Friday, June 24, 2011

Faith Restored: Terrific Friday (pretty decent weekend shaping up)

18,054 reports of severe weather across the USA so far in 2011. Source: SPC

1,549 tornadoes as of June 23.

Alabama: 161 tornadoes, 244 fatalities - most in the USA.

Coolest June 23 since 1957 in the Twin Cities. The high was 63 F, tying the all-time record. 62 F. high in St. Cloud. Average high: 80.

Thursday Facebook Post: "With a June like this who needs April? 103 on June 7, my furnace is kicking in tonight with a whiff of windchill. Strangest year I can ever remember. Super-sized storms, already 6 tornadoes in the metro area - river flooding in late June? Thumbing through the Book of Revelations to check on the Extended Outlook. The only thing not on the weather map is plagues of locust. Oh how I long for a day when people wave at me with all their fingers. Keep the faith - better days ahead, right? It has to get better - and it will." - PD

April Flashback. The sun is as high in the sky as it ever gets. Then why am I fidgeting with my furnace and wandering the yard in a light jacket? I have NEVER seen these kinds of temperature extremes in late June. Never. These extremes, in turn, are whipping up unusually strong storms, large and violent tornadoes, record flooding, etc. Click here to see an interactive map showing the "record low highs", or record cool maximum temperatures, courtesy of Ham Weather, a division of WeatherNation. Amazing.

Superbowl Of Weather. I've said it before (ad nauseum), but I really mean it this time. Record heat out west, record chill over the Upper Midwest, record rainfall from New England to Dixie. Click here to see all the interactive records for the USA - 230 just on Wednesday! Data courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.

Better-Than-Average Saturday. The models consistently sweep the heaviest showers and T-storms to our south, over Iowa. A stray PM shower may sprout from the MN Arrowhead to the Red River Valley, but MOST of Minnesota should be dry MOST of Saturday. NAM model map above valid 1 pm Satturday, showing rainfall from 7 am to 1 pm.

Saturday Winds: SE: 10-15
Barometer: steady early, then slowly falling by afternoon.
Dew Point54-59 (rising, but still quite comfortable).

Sunday: Partly Sunny South, Partly-Thundery Up North. The NAM brings a frontal boundary into the northern third of Minnesota later in the day Sunday, with a growing chance of T-storms after 3 pm, especially north and west of Detroit Lakes and Brainerd. Much of the day should be dry, even up north.

Sunday WindsS/SE 10-20 (choppy on area lakes by afternoon).
Sunday Barometer: falling rapidly. With a falling barometer and "walleye chop" the fish may just be biting.
Sunday Dew Points60-65 (you'll start to feel the humidity by Sunday).

Minot, North Dakota Flooding: Thousands Of Evacuees Struggle To Find Places To Stay. A slow-motion tragedy is unfolding in Minot. Huffington Post has a recap of the challenges facing the estimated 12,000 people who had to flee their homes: "MINOT, N.D. -- Many of the thousands who have fled their homes as the Souris River spills into the North Dakota city of Minot have been scrambling to relocate in a region that boasts few vacancies in even the best of times, thanks largely to the state's oil boom. Officials said as many as 10,000 people had evacuated Minot by Wednesday, and while a few hundred were staying in temporary city shelters, many others were staying on friends' couches, under tents or even in vehicles. Aquira Fritt, 23 years old and 7 1/2 months pregnant, planned to spend the night in a van with her boyfriend and 5-year-old son. "There are no hotel rooms, no campers to rent, nothing," Fritt said Wednesday, shortly before emergency sirens blared to signal the evacuation deadline. "It's very stressful and it's very annoying." Her son, Azzyah, considered it an adventure. "He thinks it's a campout," Fritt said. "He's happy he gets a chance to use his sleeping bag." The water is expected to climb to record levels over the coming days in parts of this Air Force town as the little-known waterway swells from rain and snowmelt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple warned that releases planned to begin on Thursday would be dramatic. "In two days' time, it will be a rapid, rapid rise," Dalrymple said. The river, which begins in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan and flows for a short distance though North Dakota, was all but certain to inundate thousands of homes and businesses during the next week."

North Dakota Authorities Order Expanded Evacuation in Minot as Souris River Rises Rapidly. The Star Tribune has the story: "MINOT, N.D. - North Dakota authorities expanded an evacuation order Thursday for the state's fourth-largest city, citing danger from the rising Souris River. It wasn't immediately clear how many residents were affected. National Guard Capt. Dan Murphy said officials were still examining maps and planned to release more information later. "The bottom line is they're just trying to get everybody out of the area where they think the property is going to be inundated," Murphy said. As many as 10,000 residents were evacuated a day earlier as the Souris, swollen by heavy rains and snowmelt, threatened. On Thursday, officials accelerated the release of water from the Lake Darling dam upstream and said it could raise the river 2 to 3 feet higher than earlier projections. Officials also announced the closure of the Broadway Bridge, shutting down a key north-south artery in the city. Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman said the record flow of water into the city will test its sewer and water systems. "We're very concerned, especially with the backups in the sewer system. We've had several areas where we've had crushed sewer lines," Zimbelman said. "With those types of things happening, it's at the top of our minds all the time.

  • 12,000 residents have evacuated Minot, ND this morning. That is just under a third of the total population of the town - 41,000

  • Locals call the Souris "The Mouse" after the French translation of its name

  • Souris has already past flood stage by more than a foot
    • may be 4 feet above record by Monday

Minot Flooding From Space. NASA's Earth Observatory has a time-sequence showing the record flooding on the Souris River. The image on the left was taken June 24, 2010 - the image on the right taken from low orbit on June 23, 2011. More details: "On June 22, 2011, the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) forecast record flooding for multiple locations along the Souris River in North Dakota. Sherwood, Minot, Towner, Bantry, and Westhope were some of the communities expecting record flooding. On June 23, 2011, Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service (AHPS) of the U.S. National Weather Service reported major flooding of the Souris River in or near all of these locations. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite captured these images on June 23, 2011 (top), and June 24, 2010 (bottom). Both images use a combination of visible and infrared light to increase contrast between water and land. Water varies in color from electric blue to navy. Vegetation is green. Bare ground and fallow fields are earth-toned. Clouds are pale blue-green. Parts of the Souris River disappear from view in the scene from 2010, but the river is clearly visible throughout its path a year later. In this satellite view, the river appears especially swollen near Bantry and Towner, but the Souris actually overtopped levees in Minot, according to the NWS. A sharp rise in the water level occurred near Sherwood overnight June 21 and 22, and the AHPS forecast a significant rise in river level near Minot around June 24."

In North Dakota City, River's Threat Renewed. Here's a New York Times overview of the historic flooding now underway in Minot, North Dakota - highly unusual for late June: "MINOT, N.D. — The first time rising waters forced a quarter of the residents here to abandon their homes several weeks ago, many of them simply hauled their possessions up to their second floors to keep them dry. But as the river that divides downtown began rising to record levels this week, those same homeowners confronted a sobering realization: the second floor might not be high enough. In this summer of unrelenting flooding across the Midwest, with record flows along giants like the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers, one of the most striking scenes of unfolding destruction is occurring here on the banks of the diminutive Souris River — known as “The Mouse,” after its French name. This city is bracing for a powerful surge of water predicted to break records by as much as five feet. As sirens blared, more than 11,000 residents evacuated their homes on Wednesday for the second time in a month, this time with the grim assurance from local leaders that the river would overtop levees in a matter of hours and swamp a huge section of the city for weeks. And, right on schedule, the fast-moving water started pouring over defenses that had kept the city dry for more than six decades."

Live Stream. Here is a live stream of the water raging through the Gavin's Point Dam in Yankton, water flowing downstream toward Minot (and the Missouri River). Record snows in Montana and Wyoming are melting rapidly, adding to the run-off. Video courtesy of UStream.

National Weather Service Reviews Confusing Forecasts For Missouri River. The Des Moines Register has the story: "The National Weather Service is reviewing its forecasts for the flooding Missouri River today as the Mighty Mo rises less than expected near Sioux City while officials near Hamburg fear a steep rise. Jeff Zogg, a weather service hydrologist based in Des Moines,  acknowledged that forecasts calling for the river to fall in the next few days in much of Iowa seem odd when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is increasing  the flow from Gavins Point Dam upstream in South Dakota by 10,000 cubic feet per second, to 160,000. “We’re wondering the same thing,” Zogg said. “We aren’t seeing the rise in the river we expected at Sioux City,” where the Corp predicted a foot and a half rise in the river, but weather service forecasters expect a half-foot by Sunday. “We’re taking a look at that today.” Fremont County officials said the river is rising near Hamburg, and they fear it may even go over one stretch of levee.  That would most likely mean a breach.  See related post here."

Louisville, Kentucky Tornado. has more on Wednesday evening's scare in the Louisville area: "No horses nor people were injured when an apparent tornado struck the stable area at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., late Wednesday night. At least nine barns were damaged, including this one shown on Thursday, June 23, 2011. The National Weather Service sent teams out Thursday to determine whether the funnel cloud reported in the area was the cause of the damage. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)"

More details on the Louisville tornado from Chris Allen at the NWA, the National Weather Association: "Preliminary NWS Louisville assessment from Churchill Downs - "possible high EF-1 or low EF-2" tornado damage; winds 105-120 mph, path 100 yards wide, 1 mile long. Survey still being performed. Final numbers to come later today."

Startling Statistics:
  • Total severe weather (hail/wind/tornado) reports so far this year - 18,054
    • 1549 of those are tornadoes.

  • Alabama now ranks first for number of EF-5 tornadoes (7 since 1950).
  • Was previously tied with TX, IA, KS, OK with 6 apiece.
    • Total of 161 tornadoes reported in Alabama this year.
    • Also has the highest number of tornado fatalities this year (244 deaths).

  • “Dixie Alley” often has just as many tornadoes as the traditional “Tornado Alley”, with two peak seasons -- primary is March-April, secondary is October-December.

Why are there so many deaths despite warnings?:
RT @BobRyanABC7: AMS conference: Average for tornado warnings still false alarm rate of 75%*Concern for public apathy with too many warnings
Surgeon, Firemen Cite Courage Of 10-Year Old Tornado Survivor. The Joplin Globe has the remarkable story: "JOPLIN, Mo. — He did more operations than he could count the night of the May 22 tornado, but surgeon Raymond Vetch said he was especially affected by Mason Lillard, a 10-year-old girl who arrived at Freeman Hospital West, her torso pierced through by an iron bar. “I was impressed with that kid; you could tell she had determination,” he said. After a weeklong stay at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, the girl is back home in Nixa. On Tuesday, she was getting her stitches out and going swimming. “She’s our feel-good story,” said Jeff Reeves, chief of the Quapaw (Okla.) Fire Department, whose crews responded to the Home Depot store the night of the tornado. “After seeing so much bad that night, we’re glad things went well for her and her family.” Before May 22, Mason said, she wasn’t afraid of tornadoes. Now, she has changed her mind a little. “I’m only afraid of F-5s,” she said in a telephone interview Tuesday."

Fighting Fires With Computers And Intuition. The New York Times has a good story about new technology, and how it's helping firefighters battle what will almost certainly go down in the books as one of the most severe years for wildfires in U.S. history: "PHOENIX — As thousands of firefighters used hand tools and hoses to combat the wildfires torching vast stretches of the Southwest, Drew Smith stared into a computer screen at a command center near one of the fiercest blazes and tried to determine which way the flames would veer next. Some wildfires are mean. Some are wily. Some show exceptional endurance, or fierceness or moxie. The most difficult among them are assigned behavior analysts like Mr. Smith — fire whisperers, as it were — who act as psychologists delving into the blazes’ inner selves. “This fire is an exceptionally aggressive fire based on how large it has become and how fast it’s growing,” said Mr. Smith, now assigned to the Wallow Fire, which has become the biggest blaze in Arizona history after burning more than 527,000 acres in the eastern part of the state. Fire behaviorists work alongside meteorologists, given that the weather, especially wind patterns, plays a pivotal role in how a wildfire grows. The topography is also important because fires burn differently depending on whether they are going up a steep slope, across a valley or through a developed area. Then there are what firefighters call the fuels, which are the vegetation and other materials that give fires energy as they move along. With more than a dozen significant fires now burning through the Southwest, the fire whisperers are busy. At the sunrise briefings that wildland firefighters attend before they go off to the lines, a variety of status reports are offered on the day’s work ahead. None, though, is listened to as intently as that of the behaviorist, who uses computer modeling and intuition to try to predict how the fire will burn that day."

Tom Hanks: Univision Weathercaster? No, Mr. Hanks was not auditioning to be a TV meteorologist on Univision - he was plugging a new movie, but it made for a lively weathercast! Thanks to Deadline and TVSpy for the colorful clip: "Tom Hanks is the writer, director, producer, and star of “Larry Crowne,” and to promote the new movie he added another credit to his resume: weathercaster.  Well, sort of. Hanks appeared on Univision’s “Despierta America” morning show on Tuesday and did a commendable job navigating the show’s zany weather report (video above)."

* Hey, is that gal really a TV meteorologist? Does it even matter?

Typical - For April 30. The Twin Cities tied a record Thursday, for the coolest June 23 on record, tying the previous record set in 1957. Good grief. Highs ranged from a chilly 59 at Eau Claire to 62 at St. Cloud. The sun came out in Alexandria, where temperatures SOARED to 69!


Paul's SC Times Outlook for St. Cloud and all of central Minnesota:

TODAY: Sun returns, leave work early. Winds: N 8-13. High: 74

FRIDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear and comfortably cool. Low: 54

SATURDAY: Nicer day of the weekend: plenty of sun. Winds: SE 8-13. High: 77

SATURDAY NIGHT: Isolated shower up over the North Shore? Otherwise partly cloudy & milder. Low: 62

SUNDAY: Some sun morning and midday. PM storms up north. Winds: SE 8-13. High: near 80

MONDAY: Heavy showers, T-storms, locally heavy rain. Low: 67. High: 81

TUESDAY: High pressure returns, bright sunshine. Low: 64. High: 83

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, getting sticky. Low: 63. High: 83

THURSDAY: Hazy sun, feels like summer! Low: 66. High: 86

A "Summer" to Remember

I'm confused. Is it late June or late April? Why did the furnace kick in overnight? Not a word of "wind chill" (I could be incarcerated for even uttering the word out loud), but this is downright freaky. Yesterday was the coolest June 23 on record for much of Minnesota.

A huge north-south temperature contrast is one big reason why many of America's storms have been SUPER-SIZED this year; from floods & tornadoes to 33,000+ wildfires down south.

While we shiver, folks in Laredo, Texas are giving thanks for a "cooler front". 95 feels OK, compared to 35 straight days above 100. Phoenix is in the 110-115 range; scorching heat. My friends in Scottsdale tell me it's a "dry heat". So's my oven, but I still won't stick my head inside.

The sun returns today as a fleeting bubble of high pressure lifts us out of our June gloom. The weekend is at hand; what can possibly go wrong? I think we'll salvage a pretty good spell of weather. Saturday T-storms should rumble south, over Iowa. A shower may pop over the MN Arrowhead. More numerous T-storms sprout Sunday PM, especially north & west of Brainerd. Upper 70s tomorrow, a streak of 80s next week; even a few 90s the 1st week of July?

A Region With Big Climate Variability, And Bigger Distractions. The New York Times takes a look at changes in climate in the Middle East, and the geopolitical implications of rationing water in the years ahead: "Climate change may be the last thing that leaders of revolution-riddled countries in the Middle East want to deal with now. But before long, experts say, the problems caused by rising global temperatures could disfigure the land they are fighting over. From disappearing snow in Lebanon to rising seas threatening Bahrain to flooding in Tunisia and Egypt, climate change already is giving the Middle East and North Africa a good deal to worry about. And those who work in the region note that governments -- struggling to maintain power and in some cases engaging in all-out warfare with their citizens -- are losing valuable time needed to adapt. "Climate change and the environmental agenda is not anywhere in the top priorities of our governments, and wasn't on the agenda since even before the revolution," said Wael Hmaidan, executive director of the League of Independent Activists in Beirut. Curiously, many governments are embracing renewable energy development even as they ignore adaptation needs. Egypt, Morocco and Jordan all are making serious strides, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has long been a regional leader in clean energy, and now even other oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Qatar are signaling their interest in solar and other low-carbon energy sources."

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