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.

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Was Florida hit by a Tropical Storm or a Non Tropical Gale Force?

October 11, 2011

If you were following SWAT’s updates on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/SWATChasers) Sunday Night, you should be well aware that a large area of disturbed weather struck the East Coast of Florida, packing heavy rain and strong winds in excess of 60-70 mph. During the day on Sunday, a weather feature began to develop over the Bahamas. This feature began to show signs of developing into a closed low pressure system within a larger, more synoptically driven weather system/pattern.  By Sunday Evening, the circulation had tightened on  radar, and velocity data was showing upwards of 70+ mph winds. A semi apparent eyewall like feature also became evident just East of Palm Bay, Florida.

There was much debate in the meteorology community as to whether this area of disturbed weather should have been classified as a Tropical Storm or not. Winds gusted to over hurricane force in several reporting stations along the Eastern Florida Coast, but the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center remained persistent that the disturbed weather was nothing more than a Non Tropical Gale Force.

Radar data/loops clearly showed a well defined center of circulation/eyewall feature as stated above off the Eastern Florida Coast. Without knowing what you were being shown, at first glance, the radar image below looks like several prior landfalling tropical systems.

So besides the well defined center of circulation off the Florida Coast, why do I believe that this area of disturbed weather should have been classified as a tropical storm? There are several reasons, but for starters, here is what I posted Sunday Evening on the SWAT Facebook page.

“I rarely criticize the National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center, but this area of low pressure center has obviously gained tropical storm characteristics. The area of low pressure system has formed over warm sea surface temperatures, has organized convection over the center of circulation, has surface winds over 35 knots and the strongest winds are near the center. This all combined with Cape Canaveral recently reporting a 69 mph wind gusts is blatantly obvious evidence that we have at least a tropical depression if not a tropical storm off the East Florida Coast. Our viewers in Eastern Florida should be prepared for heavy rain, very strong winds and coastal flooding through the morning hours.”

Shortly after I published that update on the SWAT Facebook page, several reports of 75 mph wind gusts were received along the Eastern Florida Coast from the United States Air Force weather observing stations. The winds were strong enough that the National Weather Service was forced to not only issue High Wind Warnings but also Storm Warnings for the adjacent waters. Storm Warnings are extremely rare in the Southeast during Hurricane Season.

In addition to radar data and reports of winds gusting well over 70+ mph at several official reporting stations, the pressure also began to rapidly drop. Cape Canaveral, Florida saw pressures rapidly fall as the area of disturbed weather approached.

The center of circulation passed very close to Cape Canaveral and their pressure bottomed at 999.5 millibars, a pressure reading commonly found in tropical storms. Nearly all (if not all) of the characteristics needed for a storm to be classified as a tropical storm had been met, so why did the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service choose not to classify or upgrade the storm to a “tropical storm”? There is still some doubt in the meteorology community whether the area of disturbed weather attained a warm core. A definition of tropical cyclones is that they must have a warm core, which means the temperature in the vertical core of the cyclone extending up through the atmosphere is higher than in the air surrounding it. With the area of disturbed weather over extremely warm sea surface temperatures, I personally believe that at the very least, a shallow warm core was likely present.

The second possible reason that the National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center did not upgrade the storm to an official “tropical storm” could be based off of the logistical nightmare surrounding a possible late evening upgrade. The following was posted by a National Weather Service Melbourne, Florida Meteorologist on an online forum.

“You probably don’t realize what a logistical nightmare this would cause our office to name this thing at such a late hour. We would have to cancel the Gale Warning, High Surf Advisory, Wind Advisory and Lake Wind Advisory that have been up now for two days and replace them with Subtropical Storm Warning. We would need to put out products cancelling the current advisories, and then issue a Subtropical Storm Local Statement, update the Zone Forecasts, Coastal Waters Forecast Hazardous Weather Outlook, our blog and Short term Forecast. Local graphics would have to be updated as well as our forecast grids.”

While I understand his point, I do not agree with the decision. If the storm truly was a tropical storm, tropical storm warnings grab the attention of the public far better than high wind warnings or storm warnings. This area of “disturbed weather/non tropical gale force” caused significant damage and as seen via multiple social media outlets, the public appeared to have had no real idea that inclement weather was likely. Granted, high wind warnings were in place, but again, tropical storm warnings have much more significance on public perception than a high wind warning does.

Needless to say, I 100% believe the area of disturbed weather off the Florida Coast Sunday Night was a tropical storm. Hopefully the system is revisited/relooked at in post season analysis. This means that the National Hurricane Center can revisit and take a second look at the storm to decide if it was actually a tropical storm and add it to the list of 2011 tropical cyclones/historical data.

 


La Niña Returns!

September 8, 2011

As I stated in my 2011/2012 Winter Forecast, I expected a return to a La Niña type weather pattern by the Fall/early Winter months. The NWS officially announced today that La Niña has returned. A La Niña type weather pattern will likely lead to another active and extreme winter across the Plains, Midwest and Ohio Valley. Here is the official press release from NOAA – Brandon

La Niña, which contributed to extreme weather around the globe during the first half of 2011, has re-emerged in the tropical Pacific Ocean and is forecast to gradually strengthen and continue into winter. Today, forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center upgraded last month’s La Niña Watch to a La Niña Advisory.

NOAA will issue its official winter outlook in mid-October, but La Niña winters often see drier than normal conditions across the southern tier of the United States and wetter than normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley.

“This means drought is likely to continue in the drought-stricken states of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center. “La Niña also often brings colder winters to the Pacific Northwest and the northern Plains, and warmer temperatures to the southern states.”

Climate forecasts from NOAA’s National Weather Service give American communities advance notice of what to expect in the coming months so they can prepare for potential impacts. This service is helping the country to become a Weather Ready Nation at a time when extreme weather is on the rise.

Seasonal hurricane forecasters factored the potential return of La Niña into NOAA’s updated 2011 Atlantic hurricane season outlook, issued in August, which called for an active hurricane season. With the development of tropical storm Nate this week, the number of tropical cyclones entered the predicted range of 14-19 named storms.

The strong 2010-11 La Niña contributed to record winter snowfall, spring flooding and drought across the United States, as well as other extreme weather events throughout the world, such as heavy rain in Australia and an extremely dry equatorial eastern Africa.

La Niña is a naturally occurring climate phenomenon located over the tropical Pacific Ocean and results from interactions between the ocean surface and the atmosphere. During La Niña, cooler-than-average Pacific Ocean temperatures influence global weather patterns. La Niña typically occurs every three-to-five years, and back-to-back episodes occur about 50 percent of the time. Current conditions reflect a re-development of the June 2010-May 2011 La Niña episode.

NOAA’s National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA’s National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy. Visit us online at weather.gov.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook , Twitter and our other social media channels.


Hurricane Irene Storm Chase

August 28, 2011

SWAT began monitoring Hurricane Irene over a week before she impacted portions of the Southeastern and Eastern United States. It became apparent that Irene would impact portions of the United States and could be a fairly strong hurricane and because of that, SWAT began planning for our first ever hurricane chase!

By Wednesday, Hurricane Irene was a strong category 3 hurricane located over the Bahamas. Irene continued to move Northwest towards the Southeastern United States Coast. We began looking for a target area along the Eastern North Carolina coast.

After coordinating with friends of ours who are part of the Asheville Storm Chasers, it was decided we would chase/ride out Irene from Beaufort, North Carolina. One of the Asheville Storm Chasers, Zachary Hargrove, had connections and we were able to stay at a vacation rental right on the coast of a channel of the Atlantic Ocean!

As Irene began to speed up, it was decided that we could not wait until Friday morning to leave for North Carolina and that we would have to leave sooner so that we could get prepared and set-up before Irene began impacting the coast. The SWAT crew, consisting of Brandon, Brad and one of our colleagues from the Amateur Radio Community Frank, left Muncie, Indiana at about 12:30 AM on Friday Morning.

We traveled South throughout the day on Friday, traveling through Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. By early afternoon (around 1:00 PM), we began arriving in the hurricane zones where evacuations were taking place in Eastern North Carolina. Just east of New Bern, NC we began to experience an increase in traffic going West away from the coast and saw several buildings and houses with protective plywood over windows.

By 2:30 PM, we arrived in the Morehead City and Beaufort, NC areas just in time to be greeted by Hurricane Irene with extremely heavy rain. Before hunkering down in Beaufort for the duration of the Hurricane, we picked up some pizza for everyone as a comical gesture for our “last meal.” Unfortunately, as you will find out later in this blog entry, we were without power in Beaufort from Friday Evening until we left on Sunday, so the pizza was indeed our last “hot” meal until Sunday afternoon.

In Beaufort we set up shop at the house on the coast and visited with the Asheville crew while eating the pizza and talking about the latest information on the hurricane. The house was extremely sturdy and was located on a small hill with a higher elevation even though we were right on the water. After setting up all of our computers, cameras and weather instruments, we took a stroll into downtown Beaufort where we esstentially found a ghost town. Nearly every business had been covered in protective plywood and sandbags and we saw very few people while venturing through the downtown area.

After we got back from our stroll through downtown, Hurricane Irene quickly showed her ugly face with heavy rain and very strong winds. By late Friday Evening, we began experiencing random short power outages as the winds continued to increase.

By 8:15 PM, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center had issued a Tornado Watch for all of Eastern North Carolina including the Beaufort, NC area as a line of embedded supercells was moving West towards the coast. Several tornadoes were reported just North of Beaufort and at least two of the tornadoes produced significant damage.

Hurricane Irene continued to get closer to the North Carolina coast and winds continued to increase. Heavy rain was falling and flooding was beginning to impact much of the Beaufort area. We strolled out during the storm to check on conditions across the area and severe flooding was occurring with several feet of water accumulating on several streets. Storm surge was also beginning to impact the coast with the yard of the house we were staying in being submerged in water as the surge swept in.

Winds by midnight were estimated to be gusting close to hurricane force (74 mph) with winds continuing to increase as the remnants of Hurricane Irene’s eyewall approached the coast. Just before midnight the power went out at the Beaufort house and power never returned for the duration of our trip.

With little to no sleep, both groups of chasers (SWAT & Asheville Storm Chasers) were dedicated to staying awake as Irene began picking up speed. By midnight it was evident that Irene would make landfall much sooner than anticipated, possibly as early as 6 AM.

As the outerbands associated with Hurricane Irene began to approach the Beaufort coast at 4:00 AM, both crews departed the Beaufort house to feel the full fury of the Hurricane. Wind blown rain made walking and seeing extremely difficult as winds were gusting to well over hurricane force. Both teams documented the storm with video and pictures as the winds pounded the shore. Damage was already becoming evident across the area with powerlines swaying back and forth in the wind, trees down across the area and complete darkness for as long as the eye could see thanks to widespread power outages.

After venturing back to the Beaufort house, it was decided that we would ride out the remainder of the eyewall/eye indoors due to the increasing dangers outside due to falling powerlines, trees, etc.

By 5:30 AM, fatigue continued to wear on both teams, we all decided that a couple of hours of sleep was necessary. Around 10:00 AM, I was awoken to extremely strong winds still battering against the side of the house. After walking upstairs and checking in with the Asheville Storm Chasers, I was informed that the Southern side of Irene’s eyewall was thrashing us with extremely strong winds yet again. Just prior to arriving upstairs, the Davis Mesonet recorded a 76 mph wind gust which was likely on the low side since the weather station was being sheltered in between two buildings. With no traditional forms of communication available, we utilized our amateur radio equipment to report the wind gust and our report to the National Weather Service!

The hurricane continued to produce tropical storm and hurricane force winds all day on Saturday. A reporting station in Beaufort recorded at least tropical storm force winds or higher for 23 consecutive hours!

As the rain began to lighten up Saturday Afternoon, both teams ventured out to survey the damage across the Beaufort area. On foot we discovered that the flooding situation was improving with water levels decreasing. We found lots of tree damage and noted a significant amount of debris from shrubbery and roofs lying all across the area. We also found some minor structural damage in the downtown area. As stated above, winds continued to be extremely gusty with sporadic heavy rain.

After walking across the area, we took a trip in the SWERV and found several light poles blown over in a shopping plaza, some structural damage on US 70 and more trees down across the city. Following our damage survey, we stopped at the Beaufort fire department where we were told that power outages could last for days as all three substations that powered Beaufort were completely offline.


By Saturday Night, Irene was moving away from Beaufort but the damage had already been done. We would be spending the night in the Beaufort house with limited power (only a generator running necessary equipment). After sleeping for 8 hours Saturday Night, both teams woke up Sunday Morning and began cleaning up after ourselves and packing for the trip home. We departed Beaufort and crossed into Morehead City where more extensive damage was found. Multiple large trees, powerpoles and billboards were down with more extensive structural and roof damage found.

Finally after driving for approximately an hour, we got far enough West in North Carolina to find areas with power and ate a very delicious and hot lunch at a Ruby Tuesday. Both teams departed Ruby Tuesday for home (SWAT to Indiana and the Asheville Storm Chasers to Asheville, NC).

Chasing Hurricane Irene was an exciting and once in a lifetime experience. I have no regrets, but I can tell you that I will be very thankful when I arrive home and can take a hot shower & shave for the first time in 4 days! Yes, very gross!

For more pictures we took during Hurricane Irene, please visit http://www.Facebook.com/SWATChasers. We also have several videos of Irene online at http://www.Youtube.com/SWATChasers.

On a separate note, we are monitoring a strong Tropical Wave just South of the Cape Verde Islands in the Eastern Atlantic. Some of our forecast models are developing this tropical wave into a tropical storm and eventually into a hurricane. We’ll be watching this tropical wave very closely to see if it does indeed develop and if it does develop, where it might go! Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading,

Brandon Redmond
SWATChasers.com
SWATTours.com – Book your 2012 Storm Chase Tour today!


Dangerous Hurricane Irene to impact much of the East Coast

August 26, 2011

As of 8:00 AM, Hurricane Irene was a strong Category 2 hurricane with 110 mph winds. Hurricane Irene is likely undergoing what we call an eyewall replacement cycle (ERC) where the old eyewall dissipates while a new eyewall develops and becomes the dominate center of circulation. This is likely the cause for Irene’s weakening, however strengthening will likely resume later today and Irene will likely regain major hurricane status (category 3).

Outer rain bands from Hurricane Irene are already impacting portions of the Eastern and Southeastern South Carolina Coast. Folly Beach, SC has already reported 2,600 people without power and I’m sure that is just the beginning in terms of power outages! Increased wave heights can also be expected this afternoon along the Florida, Georgia and Carolina Coast as Irene continues to move North at 14 mph.

As Irene draws closer to the North Carolina coast, the atmosphere associated with Irene will become more favorable for tornadoes, which is fairly common in hurricane and tropical type storms. For that reason, the Storm Prediction Center has outlined Eastern North Carolina in a slight risk (5%) for tornadoes this afternoon and this evening.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for much of the South Carolina and North Carolina Coast. Hurricane Irene is a very large hurricane with a very large wind field and strong tropical storm force and hurricane winds will reach the coast long before Irene makes landfall. Rapidly deteriorating conditions are expected along the Carolina Coast by late this evening.

My forecast track for Irene is very similar to the National Hurricane Center’s official forecast track. Irene will likely make landfall between Morehead City, NC and Hatteras, NC sometime Saturday Afternoon. Irene will then move back into open waters and make a second landfall on Sunday near Atlantic City, NJ. Here is the official National Hurricane Center forecast track and the latest hurricane watches & warnings.

Besides the hurricane force winds and potential tornadoes, the other extremely dangerous threat with Irene will be the potential for massive amounts of rainfall and dangerous and deadly flooding due to the large amounts of rainfall and storm surge. Irene has a significant moisture influx feed with her and she will bring heavy amounts of rain to the entire East Coast. 8-16 inches of rain will be possible from North Carolina all the way to New York.

Our thoughts are with all of those that will be impacted by Hurricane Irene. Hurricane Irene has the potential to be one of the most destructive hurricanes and for that matter disasters to impact the United States in decades. Residents in the path of Irene from North Carolina to Long Island, New York should be taking their hurricane precautions/preparations and heeding any warnings given by public safety/emergency management officials.

SWATChasers is just now entering Western North Carolina and we are enroute to Morehead City, NC to get set-up and prepared for Hurricane Irene. We will continue to bring you live updates on our facebook page (www.Facebook.com/SWATChasers), on twitter (www.Twitter.com/SWATChasers) and you can watch our live streaming video later today at http://www.SWATChasers.com!

SWAT will also have live video coverage/interviews on the following stations:

WLIO – Lima, Ohio
Local 12 – Cincinnati, Ohio
ABC 22 – Dayton, Ohio
NBC WDTN 2 – Dayton, Ohio
Fox 45 – Dayton, Ohio
WCIA 3 – Eastern, Illinois (Champaign – Urbana)
Fox 59 – The Indianapolis News Leader


Twice in less than a week!

August 18, 2011

Less than a week after the devastating stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair due to strong winds, yet another outdoor event stage collapsed today and this time it was in Belgium. At least three people attending the concert were killed and several others were injured. The stage collapsed at the open air Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium during a performance by the Chicago band.

Witnesses reported that a heavy storm hit just as the band began playing. A spokesman for the Chicago band stated they “assumed it was a storm passing through when the stage started shaking.” With this particular stage collapse, damaging winds were reported across the festival grounds with several other tents collapsing and injuries reported across the festival grounds. The Chicago Tribune reported that “Video from the site showed stage equipment dangling in high winds as rain-soaked concertgoers at the music festival ran for cover. Trees and branches all around the area were downed, evidence of the sudden ferocity of the winds. Images of the disaster showed fallen lighting scaffolds. Dutch NOS television reporter Rick Hoogkamp, who was attending the concert Thursday, said several tents collapsed. An AP reporter saw concession stands blown down and a large food tent spread across the ground.”

With two stage collapses in less than week and two others reported earlier this year, one in Oklahoma and one in Ottawa, the trends seem quite clear.

1. Outdoor event planners are not properly planning for inclement and when severe weather does strike, a call to action and evacuation/sheltering process is not initiated in a timely manner.

2. Outdoor temporary stages are not built structurally sound and a lack or regulation/building codes for outdoor temporary stages promotes problems.

For my complete blog entry on the events that transpired this past weekend at the Indiana State Fair, please visit https://swatchasers.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/anything-but-a-fluke/

Thanks for reading and let’s hope for less tragic weather stories during the upcoming weeks!

Brandon Redmond
SWATChasers.com
SWATTours.com


Weather Wise: What is a gustnado?

August 17, 2011

Since there has been some speculation that a gustnado may have developed along the gust front as it struck the Indiana State Fair causing the stage collapse and mass casualty incident, I figured I would take time to post a weather wise blog explaining what gustnadoes are!

While there are some theories that a gustnado may have struck the Sugarland stage at the Indiana State Fair causing the stage collapse, that is neither here nor there as far as this blog entry is concerned. I will tell you however that there were several documented gustnadoes across Central and Western Indiana on Saturday Evening, August 13th, 2011.

A gustnado is a specific type of a short-lived, low-level rotating cloud that can form in a severe thunderstorm. Gustnadoes form due to non-tornadic cyclonic features in the downdraft from the gust front of a strong thunderstorm, especially one which has become outflow dominated. While they often look similar, gustnadoes have very little in common to their big brother, the tornado. Gustnadoes are outflow dominated and often form along gust fronts, while tornadoes form from a rotating supercell and mesocyclone.

One of the key differences and easiest ways to determine a gustnado verses a tornado is that gustnadoes are often not attached to any cloud structure. Tornadoes on the other hand extend down from a rotating wall cloud, a cloud feature that often develops in a supercell thunderstorm. Gustnadoes, while not true tornadoes, can become quite wide and can even be long lived. Gustnadoes should be considered dangerous as they often produce winds in excess of 60 to 70 mph. Gustnadoes have and can do damage.

The picture above is a rotating supercell and associated wall cloud. Wall clouds often have that circular and lowered look and typically rotate, some times quite violently. Most tornadoes develop from wall clouds and supercell type thunderstorms.

The picture above was taken by SWAT Chasers outside of O’Neill, Nebraska on May 30th. The storms that day quickly became outflow dominant and the storms produced numerous gustnadoes all across Central Nebraska. Some of the gustnadoes became quite wide including one we chased which was over 1/2 mile wide. The picture above shows that the rotating column of air, dirt and debris was clearly a gustnado as it was not attached to any wall cloud or lowered cloud base. This particular gustnado occurred on a gust front that surged out ahead of a supercell. What was rare about this particular incident was that to the East of our location, a large gustnado was swirling on the ground. To our West under the actual mesocylone, a tornado briefly touched down under the wall cloud in an open field.

Gustnadoes are often confused and interpreted to be tornadoes by the public and even law enforcement and public safety officials. As stated above, the simplest way to tell a gustnado from a tornado is to check and see if there is a connection to a rotating cloud base. If there is, it is a tornado. If there is not, it is likely a gustnado. If you see a gustnado approaching, you should seek shelter as they can produce strong winds and cause damage.

I hope this blog gave you a little bit of a better understanding of gustnadoes so that when us weather people use the term in the future, you will have a better idea what we are talking about!

Thanks for reading!

Brandon Redmond
SWATChasers.com

P.S. Don’t forget that you can book your storm chase tour with SWATChasers for the 2012 storm chase season! We are offering week long tours that will offer guests a chance to see the incredible Great Plains, Severe Thunderstorms and hopefully tornadoes! You can check out our tour schedule and find more information at SWATTours.com