Sunday, June 9, 2013

Nice Shelf Cloud

We had a nice storm approaching this evening and I ran out and got pictures of the leading edge as it came in. It had a lovely shelf cloud.








 The bulk of the storm was passing to the north of us and for a short while the last remnants of the sunset were visible through the rain and lit up the base of the clouds.




Saturday, April 27, 2013

Nice clouds from this evening

We have some tiny showers passing through, but the way the clouds looked as the sun was getting low was really nice. I had my camera with me so I grabbed a few shots.





Monday, March 18, 2013

Hail Storm with Golf-Ball Sized Hail


I could see some severe cells approaching on the radar and one looked like it was going to hit us dead-on. I went out on the porch to wait. The lightning was almost continuous but the wind hadn't picked up yet. The sirens went off and added to the excitement (half of us were on the porch, waiting). Eventually there was a bit of breeze, then it got stronger. In the distance we could hear a roaring sound, growing louder. I wasn't worried about a tornado and thought it was too loud for the wind associated with a downdraft. Assuming that the coming rain must be incredibly heavy I went to the doorway to watch. A few drops started coming down and then I realized that the sound was probably hail. Another moment and it was upon us. It was absolutely deafening. It sounded like the end of the world. I could see massive hailstones hitting the street and exploding. I looked at our van and car and realized that there was nothing I could do. I made the sign of the cross over them and asked God to protect them. [Foolishly I didn't do the same thing for the house.] The hail was not only large - most of it golf ball-sized - but there was a ton of it. The ground started to turn white. The wind was blowing very hard and the hail was exploding through the open screen door and starting to cover the porch. When we opened the door to the house some of the hail blew inside.

[Pause to add that we're going to go check the church and the hall in a few minutes. Oh boy...it's like, all windows...I'll update when we get back. [UPDATE: SEE BELOW]]

After it had been hailing for about a minute I remembered the camera and dashed inside to get it. I filmed the next 2 minutes of the storm. The video doesn't do it justice because it's so dark. Turn the volume up until you're covering your ears and that's what it sounded like.

[Stolen from my regular blog]

As soon as it died down (about 2 minutes after I stopped filming) I ran out to gather up some hail to measure. I photographed it next to a tape measure. When the rain had stopped a little bit too I ran out and checked the cars. There are probably dings in the metal car bodies but the windows are all intact!! I can't believe it. They were completely exposed. Thanks be to God! Remember I mentioned that I should have done the same for the house? Well, we lost two windows in the house and have a leak in the roof near the fireplace. Live and learn. I estimate the entire hailstorm lasted about 5 minutes. It felt like an eternity.













UPDATE: Well, we went to check the church and hall (ALL of us, despite it being past bedtime) and, believe it or not, the church is FINE. Not one crack in one window. And our church is practically all windows! We were most worried about the west side (that's the direction the hail was coming from) but here it is, sound as ever:


Not quite so lucky at the hall, but even there only lost one window in the kitchen:


We drove around a few blocks on the way home and saw a few things. There were two streetlamps which had the exterior portion blown down by the hail...but the light was still on. Amazing. Here's one:


In one shopping area a few smart people pulled their cars right up on the sidewalk outside the stores. As  we drove around we didn't see any vehicles with broken windows. My theory is that the hail was composed of ice layers that broke apart easily so the energy of the blow was absorbed more by the hail (which exploded) than the item it hit.


Unless, of course, the item being hit is an easily ripped-out screen. All of our screens except the two on the sheltered east side of the porch were ripped out by the hail. That explains how so much hail got on the porch.

 



Monday, February 11, 2013

Feb Storm Pics

These are some photos as the storms were rolling in Sunday afternoon. The tornado hit Hattiesburg about 1.5 hours later.




Storms are STILL rolling in out of the Gulf. Just had hail at 10:24 PM CST - only pea-sized but it was loud enough. Got a blurry photo of a few that were left on the porch by the time I got a light and camera out there:


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hattiesburg Tornado

[2/11/13 Update: more details here.]

2/10/13  When the storms came through today we had our share of sirens and warnings, but nary a tornado. Just some garden-variety thunderstorms and a few periods of heavy rain. Ginger was very disappointed. He had stationed himself on the porch with his book about tornadoes, a pad of paper and pencil (for taking notes and making sketches) and his camera. I took a few snapshots of clouds but I was cynical enough to know that we weren't going to see the faintest wisp of tornado. Once the main portion passed by I got on with the business of cooking dinner.

We got a phone call sometime a little later from a parishioner who was a bit shaken after having seen a tornado in Hattiesburg while driving on a highway. He said it was "huge". We all started checking on folks who live in that area. The tally so far: one family without power and everyone accounted for. A few minutes ago we got word from that parishioner that the Red Cross office in Hattiesburg (where he works) was destroyed along with one of their emergency response vehicles and two other vehicles. Rather unfortunate. I saw a few photos of the tornado on the news and it certainly would leave you shaken up if you came upon it unawares while driving. It caused "some significant damage" on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi but details aren't available yet.*  Injuries have been reported but no deaths (that I'm aware of).

So, just to let everyone know, we're ok and we think all the Hattiesburg members are ok as well.

[Update: more details available here.]

(Just found this video:) Note: Hardy Street, where the video ends, is right across from the SMU campus.

"We could have a lot of dark blue over here..."

This 9 year old weather anchor is just precious. He does a very good job! I think the station's weatherman is fantastic with him.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cloud Identification

Anyone care to try to identify these wavy clouds? Photos taken 12/12/12 in northern SC around 11 AM.



Sunday, November 11, 2012

Storm is a storm is a storm is a storm

But a storm by any other name would be as destructive.

A long time ago (but not in a galaxy far, far away), someone came up with the idea for naming tropical cyclones. The credit is given variously to several people but it doesn't really matter now. The point is it turned out to be a pretty good idea.

A lot of work and collaboration has gone into the strength rating and naming of storms over the years and slowly it has become a quite well-oiled machine. No one really has any problem with it. The only little hitches were when people (feminists) decided to become offended because all the storms had female names. To me this was only a natural outgrowth of other naming systems: boats and ships were traditionally given female names (and mostly still are) and a lot of times fighter pilots in the wars unofficially named their planes after wives or sweethearts. So it changed to alternating male and female and the dust settled until the next beleaguered group reared its head. Now we have both male and female names of English, French and Spanish origins in the Atlantic and of multiple other (including Polynesian, Japanese, etc.) origins in the Pacific. This makes sense for the areas the respective storms will affect.

The Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale was created in 1973 and went through various adjustments over the years, the latest adjustment being only this year. Thus we have a relatively simple system for telling how strong a hurricane or typhoon is and a way to quickly and easily identify it in all of the countries which it may affect.

All well and good. Then an entirely new animal emerged just a little while ago: the naming of winter storm systems.

The excuses given are various but THE claim to credibility is the precedent set by the Europeans to name winter storms. Let's just look at that for a moment:

First, the Europeans name all major windstorms, not just winter storms (although most do occur in the winter). Second, a given windstorm will likely track across multiple countries in the course of only a few days and it is not a bad idea to have one name for the thing so there isn't confusion. Third, given number two, you would think that you would thereby avoid confusion by having an official naming system. Alas, no. The media started the naming system and it gradually spread. Because it is not sanctioned by any international meteorological society the storm can acquire different names along its course. Fourth, you can have multiple winter windstorms affecting Europe at one time so naming them is a way to distinguish between them.

So, back to this interesting development in the U.S. The Weather Channel unilaterally created and instituted this naming system. The Weather Channel, contrary to what some people think, is not an official and disinterested meteorological body. [The National Weather Service (NWS), one branch of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an official government body.] TWC exists to make money, plain and simple. It is not a non-profit. It is interested in increasing ratings and thereby increase income. Everyone knows how hyped up hurricane season has become an how people hang on TWC's every word. When there is a storm about you can go into restaurants with bars and the televisions are tuned in to the TWC. It's playing in the airports. It's everywhere. I admit that when we had cable (almost 3 years without!) I would watch it too...although not 24 hours a day. All it does is keep recycling the same thing every 15 minutes. When hurricane season is over things settle down. The excitement goes down. You don't go into public places and look up to see people in yellow slickers with "TWC" emblazoned across the front hanging onto lamp posts with the wind blowing them at 45 degree angles. Consequently, ratings must go down.


By deciding to create the same excitement during the winter as during hurricane season, you never get that drop in ratings. About the time the last hurricane has blown through there's snow on the back side of it. [Spring is already covered with "Tornado Season".] It's brilliant.

Do we need it? I have to say, by the time we're seeing the end of hurricane season (and usually well before) I'm a bit sick of the hype. I don't mean the well-deserved warnings and the sober predictions, I mean the hype. Winter is a relief from all of that. And now we're not even to get that break? It's like always being in election year. Gah!

So, back to the question, do we need it? I say no:

1. When a winter storm system comes through the U.S., it generally affects Canada and the U.S., two quite large countries. It's not hard to communicate storm warnings between only two countries.

2. We usually don't have two major winter systems at once although we have had up to several tropical systems being tracked at the same time.

3. Naming winter storms is a good way to confuse tropical and arctic systems as far as the public is concerned. Someone will say, "Remember Olive?" and the other person is left wondering if it brought blizzards or beach erosion. This does bring up the point: how are we going to have naming systems that are obviously distinguished from one another?? Is there something about "Alvin" that is tropical and "Marvin" that is wintry? 

I would rather see the NWS institute a winter storm naming system if it is going to be established. I would still have arguments against it but at least I would feel that it was a fairly unbiased decision. As it is, TWC seems to be coming up with the latest gimmick to line its pockets.

At least one weather station's reaction to all the hype: 

Monday, September 17, 2012

1928 Lake Okeechobee Hurricane

84 years ago last night, September 16th-17th, 1928, a hurricane made landfall in south Florida. The eye made landfall near West Palm Beach and then moved right over Lake Okeechobee.


Thousands of migrant farm workers, mostly black, lived in the low areas near Lake Okeechobee. There was a 5 foot dike to keep the waves out during storms, but it was no match for the hurricane. The figure below details the area that completely flooded. The southern end flooded first; when the eye passed over the northern end that area flooded as well.

 
People living in the area had evacuated initially but the hurricane did not show up when predicted. They went home, a fatal mistake. Thousands perished, many bodies being washed into the Everglades where they were never found.

(click to enlarge)

The racism of the day dictated what happened next. The few coffins were given to bury white victims; the black victims were either burned or dumped in mass graves with no memorial markers. It was only in the last several years that markers were put up.



The Red Cross initially estimated the dead at 1,836 but because so many bodies were never found and the migrant population was not well documented, that number was probably much higher. In 2003 the death toll was revised to "at least" 2,500 to reflect that. This makes the 1928 Lake Okeechobee Hurricane the second-deadliest to make landfall in the U.S. (the greatest being the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 with a death toll of 8,000 - 12,000).

Further reading:

NOAA memorial page
Wikipedia article on hurricane
Article in St. Petersburg Times - interviews with survivors
Extensive blog post on Alvin's Weather Blog
Black Cloud: the Great Florida Hurricane of 1928

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Grandpapa

[1963] U.S. Meteorologist Robert L. Smith checks over one of the radar operated weather tracking pieces of equipment in the U.S. Weather Bureau located in this northwest Florida coastal city [Apalachicola, FL]. This station is one of five that fringe the state. The equipment Mr. Smith is looking at is a radar operated camera that takes both still and movies of heavy weather disturbances up to 150 miles away. The picture at the right was made several years ago and shows a hurricane off the southeastern Atlantic coast.

(source)

The first Doppler-radar measurements of a tornado were made in 1958 by U.S. Weather Bureau meteorologists R. Smith and D. Holmes. They obtained a Doppler radar from the U.S. Navy, set it up in Wichita, Kansas, and then waited. Just over a year later, on June 10, the radar detected a tornado in El Dorado twenty-five miles away. What luck that a tornado happened to touch down within range of the first Doppler radar used for meteorological purposes! The likelihood of a tornado striking within thirty miles of a given location during a given spring is extremely small. Although at the time it was not possible to discriminate between approaching and receding velocities, the wind spectra obtained by this radar detected maximum velocities (that is, wind speeds in the line-of-sight direction) of 200 mph.

-Tornado Alley: Monster Storms of the Great Plains, 1999, Howard B. Bluestein, p. 12-13

Click to go to the PDF file of the entire study.

[Another publication citing my grandfather (for my family's interest): Flood of September 20-23, 1969 in the Gadsden County Area, Florida]