighbors house or shelter. For more weather safety tips, please visit the National Weather Service’s website, http://www.nws.noaa.gov.

Again, tomorrow looks to be a big severe weather day across the state of Indiana, as well as Illinois and Ohio. Please keep the weather radio on, your television tuned into the local news and your attention on our website and social media pages (Facebook and Twitter) for all the latest updates on the situation as it unfolds.

-Brad Maushart


Rain moving from East to West?

May 17, 2011

Yes, I too did a double take this morning when I saw the radar and rain was actually moving West! It tends to be a rare occurrence, but an upper level low pressure system is retrograding from Tennessee back Northwest and is causing the rain to move from East to West! So in essense, the same system that brought us rain over the weekend is moving back West and bringing more rain back into the area! Here is a radar loop.